DENVER—Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union maintain Weld County authorities went on a "fishing expedition" when they seized thousands of tax documents from suspected illegal immigrants for an identity theft investigation.
The ACLU has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to uphold a District Court ruling that stopped the investigation in April. The judge ruled that Weld County authorities violated people’s privacy and had no probable cause to inspect so many confidential taxpayer records.
Weld’s sheriff and district attorney said in their appeal last month they had substantial evidence to believe hundreds of suspected undocumented immigrants were stealing people’s identities to work in the U.S.
The Supreme Court has not set a date to hear arguments in the case.
Authorities filed identity theft and criminal impersonation charges against more than 70 people before the investigation, dubbed "Operation Numbers Game," was stopped.
The investigation began in October after a Texas man told Greeley authorities someone was using his identity. The suspect in that case told authorities he was filing his taxes with a Greeley tax preparer that catered to Latinos in the city about 60 miles north of Denver.
That prompted the sheriff and district attorney to search the business of tax preparer Amalia Cerrillo, hoping to find proof that people were working with Social Security numbers that weren’t theirs, and filing taxes with government-issued taxpayer identification numbers.
Those numbers are typically issued to people who don’t have Social Security numbers to pay taxes, which is required of everyone who earns wages in the U.S. regardless of legal status.
About 10.7 million taxpayer numbers were assigned between 1996 to 2007, and people who used them have a tax liability in the billions of dollars, the Internal Revenue Service has said.
The ACLU said in its Supreme Court brief that except for the suspect accused of stealing the Texas’ man’s identity, investigators had no probable cause to search the thousands of records of other taxpayers.
The ACLU said the investigation of Cerrillo’s business was akin to getting a search warrant for a hotel where drug dealers are known to stay, and then going through every room to look for drugs.
Four district judges have agreed with the ACLU’s argument that Weld County’s search warrant was unconstitutional; one judge called it "breathtaking in its expansiveness."
Weld County has said it was impossible to identify individual suspects in the search warrant because the case centered on identity theft.
Immigration experts have said this is the first and only time authorities have used confidential records from an income tax preparer to prosecute undocumented immigrants.
The Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund also filed a brief with the Supreme Court Friday supporting the ACLU’s arguments. That brief says the confidentiality of tax records is necessary to avoid "the creation of an underground economy," in which illegal immigrants don’t comply with tax laws, depriving the government of much-needed revenue.
About 10.7 million taxpayer numbers were assigned between 1996 to 2007, and people who used them have a tax liability in the billions of dollars, the Internal Revenue Service has said.
You must be a legal immigrant to be issued an ITIN number. Unfortunately and thanks to the incompetent IRS and Social Security administrations–criminal (illegal) aliens have managed to get their hands on stolen ITIN/social security numbers and use them, no problem. Well, no problem for them, but ruining the lives of those that they’ve stolen from.
Fact is Cerrillo, a Mexican, has been aiding fellow Mexican criminals for quite some time. It may be no big deal to you now, but wait until it’s YOUR SS# that has been stolen.
Former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean sued pageant officials Monday for libel, slander and religious discrimination, accusing them of telling her to stop mentioning God even before her controversial remarks against gay marriage.
Prejean sued California pageant executive director Keith Lewis and actress and former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, who served as a co-director before resigning in protest of Prejean.
Prejean was fired in June by pageant officials who said she missed several scheduled appearances.
Her attorney, Chuck LiMandri, said that wasn’t true, and Prejean was ousted because of controversial remarks in April during the Miss USA pageant that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
She was named first runner-up, and many believe she lost her shot at the Miss USA crown because of her answer.
LiMandri said Prejean filed suit only after he sought detailed information on what events Prejean missed.
"I wanted to give them every opportunity to provide the basis for those claims," LiMandri said.
He said he found no proof that Prejean missed events. "There were no contract violations," he said.
The lawsuit claims Lewis and Moakler both told Prejean not to mention God on her Miss USA application or at public events at least two months before she gave her anti-gay marriage answer.
The suit also claims Moakler and Lewis improperly revealed that Miss California USA had paid for Prejean’s breast implants.
Moakler’s attorney, Mel Avanzando, said in a statement that Prejean’s lawsuit was without merit.
"More importantly, as everyone who watched or read her public statements is well aware, Ms. Prejean’s unfortunate and bigoted statements are responsible for any public humiliation or damages to her reputation that she has claimed to have suffered," Avanzando wrote. "Ms. Moakler strenuously denies that she did anything wrong and looks forward to proving that in a court of law."
Prejean is also suing publicist Roger Neal, who handles press for Miss California USA and Lewis.
Neal said he could not immediately comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Lewis, Moakler and Neal of using Internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter to post disparaging remarks about Prejean.
The lawsuit does not name Donald Trump, who owns Miss California USA’s parent organization and who in May refused to fire Prejean, a decision he reversed a month later.
The suit states Trump authorized Prejean’s appearance on the "Fox and Friends" show in May and a Shape magazine interview, both of which were sighted by Lewis as unauthorized public appearances by the beauty queen.
The complaint does not state a specific dollar figure that Prejean is seeking. It claims she has been subject to public ridicule and humiliation and lost out on modeling work because she lost her crown. She has also suffered anxiety, depression and loss of sleep since her firing, the lawsuit states. —————————–
The Australian government is investigating the seizure of weapons being shipped from North Korea to Iran that were found on an Australian cargo vessel in the Persian Gulf. Iranian officials are denying the incident, calling the reports a “Zionist” plot aimed at increasing international pressure over its nuclear activities.
Rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons were found when the vessel was searched in the United Arab Emirates in mid-August, U.N. diplomats told media late last week. The arms reportedly were labeled “machine parts.”
It was the first time a weapons shipment from North Korea had been interdicted since U.N. Security Council resolution 1874, adopted in June, tightened sanctions against Pyongyang. Earlier in August Indian authorities stopped a suspect North Korean vessel, but it was found to be carrying sugar.
The seizure comes at a sensitive time for the rogue states on both ends of the transaction. North Korea has been making conciliatory gestures towards the international community following a period of provocative behavior including the nuclear test that triggered resolution 1874; and Iran faces a difficult month ahead, with a late September Obama administration deadline for it to begin cooperating on its nuclear program, or face tougher sanctions.
The Security Council committee overseeing resolution 1874, comprising non-permanent council members Turkey, Libya and Costa Rica, reportedly has written to North Korea and Iran to seek an explanation for the weapons shipment.
The resolution requires governments to inspect ships suspected of carrying various categories of weapons as well as missile- and weapons of mass destruction-related cargoes, either to or from North Korea.
Pyongyang responded to its adoption by declaring that “an attempted blockade of any kind by the U.S. and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response.” It later threatened a “one hundred- or one thousand-fold retaliation” if the U.S. and others infringed upon its sovereignty.
Breaches of law probed
Australia’s transportation minister, Anthony Albanese, told Australian television Sunday that the government took its responsibilities regarding U.N. sanctions seriously and was “investigating as to whether there have been any breaches of Australian law.”
The ship carrying the weaponry was named as the ANL Australia, a Bahamas-flagged container vessel owned by ANL Container Line Pty. Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia, a subsidiary of CMA CGM of France, the world’s third-biggest container shipping company.
Contacted in Melbourne early Monday, Chris Schultz, ANL’s general manager business development, was cautious in his comments.
“At this point it’s still an unnamed source at the U.N. [who has made the allegations], so we’re neither confirming nor denying anything,” he said.
Schultz said the ship operated “as part of our parent company” and that he could not say what Australian government investigations were underway.
The company’s schedules, accessed online, says the ANL Australia sailed from Fuqing, a port in China’s Fujian province opposite Taiwan, on August 13, made calls over the following week at three other Chinese ports and then visited Port Kelang, Malaysia’s biggest port, departing from there on August 21.
It was not clear why the schedule said the ANL Australia was in China’s Shantou port on August 14, the day when – according to U.N. sources quoted in media reports – the ship was being searched in the UAE.
Schultz was mum about the whereabouts of the ship, saying only that it was “plying its normal schedule.”
North Korea has a nuclear weapons capability and Iran is suspected by the West of pursing one, but denies it. The two, both targeted by U.N. sanctions, have a history of military collaboration, particularly in the field of missile development.
UAE, like other Arab states in the region, is worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Western diplomats praised the UAE for being “vigilant,” media in the Gulf state reported.
Commenting on the seizure, UAE daily newspaper The National said in an editorial the incident was a “a reminder of the vigilance needed to keep the Gulf free of illicitly trafficked arms. Unfortunately in the globalize world, the problems of East Asia now concern us all.”
“With substantial evidence linking the country in the past to the Pakistani scientist AQ Khan, the Syrian reactor that was destroyed by Israel in 2007 and the suspected program in Myanmar [Burma], there is little doubt that North Korea is a key supporter of illicit nuclear programs,” it said.
News of the seizure also resonated on the Korean peninsula, where tensions between the two Koreas have eased in recent days, with Pyongyang sending a delegation to Seoul to pay respects after the death of former president Kim Dae-jung and releasing several detained South Koreans.
Seoul’s Korea Herald said Monday the North’s conciliatory gestures signaled that the U.N. sanctions were beginning to bite, as evidenced by the UAE incident.
Unlike previous sanctions which were never strictly enforced, “Resolution 1874 is being applied by countries around the world,” the daily said in an editorial. “Such concerted international efforts should continue and bring the North back to the denuclearization talks.”
There was no official response from Iran’s government, but the country’s ISNA news agency and Press TV television network both cited an “informed source” as saying the reports were “fabricated.”
“Reports about the seizure of a ship in the UAE have been fabricated by Zionist media outlets in an attempt to influence the outcome of the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency [on Iran’s nuclear activities],” Press TV quoted the source as saying.
“It would be better for us to not waste our time with such childish games designed by Israel,” the source added.
In its latest report on Iran’s nuclear activities the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said Iran was continuing to enrich uranium in violation of U.N. resolutions, although at a slightly slower rate in recent months. Tehran at the weekend welcomed the report as “more positive” than previous ones.
The report comes ahead of a series of meetings in September where future policies on Iran will be discussed – at the IAEA’s annual general session and board meetings in Vienna, at meetings of permanent Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) in Frankfurt, and at a G20 summit of industrialized and developing nations in Pittsburgh.
GENEVA — American goods will face around $295 million in annual sanctions as a result of the United States’ failure to eliminate illegal subsidies to U.S. cotton growers, the World Trade Organization ruled Monday.
The result was disappointing for Brazil, which has won a series of rulings against the U.S. over the last seven years. The Latin American country had sought to target American goods and drug patents for $2.5 billion worth of economic retaliation.
The WTO ruled that the sanctions should vary depending on U.S. payments each year. Arbitrators used 2006 as a base year for the ruling, and said U.S. payments would have to increase significantly for Brazil to be allowed to punish American drug patents.
"The cumulated amount of countermeasures to which Brazil is entitled to is $294.7 million," the WTO said in a two-part ruling totaling 269 pages.
Washington had argued that the award should not exceed $30 million.
"While we remain disappointed with the outcome of this dispute, we are pleased that the arbitrators awarded Brazil far below the amount of countermeasures it asked for," said Carol Guthrie, spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
Guthrie said the U.S. was also pleased that the WTO rejected Brazil’s request for "unlimited" sanctions on U.S. patents and trademarks, and for a one-time award of $350 million in penalties for a subsidy Washington has already repealed.
Monday’s ruling was the fifth major decision since the Brazilian government brought the case to the WTO in 2002, alleging that the U.S. was able to retain its place as the world’s second-largest cotton producer by paying out some $3 billion to American farmers each year. China is the largest exporter of cotton, while Brazil is fifth.
The WTO’s condemnation of the U.S. in September 2004 was seen as a victory for Brazil and for West African countries that claimed to have been harmed by the subsidies. Three decisions since have confirmed that U.S. support programs unfairly help U.S. producers undersell foreign competitors and depress world market prices, dealing a double blow to cotton growers in Brazil and elsewhere.
In response to the legal defeats, the U.S. Congress has scrapped some export credits and in 2006 repealed the "Step-2" cotton-marketing program that made payments to exporters and domestic mill users as compensation for buying higher-priced American cotton.
But last year it approved a new farm bill worth nearly $300 billion that left a number of other contentious cotton programs intact.
"Few WTO disputes have been as difficult – or as politicized – as the fight over U.S. cotton subsidies," says Brendan McGivern, a partner at White & Case law firm in Geneva who represented cotton-growing nations Benin and Chad in the case at no charge until 2004.
"The subsidies paid by the United States to its 25,000 cotton farmers exceed the entire gross national income of virtually every cotton-exporting country in West and Central Africa," McGivern said. "Despite several rounds of litigation and ministerial-level negotiations, this issue remains unresolved."
The United States has consistently argued that cotton should be dealt with as part of a world trade deal among the WTO’s 153 members. Those talks have been going on since 2001 and are far from completion.
Brazil and the U.S. have often clashed in the negotiations, which have largely divided rich and developing nations over how to open up farm trade in the industrialized world while easing access for manufacturers and service providers in emerging markets such as China and India.
Critics of the cotton subsidies say they drive down prices, making it impossible for small farms to compete in international markets and more difficult for poorer countries to develop their economies by selling their agricultural produce abroad.
A WTO-proposed draft released two years ago calls on the U.S. to make an 82 percent cut in trade-distorting handouts to American cotton farmers as part of the trade accord. Washington has rejected the cuts, but never proposed an alternative.
The cotton case was the first agricultural case launched by a developing country in the WTO’s history.
If Joe Scarborough is right, this could be a game-changing blow to Barack Obama . . .
On today’s Morning Joe, Scarborough left no doubt that he believes the Obama administration acquiesced to the release by the British government of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie murderer and terrorist.
Scarborough was reacting to reports suggesting that, contrary to initial claims, the release was done at the behest of Gordon Brown’s British government, and was not an independent move by Scotland.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I’m talking about the British deal: oil for terrorists. And Chuck Todd earlier today said the White House needs to answer questions: what did the president know, when did he know it? Did the administration know about this deal? Did they go along with it?
. . .
PAT BUCHANAN: It’s hard for me to believe that the British government, Gordon Brown and these other folks, working these things out with Scotland to let this terrorist go, who has killed 260 or 270 people, including about five dozen American school kids, that they would let him go and not give the White House a heads-up as to what is coming down the pike.
SCARBOROUGH: This is just one of those stories that smells from the very beginning. They set up that Scottish guy to hold the press conference, like he’s going to release the biggest terrorist this side of al Qaeda? . . . No! You knew the British government was attached. We predicted it last week; it’s come true. Then that raises the next question: what’s the link between Great Britain’s government and the U.S. government? Anybody that works in Washington for more than a day knows the British government is not going to release a terrorist that killed American kids without getting the OK from the American government.
. . .
SCARBOROUGH: Because of that celebration, this is the end of Gordon Brown’s government; there’s no surviving this, is there? This is the last straw.
BUCHANAN: I don’t think there is any surviving: this guy is just holding on . . . My guess is this thing went up the food chain at State [Department] and went up the food chain through the NSC.
SCARBOROUGH: If this did not end up at the White House, Mike Barnicle, I would be shocked.
American governments don’t fall like British ones can. But if it’s true that Pres. Obama gave the green light for the release of a terrorist directly responsible for the deaths of dozens of Americans, his administration will suffer a huge blow. How intensely will the MSM pursue the story?
Four men were charged today with allegedly trying to kill an off-duty Chicago police officer in a Southwest Side shooting that one police source said erupted when they mistook the gang-enforcement officer for a gang rival.
The officer — whom Chicago Police Department officials declined to identify — was driving home about 3 a.m. Thursday through a section of Little Village carved up as turf by the Latin Kings and Two-Sixers, rival gangs that have been fighting to dominate the local drug trade for decades.
The officer, who was wearing a jersey-type shirt over his police uniform, sensed he was being followed by a car with four people inside, the source said.
The men — Fernando Lopez, 20, Jose Huerta, 21, Fernando Gonzalez, 19, and Jesus Rios, 20 — are reputed members of the Latin Kings who were out to avenge an earlier shooting, the source said.
A police spokesman today would not confirm whether the shooting was gang-related.
The officer tried to evade the men’s car, driving several blocks until he finally pulled onto Pulaski Road at 26th Street, the source said.
There, he made a quick U-turn in the street, and the car again followed right behind him as the officer headed toward the Police Department’s Ogden District station on West Ogden Avenue, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said during a Bond Court hearing Sunday.
At that point, the officer dialed 911 for help — twice — but the gang members allegedly accelerated and pulled up next to the officer on 26th Street.
Lopez pointed a handgun at the officer and fired several shots, striking the car, the state’s attorney’s office said. One bullet narrowly missed the officer’s head, the source said. The officer returned fire with his service revolver and chased the car until he lost sight of it, officials said.
Harrison Area detectives found the car Friday and eventually arrested all four men.
Lopez was held Sunday without bail. Rios and Gonzalez were held on $350,000 bail, while Huerta was held on $300,000 bail.
The men, scheduled to appear again in court Monday, are each charged with attempted first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.
The head of the gang-enforcement unit called the shooting "horrible" but gave the officer credit for his reaction.
"The hunter became the hunted," Cmdr. Leo Schmitz said. "He handled it really well. He tried to evade. He dialed 911. He had the presence of mind to get his gun out and fire back."
Schmitz said initial reports were unclear about whether the officer was targeted for being a police officer. He said Harrison Area detectives and fellow gang-enforcement officers worked two days straight on the case.
No matter the reason why the officer was shot at, it will likely impact how he does his work now, Schmitz said.
"An officer became the victim he goes out and helps every day," he said. "It goes full circle."
911 didn’t help the off duty cop, but his off duty gun sure as shit did.
If Larry Frankel, past executive director and longtime lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, were to have played a character in a biblical pageant he would have been the burning bush, Andrew Chirls, his former longtime partner once told him.
"Because if you were near him he inspired you to service and he inspired you to believe," Chirls said.
On Friday, Frankel, who took a position last year as state legislative counsel for the ACLU’s Washington office, was found dead in the stream that gives Washington’s Rock Creek Park its name.
Police released little about the circumstances of Frankel’s death and as of yesterday had declined to officially identify the man found floating in water shortly before noon on Friday in the federally administered large park that cuts through Northwest Washington.
But the ACLU and Frankel’s family and friends confirmed his death.
Yesterday, Chirls said that he accompanied Frankel’s brothers to the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office to identify his body.
"We were told there were no signs of trauma or injury that would be consistent with a crime or a fall," Chirls said. "What they found was consistent with death from natural causes while out running."
The D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office declined to comment.
Chirls said that Frankel was found 20 feet from a running trail in jogging clothes and – without offering specifics – that he had been experiencing medical symptoms the previous morning that were consistent with the preliminary finding.
So far, though, there is no indication as to how Frankel ended up in the water, Chirls said.
Frankel and Chirls met when both were law students at the University of California at Berkeley, the same school that Frankel, a Burbank, Calif., native, attended as an undergraduate.
Following graduation, the couple moved to Philadelphia. Frankel worked as an associate at a law firm before founding his own practice, where he worked in criminal, civil and security law.
In 1992, Frankel quit his practice to become legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
"When he became a lobbyist he found his real calling," Chirls said. "He knew that getting something done in a collaborative body like a legislature wasn’t a matter of pushing people around but of persuading and working together."
Karl Baker, a member of both the Philadelphia and state ACLU boards, remembered Frankel’s ability to search out people from different backgrounds and appeal to their common rationalities.
"People trusted him because he was not the typical paid lobbyist," Baker said. "He didn’t have funds to take them out to lunch. The only thing he had to offer was common sense, and people appreciated that, whether they agreed with him or not."
Jeff Hunsicker, state counsel and lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, agreed, noting that Frankel built coalitions that had never before existed.
"When you think about labor unions you don’t think of them working with the ACLU, but Larry built that connection," he said. "There were a lot of people he brought together to fight for human rights and that will be part of his legacy – the fact that he’s brought a wide range of people to work together on common issues that we all care about."
Frankel did such a good job as legislative director that from 1996 to 2001 he was chosen to serve as the executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, a promotion that was "an honor to his talents" but did not honor the ambitions in his heart, said Burton Caine, a longtime member of the state ACLU board and a law professor at Temple University.
"He didn’t want to prepare budgets – he wanted to be in the field fighting," Caine said. "He had a great effect there because people knew him, they trusted him and he could stop something before it festered into a sore."
Thus, Frankel decided to step aside as executive director in 2001 and return to his role as legislative director.
In 2003, Frankel and Chirls, who would go on in 2005 to serve as chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, affirmed their partnership in a commitment ceremony in Yardley.
Chirls declined to comment on the status of his relationship with Frankel, except to say that they were longtime partners, "until recently."
In 2008, Frankel accepted his current position as counsel for the ACLU’s Washington legislative office in D.C., where he assisted ACLU affiliates in every state in developing their ability to lobby at the local level.
In his spare time, Frankel was a "voracious reader" who loved Jewish- and Spanish-history novels. He also enjoyed Spanish culture, the outdoors and wildlife, Chirls said.
Frankel is survived by his father, two brothers, a sister, three nephews and a niece.
A new video game subculture has been flourishing in Japan: men who are so obsessed with pubescent, female, Anime figures they form “relationships” with body pillows covered with the girl’s image.
In this world known as Moe, the rising popularity of so-called “2-D Lovers” has spawned its own thriving industry among some men.
If a guy can’t “get the girl” for real, virtual world fanatics figure, he gets a girl pillow. Within Japan’s widespread otaku culture – the obsessive fan base of anime, manga and video games – more is what the Moe men want.
The female characters and the Moe men who love them — some more innocently than others — are 10 to 12 years old.
However, the ornate costumes that create flashes of bright color on video screens often look nothing like the “get-ups” on the pillow covers. These child-women might be sporting strategically placed, but mockery-of-modesty patches. For bolder clients, the 2-D Lolitas are wearing nothing at all.
Nisan (pictured above) is a balding, flacid, 37-year-old, never-married video gamer. He describes his 3-year relationship with “Nemu” – whom he’s driven hundreds of miles on trips to visit Kyoto, Osaka and Nara — as blissful but chaste.
He even prides himself on taking special care not to touch her private areas when he tucks her into bed at night.
“I’ve experienced so many amazing things with her,” he gushes. “She has really changed my life.”
Toru Taima, also never married, makes no claims of innocence. He sells X-rated body-pillow covers at gaming conventions – and his eyes light up like a LED screen when he readily concedes he engages in sex with some of the 150 pillow cover characters he owns.
“I am not doing anything to harm anybody,” he insists. “To me these are works of art. They’re cute girls that live in my imagination.”
Whatever their intentions, 2-D lovers flock from all over Japan to Tokyo’s Akihabara district every day to scour specialty shops and attend fan events in search of new character girlfriends to add to their collections.
Cultural observers say the rise of 2-D love can be pinned in part on the difficulty many young Japanese of modest means have in navigating modern romance. More than a quarter of men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins; 50 percent of men and women in Japan do not have friends of the opposite sex, a government survey reports.
Perhaps there’s a screenplay in this for Judd Apatow, the American writer-director famous for his spot-on depictions of delayed adolescence in “The 40-year-old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” But to hear Toru Honda tell it, moe subculture is more like “Revenge of the Nerds … Gone Creepy.”
Honda, 40, a college dropout who worked a succession of jobs at video-game companies, began imploring gamers online to “stand with pride against good-looking men and women.”
His message — that Japan’s economic bubble of the 1980s had killed the true value of romance, turning it into an elitist looks- and money-based commodity – caught on.
And so a subculture was born over the last half-decade or so. Japan’s lonely heart gaming fanatics can now get their “piece” of action, but without fear of complication or rejection.