Self-Styled Diamond And Gold Exporter Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Wire Fraud And Commodities Fraud

Source: US State of California

Dual U.S./Swiss Citizen Convicted of Fraudulently Soliciting Millions In Investment Scheme To Purportedly Export Diamonds and Gold From Africa

SAN JOSE—Fritz Kramer was sentenced today to 108 months in prison, and ordered to pay $7,956,267 in restitution, following convictions for wire fraud and commodities fraud, announced U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair.  The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Judge.

After a six-week trial, on March 19, 2019, a federal jury convicted Kramer, 72, with a last known residence in Norway, of eleven counts of wire fraud and one count of commodities fraud.  Evidence at trial showed that Kramer fraudulently solicited funds from dozens of investors, several of whom resided in the Bay Area.  Kramer told the investors that their money would be invested in an export project in which Kramer would export gold and diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Europe, Asia, and the United States.  The evidence at trial showed that Kramer falsely promised investors returns of up to ten times the amount invested in as short a time as one month, though no investor ever received a return on their investment.  Trial evidence demonstrated that numerous investors sent Kramer millions of dollars based upon Kramer’s false representations regarding the export project.

A federal grand jury indicted Kramer on July 21, 2016, charging him with eleven counts of wire fraud and one count of commodities fraud. The jury convicted Kramer of all counts.

In addition to the prison term and restitution order, Judge Davila ordered Kramer to serve a five-year term of supervised release for the commodities fraud count, and a three-year term of supervised release for the wire fraud counts.  The terms of supervised release will run concurrently.  The defendant is in custody and will immediately begin serving his sentence.    

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maia Perez and Jeff Nedrow are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Susan Kreider and Nina Burney-Williams.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.    

Self-Styled Diamond And Gold Exporter Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Wire Fraud And Commodities Fraud

Source: US State of California

Dual U.S./Swiss Citizen Convicted of Fraudulently Soliciting Millions In Investment Scheme To Purportedly Export Diamonds and Gold From Africa

SAN JOSE—Fritz Kramer was sentenced today to 108 months in prison, and ordered to pay $7,956,267 in restitution, following convictions for wire fraud and commodities fraud, announced U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair.  The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Judge.

After a six-week trial, on March 19, 2019, a federal jury convicted Kramer, 72, with a last known residence in Norway, of eleven counts of wire fraud and one count of commodities fraud.  Evidence at trial showed that Kramer fraudulently solicited funds from dozens of investors, several of whom resided in the Bay Area.  Kramer told the investors that their money would be invested in an export project in which Kramer would export gold and diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Europe, Asia, and the United States.  The evidence at trial showed that Kramer falsely promised investors returns of up to ten times the amount invested in as short a time as one month, though no investor ever received a return on their investment.  Trial evidence demonstrated that numerous investors sent Kramer millions of dollars based upon Kramer’s false representations regarding the export project.

A federal grand jury indicted Kramer on July 21, 2016, charging him with eleven counts of wire fraud and one count of commodities fraud. The jury convicted Kramer of all counts.

In addition to the prison term and restitution order, Judge Davila ordered Kramer to serve a five-year term of supervised release for the commodities fraud count, and a three-year term of supervised release for the wire fraud counts.  The terms of supervised release will run concurrently.  The defendant is in custody and will immediately begin serving his sentence.    

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maia Perez and Jeff Nedrow are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Susan Kreider and Nina Burney-Williams.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.    

State of Missouri Hosts 2nd Annual Show Me Excellence Summit

Source: US State of Missouri

2020 Summit Brings Together State’s Operational Excellence Community, National Partners

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – Today, the state of Missouri hosted its second annual Show Me Excellence Summit. This year’s Summit was held virtually with the theme “Better Together.”

The Show Me Excellence Summit brings together team members from Missouri’s 16 executive departments and the offices of the Attorney General, Treasurer, and Lieutenant Governor as well as private-sector partners and state government continuous improvement experts from across the nation. Over 1,500 state of Missouri team members registered for the summit this year from Cabinet leaders to frontline employees.

“Our Cabinet team is committed to making real change in how state government operates,” Governor Mike Parson said. “Today’s summit was about helping our team members learn new skills to better serve their fellow citizens, and I was honored to sign a proclamation declaring October 26, 2020, Show Me Excellence Day in the state of Missouri.”

“We believe making opportunities for our team members to learn, build new skills, and the put them to use is the best way to lasting improvements in our state government’s efficiency and effectiveness,” State of Missouri Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann said. “The summit was another milestone in building a community of operational excellence leaders in our state government.”

Bob Chapman, CEO of St. Louis-based Barry-Wehmiller, and Kristen Cox, former Executive Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, delivered keynote addresses at the summit.

Recently named the number three CEO in the world by Inc. magazine, Mr. Chapman leads a $3 billion global capital equipment business with more than 12,000 team members. His experiences at Barry-Wehmiller inspired his Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.

“People are capable of doing amazing things if we just give them the environment in which they can discover, develop, share, and be appreciated for their gifts,” Bob Chapman said. “I enjoyed addressing these public servants to help them create dignity-honoring work environments for their teams and ultimately serve our citizens better.”

As former Executive Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Ms. Cox led an improvement in state government performance of more than 35 percent. She also recently co-authored the book Stop Decorating the Fish about driving change in the workplace.

“As government leaders, we need to learn how to focus—both ourselves and our teams—on what will really move the needle,” Kristen Cox said. “I was impressed by how the state of Missouri is seeking out new ways to inspire its teams to work together better.”

Experts from Missouri, the private sector, and other state governments led 21 practical skill-building virtual workshops for summit participants. Workshop topics included process mapping, leading a team huddle, creating and maintaining a high performing workplace, and managing change efforts.

Jamie Rodgers, Deputy Director of the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA), moderated the concluding panel discussion of state government leaders from Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and Utah. The panel participants shared their firsthand lessons learned in building operational excellence communities within state government. 

“Team Missouri is viewed as a leader in transforming state government,” NASCA Deputy Director Jamie Rodgers said. “The summit was a great opportunity for leaders from Missouri and across the country to come together and learn how to be even more effective public servants.”

To learn more about the 2020 Show Me Excellence Summit, Operational Excellence, and more, visit the showmeexcellence.mo.gov/about-the-summit. To view Governor Parson’s proclamation, please see attachment

State of Missouri Hosts 2nd Annual Show Me Excellence Summit

Source: US State of Missouri

2020 Summit Brings Together State’s Operational Excellence Community, National Partners

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – Today, the state of Missouri hosted its second annual Show Me Excellence Summit. This year’s Summit was held virtually with the theme “Better Together.”

The Show Me Excellence Summit brings together team members from Missouri’s 16 executive departments and the offices of the Attorney General, Treasurer, and Lieutenant Governor as well as private-sector partners and state government continuous improvement experts from across the nation. Over 1,500 state of Missouri team members registered for the summit this year from Cabinet leaders to frontline employees.

“Our Cabinet team is committed to making real change in how state government operates,” Governor Mike Parson said. “Today’s summit was about helping our team members learn new skills to better serve their fellow citizens, and I was honored to sign a proclamation declaring October 26, 2020, Show Me Excellence Day in the state of Missouri.”

“We believe making opportunities for our team members to learn, build new skills, and the put them to use is the best way to lasting improvements in our state government’s efficiency and effectiveness,” State of Missouri Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann said. “The summit was another milestone in building a community of operational excellence leaders in our state government.”

Bob Chapman, CEO of St. Louis-based Barry-Wehmiller, and Kristen Cox, former Executive Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, delivered keynote addresses at the summit.

Recently named the number three CEO in the world by Inc. magazine, Mr. Chapman leads a $3 billion global capital equipment business with more than 12,000 team members. His experiences at Barry-Wehmiller inspired his Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.

“People are capable of doing amazing things if we just give them the environment in which they can discover, develop, share, and be appreciated for their gifts,” Bob Chapman said. “I enjoyed addressing these public servants to help them create dignity-honoring work environments for their teams and ultimately serve our citizens better.”

As former Executive Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Ms. Cox led an improvement in state government performance of more than 35 percent. She also recently co-authored the book Stop Decorating the Fish about driving change in the workplace.

“As government leaders, we need to learn how to focus—both ourselves and our teams—on what will really move the needle,” Kristen Cox said. “I was impressed by how the state of Missouri is seeking out new ways to inspire its teams to work together better.”

Experts from Missouri, the private sector, and other state governments led 21 practical skill-building virtual workshops for summit participants. Workshop topics included process mapping, leading a team huddle, creating and maintaining a high performing workplace, and managing change efforts.

Jamie Rodgers, Deputy Director of the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA), moderated the concluding panel discussion of state government leaders from Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and Utah. The panel participants shared their firsthand lessons learned in building operational excellence communities within state government. 

“Team Missouri is viewed as a leader in transforming state government,” NASCA Deputy Director Jamie Rodgers said. “The summit was a great opportunity for leaders from Missouri and across the country to come together and learn how to be even more effective public servants.”

To learn more about the 2020 Show Me Excellence Summit, Operational Excellence, and more, visit the showmeexcellence.mo.gov/about-the-summit. To view Governor Parson’s proclamation, please see attachment

Owner of Local Technical Training School Sentenced for Defrauding the VA out of almost $30 Million in G.I. Bill Education Benefits

Source: US State of California

Assistant U. S. Attorney Michelle L. Wasserman (619) 546-8431

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 27, 2020

SAN DIEGO – Nimesh Shah, owner of Blue Star Learning, a technical training school in San Diego, was sentenced in federal court today to 45 months in custody as a result of a multi-year scheme that defrauded the Department of Veterans Affairs out of almost $30 million in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. 

As laid out in Shah’s plea agreement and court documents, Shah took extraordinary efforts to deceive regulators from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure the school continued to receive VA funds. Shah provided the VA with false documents, invented fake students and created fake student files. He provided spreadsheets with false employment information and fraudulent contact information for purported graduates of the school and their made up employers. He purchased cellular telephones so that he and his employees could field VA regulator calls to purported employers of school graduates, and hired individuals overseas to pretend to be satisfied Blue Star Learning students in response to VA regulator emails.  As laid out in court records, Shah’s scheme appears to be one of the largest Post-9/11 G.I. Bill fraud cases that has been prosecuted around the country.

Shah was also ordered to forfeit $3,076,361.77 and to pay the VA $29,350,999 in restitution.  Shah’s wife Nidhi Shah, who was the vice president and director of education at the school, was sentenced to two years of probation as a result of lying to investigators in the course of the investigation into the school. 

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill provides veterans and other eligible individuals educational assistance, including tuition, housing costs, and other educational costs and fees. The VA pays tuition and fees directly to the school where the veteran is enrolled, and if the veteran is enrolled on more than a half time basis, the VA additionally provides a monthly housing allowance directly to the veteran, as well as money for books, supplies, equipment and other educational expenses.  In October 2011, the VA began paying Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for individuals pursuing non-institute of higher learning, non-degree programs, including non-accredited, non-college degree schools like Blue Star Learning. 

In order to receive funds from the VA under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, Blue Star Learning was required to have at least 15 percent non-veterans for each course for which the VA was paying educational benefits – a rule called the “85/15 Rule.”  As laid out in court records, the “85/15 Rule” is designed to minimize the risk that veterans’ benefits are wasted on educational programs of little value and to ensure that the cost of a course is acceptable and paid on the open market by non-veterans. As part of its yearly accreditation process, Blue Star Learning was also required to provide vocational attainment data for graduates of the school to VA regulators that corroborated employment statistics posted on the Blue Star website. This data was requested to ensure that individuals attending the school were getting jobs in the fields in which they were receiving training, as a measure of quality. 

As part of his multi-year fraud scheme, between March 2016 and June 2019, Shah lied to the VA about the percentage of non-veteran students at the school, and made up fake non-veteran students – when in fact nearly all of their business came from veteran students. He also created spreadsheets of fraudulent employment data, including false emails, phone numbers, jobs and employers to support made-up graduate employment data. And he falsely claimed that all of the students at the school were enrolled full-time.  Shah’s lies ensured that Blue Star Learning received millions of dollars in VA education benefits that the school was not entitled to.

Blue Star Learning, which charged up to $20,560 per course, had close to 100% veteran students. Shah nonetheless repeatedly misrepresented to the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education (“CSAAVE”) and the VA that Blue Star Learning was in compliance with the “85/15 Rule.”  Shah took extraordinary efforts to deceive VA regulators regarding non-veteran students at the school, including creating fake enrollment agreements and student files for the purported non-veterans in each program.  Shah emailed the VA 48 fraudulent enrollment agreements for fictitious people he represented were non-veteran students at Blue Star Learning, complete with fraudulent dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and emails for each fraudulent non-veteran student. 

Shah knew that the vast majority of Blue Star Learning graduates did not obtain jobs in the fields in which they were purportedly receiving training, and that the employment statistics on Blue Star Learning’s website were false.  Shah nonetheless submitted fraudulent spreadsheets to CSAAVE claiming that all of the Blue Star Learning students listed were employed in the informational technology field. On these spreadsheets, Shah provided fraudulent phone numbers, email addresses, employers, and employer contact information for each student. Shah then took his fraud a step further: Because he knew CSAAVE could contact the students/employers to verify the data submitted, Shah hired individuals to create the fraudulent email addresses for the Blue Star Learning students, and directed these individuals, who resided overseas, to answer emails received at the fraudulent email addresses pretending to be satisfied Blue Star Learning graduates working in the information technology field. Shah additionally created 30 fictitious companies that he listed as the employers on the fraudulent spreadsheets, and hired individuals to create fraudulent email addresses and domain names for each fictitious company. Shah directed a Blue Star Learning employee to purchase 30 cellular telephones, one for each fictitious employer, and had employees of Blue Star Learning create voicemail greetings on each cellular telephone so that it would appear that the fraudulent businesses were legitimate if CSAAVE called to check.

“This was an extraordinary fraud in terms of the elaborate deception, the years-long duration and the amount of money involved,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “This defendant knowingly violated the rules to enrich himself, and for that he will go to prison.” Brewer commended prosecutor Michelle Wasserman and agents from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation for excellent work on this case.

“The FBI worked with our partners at the VA-OIG to investigate this elaborate fraud scheme resulting in a loss of over $29 million dollars,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.  “Fraud affecting educational benefits meant for our military veterans will not be tolerated.  Today, justice was served against the Shahs, the owners of Blue Star Learning, who put greed and deceit above the men and women of our U.S. military.”

Rebeccalynn Staples, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Western Field Office, stated, “This case demonstrates VA OIG’s commitment to aggressively pursuing individuals and schools who seek to exploit the education benefits earned by veterans.  VA OIG will continue to protect the integrity of the VA education benefits program by identifying unscrupulous schools who take advantage of veteran students.  VA OIG urges anyone with knowledge of possible fraud against VA to contact the VA OIG Hotline Division at 1-800-488-8244.”

As a result of Shah’s fraud, the VA issued over $11 million in tuition payments to Blue Star Learning, and over $18 million in housing allowances and stipends. In total, as a result of Shah’s fraud, the VA lost $29,350,999. 

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 19CR4551-JAH; 19CR4550-JAH  

Nimesh Shah                                       Age: 37                                   San Diego, CA

Nidhi Shah                                          Age: 35                                   San Diego, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Nimesh Shah: Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

Nidhi Shah: False Statement – Title 18 U.S.C., Section 1001

Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine

AGENCY

Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General

Federal Bureau of Investigation

As Election Day Approaches, Federal, State and Local Officials Urge Idahoans to Rely on Trusted Sources for Voting Information

Source: US State of Idaho

Home Newsroom As Election Day Approaches, Federal, State and Local Officials Urge Idahoans to Rely on Trusted Sources for Voting Information

(Boise) – In the lead-up to Election Day, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho Bart M. Davis and Idaho’s county clerks are urging Idahoans to get their election-related information from trusted sources.
In their role overseeing local elections, Idaho clerks say they’re encountering misinformation circulating among the electorate. Much of the false or misleading information originates in social media and is often shared unchecked. Elections officials statewide are trying to push back while also managing unprecedented levels of absentee voting during a pandemic.
“We are working tirelessly not only to pull off a successful election, but to also ensure the public has confidence in the process,” Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane says. “There are already many examples of where false information has disrupted these efforts. I encourage voters to turn to official sources like IdahoVotes.gov and local resources like AdaCountyElections.com to ensure they are getting election information they can rely on.”
Wasden says misinformation in social media is especially dangerous because of its unknown sources, their motives and how quickly it can proliferate across platforms.
“False election information can come from bad actors trying to influence who votes and how they vote,” Wasden says. “This misinformation helps sow discord among voters of different parties and creates unnecessary uncertainty about the election system. Perhaps worst of all, it can also lead to some voters simply giving up and choosing not to vote.”
Officials encourage voters to treat information from unofficial sources with a healthy amount of skepticism. If something seems unusual or sensational, voters should check it out with an official source. Secretary of State Denney asks voters to contact their county clerk or his office with questions. A list of Idaho county clerks with contact information is available at https://idahovotes.gov/county-clerks/.
“Idaho’s elections are run by 44 elected county clerks with oversight by the Secretary of State,” says Lawerence Denney, Idaho’s chief election official. “It’s only logical, then, that Idahoans’ trusted source of information on elections should start in the same place – with their local clerk. The more we can keep the disinformation from spreading by checking details at the source, the better election we can run for Idaho.”
Elections officials say Idaho’s system is safe and reliable. County clerks rely on strong laws enacted by the state legislature to administer elections. Election officials say this results in a uniform system across the state that Idahoans can be confident in.
On the federal level, U.S. Attorney Davis recently named three Assistant U.S. Attorneys to oversee the handling of election fraud complaints and voting rights concerns in consultation with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington D.C. The move, Davis says, was to help protect the integrity of Idaho’s election process.
“There are elements in our society that may wish to influence the election by spreading misinformation through social media and otherwise,” Davis says. “Citizens must stay vigilant and resist these efforts by seeking accurate information only from trusted, official sources. I strongly encourage citizens to report any sources of information about the election that they find suspicious to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office or their respective county clerk.”
In addition to local and state resources, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency has also developed an online tool to help voters understand what’s rumor vs. reality.
Additional Media Contacts:
Cassie Fulghum, U.S. Attorney’s Office: Cassandra.Fulghum@usdoj.gov
Chad Houck, Idaho Secretary of State’s Office: Chad.Houck@sos.idaho.gov; 208-334-2862
Chelsea Carattini, Ada County Clerk’s Office: CCarattini@Aadacounty.id.gov
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Inslee issues “Stay Safe – Vote Safe” proclamation

Source: Washington State News

Story 

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation and guidance memo today clarifying application of COVID-19 requirements for voters and for voting service operations, including county elections offices, county voting centers and student engagement HUBs throughout the state. 

“The right to vote is one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” Inslee said. “Even in the middle of a pandemic, it’s vital that everyone’s voices are heard. We are dedicated to ensuring that anyone can cast their ballot in a safe manner and we are protecting the crucial election personnel and volunteers that make this democratic process possible.”

Stay Safe – Vote Safe (20-75): 

This proclamation temporarily suspends any COVID-related orders that could be interpreted to restrict access to voting centers and student engagement HUBS by persons intending to register to vote, obtain a ballot, receive assistance with a ballot, deposit a ballot or use other voting-related services. 

Elections personnel are essential workers, and elections offices are essential facilities. In addition, voting, whether by mail or in person, is an essential activity. 

Under this proclamation, gathering restrictions do not apply to voters who are in attendance at a voting center for the purpose of registering to vote or to cast his or her vote. All elections personnel and voters should practice physical distancing and use face coverings, as recommended by the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.    

Individual voting and voting centers are protected under this proclamation, prohibiting any interpretations of “Stay Safe – Vote Safe” that would hinder access to and operations of voting facilities, access to in-person voter registration, ballot issuance and ballot deposit. 

Read the memo here.

Read the full proclamation here

Violations related to this proclamation can be reported here.

Irvine Man Charged in Investment Scheme that Took In Millions with False Promises of Solar Panels Enhanced with Nanotechnology

Source: US State of California

         SANTA ANA, California – Federal prosecutors today filed criminal charges against an Irvine man whose company used high-pressure sales tactics to raise more than $9.5 million with bogus claims that the outfit’s solar panels utilized nanotechnology to generate electricity three times more efficiently than traditional solar panels.

         Michael James Sweaney, 56, the founder and owner of Nanotech Engineering, Inc., was charged with one count of mail fraud in a criminal information filed in United States District Court. In a plea agreement also filed today, Sweaney, who held the title of chief financial officer at Nanotech, agreed to plead guilty to the mail fraud charge.

         Nanotech, which had facilities in Irvine and Loveland, Colorado, used a team of salespeople to cold-call potential investors and pitch them with bogus claims the company had developed a compact “Nanopanel” with patent-pending nanotechnology that was one-third the cost of similar devices and would soon dominate the solar panel market. But, as Sweaney admitted in the plea agreement, the Nanopanel simply did not exist.

         As part of the scheme that started just over three years ago and continued until the end of 2019, Nanotech and its salesforce not only lied to investors, it also failed to disclose pertinent facts, which included identifying the CFO as “Michael Hatton” to conceal that Sweaney had previously been convicted of securities fraud, court documents state.

         In his plea agreement, Sweaney admitted that, using the “Michael Hatton alias,” he personally solicited a potential investor with lies, including that Nanotech did not pay commissions to sales personnel and that the company’s manufacturing equipment was worth $100 million. That potential investor was actually an undercover FBI agent.

         During the scheme, Sweaney instructed his nephew – who was in charge of Nanotech’s Colorado facility – to create a prop to make it appear that there were functioning Nanopanels, to make a video with a hired actor showing the product outperforming a traditional solar panel, and to make it appear the Loveland facility was manufacturing Nanopanels, the court documents state. In a 2018 email to his nephew, Sweaney wrote, “We need to spend ALOT OF CASH, we need IMMEDIATELY equipment in the warehouse, without it JAIL, and that’s no joke, no equipment and using investment funds EQUALS JAIL, however spending money on equipment WILL SET US FREE.”

         Once he enters the guilty plea in this case, Sweaney will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

         Sweaney admitted in his plea agreement that investor funds – which purportedly would be spent on company overhead and the manufacturing of Nanopanels – were used to fund his lavish lifestyle, which included a 46-foot yacht, two Maserati GranTurismo automobiles, a gold Cartier watch and cosmetic surgery. As part of the plea agreement, Sweaney agreed to forfeit the yacht, the cars, the watch and approximately $1.5 million in cash, bank accounts and checks previous seized by investigators.

         Sweaney’s nephew – David Wayne Sweaney, 41, of Fort Collins, Colorado, who was listed on documents as Nanotech’s chief executive officer – pleaded guilty last month to one count of mail fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton on April 2, 2021, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

         According to court documents, David Sweaney assisted in the scheme orchestrated by his uncle in a number of ways, including depositing victims’ checks into Nanotech bank accounts in Colorado, purchasing and installing $300,000 in used solar panel manufacturing equipment, arranging for at least two potential victim-investors to tour Nanotech’s Colorado facility, and creating a video showing a prop Nanopanel outperforming a standard solar panel – an illusion he created by powering the purported Nanopanel with a hidden battery pack.

         These cases are the result an ongoing investigation by the FBI.

         This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Ryan G. Adams of the Santa Ana Branch Office.

         The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil action against Nanotech and the Sweaneys, and the agency announced three weeks ago it obtained a partial judgment against David Sweaney.

RESCHEDULED: U.S. Route 36 to narrow east of Marceline

Source: US State of Missouri

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. – As part of a repair and resurfacing project on U.S. Route 36, traffic will be narrowed to one lane each direction at the railroad bridge east of Marceline next week. The Missouri Department of Transportation has contracted with Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc. to complete the project which includes pavement repair between the Clinton County and Macon County lines and resurfacing between Parson’s Creek, west of Meadville, and the Macon County line.

For repairs at the railroad bridge, the roadway will now be narrowed next week as follows:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 3 – passing lanes of both east and westbound U.S. Route 36 closed
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4– traffic head-to-head in the eastbound lanes
  • Thursday, Nov. 5 – passing lanes of both east and westbound U.S. Route 36 closed

Work was originally scheduled for Oct. 28 – 30.

After the lanes at the railroad bridge reopen, pavement repairs will continue throughout the project as long as weather and temperatures allow. Work zones will be active during daylight hours, Monday through Friday, with a 14-foot width restriction. Some work may occur on Saturdays, if necessary.

Traffic control and message boards will be in place alerting motorists of the work and planned lane closures. All work is weather permitting and could be rescheduled.

Most repair work is expected to be complete this year. Crews will return in the spring to complete concrete repairs and resurface from Parson’s Creek to the Macon County line.

Motorist are urged to stay alert and pay attention to all roadway signing and barricades and to eliminate distractions. Crews will be working close to traffic. Please remember that all work zones are NO PHONE zones. Buckle up. Phone down. Arrive alive.

For more information about this and other MoDOT projects, visit modot.org and view the online Traveler Information Map. Also at modot.org, sign up online for work zone updates. Information is also available 24/7 at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or via social media.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take the Challenge! Buckle Up/Phone Down

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United States Files Civil Action To Repatriate Thai Religious Relics Housed At The San Francisco Asian Art Museum

Source: US State of California

SAN FRANCISCO – The United States filed a civil complaint to forfeit and repatriate two religious relics identified as having been illegally exported from Thailand, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson of the Northern District of California and Homeland Security Investigations (NorCal) Special Agent in Charge Tatum King.  The civil complaint can be viewed here:

According to the complaint, the two 1,500-pound hand-carved decorative lintels originally were located in ancient religious temples in Thailand, were removed illegally, and thereafter were exported from Thailand without a license.  The complaint alleges the Thai lintels became part of a large collection held by a noted collector of South and Southeast Asian art.  The collection was bequeathed to the City and County of San Francisco, which used the collection, including the lintels, for display in the Asian Art Museum.  In 2017, the federal government learned that these lintels had been illegally exported from Thailand, rendering them forfeitable as property present in the United States “contrary to law,” and reached out to the Asian Art Museum to negotiate their return. 

“U.S. law requires U.S. museums to respect the rights of other countries to their own historical artifacts,” U.S. Attorney Anderson said. “For years we have tried to get the Asian Art Museum to return this stolen artwork to Thailand.  With this federal filing, we call on the Museum’s Board of Directors to do the right thing.”

“Returning a nation’s cultural antiquities promotes goodwill with foreign governments and citizens, while significantly protecting the world’s cultural history and knowledge of past civilizations,” said Special Agent in Charge King. “The theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts is a tradition as old as the cultures they represent. Federal importation laws provide HSI the authority to take a leading role in investigating crimes involving the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property and art. Customs laws allow HSI to seize cultural property and art that are brought into the United States illegally, especially when objects have been reported lost or stolen. Through our work in this investigation, we hope to ensure the relationship between the United States and Thailand remains one of mutual respect and admiration. This will help Thailand’s cultural heritage to be fully restored for the appreciation of this and future generations.”

The civil complaint merely alleges that certain property is subject to forfeiture.  The United States must prove, by a standard of preponderance of the evidence, that the items are subject to forfeiture.  If the United States prevails, the court will order all interests of any potential claimant forfeit, including the City and County of San Francisco, and the United States will provide Thai officials with information as to the Department of Justice’s remission and restoration process via the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chris Kaltsas of the Northern District of California and Amanda M. Bettinelli of the Central District of California are prosecuting the forfeiture with the assistance of Irene Zhu.  The forfeiture action is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations.