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Entries in Probe (4)

Wednesday
May292013

Authorities Probing Death of Paralegal in Lawyer's Tub

Comstock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Authorities are hoping toxicology tests will give them clues into what killed a paralegal whose body was found in a condo owned by a prominent Philadelphia criminal attorney.

Investigators say a maintenance man found Julia Law naked and face down in a bathtub full of water Saturday around 10 a.m. Police say there were no signs of trauma or drugs found at the scene. An autopsy found water in Law’s lungs, ABC News station WPVI-TV reported Tuesday.

The condo was owned by Law’s boyfriend and boss, 58-year-old Charles Peruto, a prominent attorney known for his local mob clients. Peruto had given Law, his girlfriend of two months, a key to his apartment, investigators said.

Peruto told police he was in New Jersey Friday night into Saturday morning, overseeing construction on a new home, according to WPVI. While police have questioned Peruto as a witness, they do not consider him to be a suspect.

Police are waiting for results of more tests, which will ultimately give them a better idea to what killed Law.

Peruto released a statement earlier this week saying, “Julia was a beautiful, caring free spirit hippy, who I was blessed to have known. Words can’t express how sad I am to finally have met someone who I believed truly loved me. You should all have someone touch your life, like she did mine. Pray for her. She was an angel.”

Neighbors in the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia are not rushing to judgment about the details surrounding Law’s death.

“This is not a crime, it’s a tragedy. Until someone tells me otherwise, there’s no proof of foul play or crime. It could be a million things,” neighbor Pamela McCarthy said.

Law would have turned 27 Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct242012

Sen. McCaskill Calls for Probe of 'Drunk' Contractors in Cellphone Video

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Responding to an ABC News report that featured cellphone video showing U.S. defense contractors in Afghanistan getting drunk and using drugs, Sen. Claire McCaskill has called for an Army investigation into the alleged abuses and how they went undetected by military officials.

In a letter sent to Army Secretary John McHugh on Tuesday, McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, wrote that it is "imperative" that action be taken "to ensure that these allegations are fully investigated and the contractor and U.S. personnel involved are held accountable."

"In light of the seriousness of these allegations," wrote McCaskill, "and the potential for harm to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, I urge you to conduct a thorough review of the performance, management, and oversight of this contract and all other Army contracts for police training in Afghanistan."

McCaskill said in a separate statement Tuesday that "the shocking abuses by government contractors described in these complaints are outrageous and something that should offend every taxpayer."

As detailed on Nightline, the video, provided to ABC News by two former employees, appears to show key personnel from Virginia-based Jorge Scientific staggeringly drunk or high on narcotics at an operations center in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Jorge Scientific has won almost $1 billion in government contracts.

[ WATCH THE ORIGINAL NIGHTLINE REPORT ]

Questions posed by ABC News to the Pentagon have now sparked a criminal investigation by the U.S. Army, an Army spokesman said.  And the company has said it has taken "decisive action to correct the unacceptable behavior of a limited number of employees" and that several of them seen on the video are no longer employed by Jorge Scientific.

The two whistleblowers, John Melson and Kenny Smith, worked as armed security officers for three and five months, respectively, in Kabul as part of a $47 million contract Jorge Scientific had under the U.S. Legacy Program to train the Afghan National Police in counter-insurgency efforts.

The video they provided to ABC News shows the security manager for the company staggering about the operations center late one evening after taking large gulps of vodka and then engaging another employee in a half-naked wrestling match.

Another portion of the video shows the company's medical officer with glassy eyes and unable to respond to a request for help after shooting up with a prescription anesthetic, Ketamine.  The medical officer, Kevin Carlson, has since admitted to ABC News that he frequently injected himself with narcotics.

The two former employees said that the drunken and stoned security personnel would often throw live ammunition rounds and fire extinguishers into the flames and watch as they exploded, often sounding like a real bomb explosion.

"It was like a frat house for adults," said Melson.  "Some of them to the point where they were passing out, there's firearms laying around, some of them still carrying the firearms on them."

Both men, who have filed a lawsuit against Jorge Scientific, say they quit the company in disgust and out of concern that their own safety was being compromised by the behavior they describe, which they said was a regular occurrence.

"It wasn't every night," Smith said.  "It was every other night."

The company's operations manual describes a policy of "zero-tolerance for alcohol and drug use" and says all personnel must be on alert 24/7 for a possible terror attack.

Yet when asked if a response to an attack by terrorists would have been possible during the events seen on the video, Smith told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, "No, sir."

The two men say they saw no evidence of oversight of the company by American military officials and that at least one U.S. Army major, a female, was a regular visitor to drunken parties at the facility, often using a room for sexual encounters.

"If true, these allegations raise serious questions relating to the Army's management and oversight of contracts in Afghanistan," McCaskill wrote in her letter to McHugh.

In a statement to ABC News, Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. Army spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said, "Clearly, behavior such as that described by ABC News is not indicative of the outstanding work that thousands of contractors and service members perform every day in Afghanistan."

But in Tuesday's letter to the Army, McCaskill, who has pushed for reforms to the government contracting process, wrote that she was "particularly concerned because of the legacy of mismanagement of police training contracts."

Earlier this year, McCaskill introduced a Senate bill, the Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act of 2012, which would increase government oversight over contractors and heighten contractor accountability.

In her statement Tuesday, McCaskill said that "the only silver lining" in the allegations against Jorge Scientific "is that I believe this alleged misconduct will add fuel to my fight to crack down on the dangerous failures in the effort to train the Afghan police force."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec152011

Probe Finds 62% of Private Gun Sellers Sell to Prohibited Individuals

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More than six in 10 private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said he probably couldn't pass a background check, according to a report released Wednesday by New York City officials as part of an undercover investigation.

"Our investigation indicates illegal online sales are a problem that's national in scope," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference Wednesday.

Federal law prohibits felons, domestic abusers, drug addicts, and the mentally ill from buying firearms, and federally-licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks and keep paperwork on their buyers.  But unlicensed private sellers -- who account for about 40 percent of U.S. gun sales -- do not have to conduct background checks on their buyers.  They are prohibited, however, from selling firearms to someone they know to be a prohibited purchaser.

These private sellers have found a safe place to conduct their business in the online market, where sellers' identities are not required and transactions are often not recorded, according to the report.

In the last 15 years, a large percentage of firearms sales in the U.S. have moved online, through sites like GunBroker.com, which reported about $1 billion in sales in 2009 -- up from about $12 million in 2000.  The site has over 1.8 million registered users.  Many sales on sites like GunBroker.com are, "largely unregulated and undocumented," according to the report, making it difficult to calculate the exact number of online gun sales.

But investigators are certain the online market is vast.  This year, on 10 websites alone, investigators found more than 25,000 guns for sale, according to the report.

The report, called "Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation of Illegal Online Gun Sales," documents the findings of city investigators who tried to determine whether unlicensed private sellers advertising firearms online refuse to sell to buyers who could not pass a background check.

Members of the 15-person investigative team posed as illegal purchasers, asking sellers to meet in person to exchange guns for cash.  Investigators recorded telephone calls with the sellers, and used concealed cameras to videotape their in-person interactions where guns were exchanged for cash.

Investigators looked at 125 online private sellers in 14 states who advertised on 10 websites, and 77 agreed to sell a gun to a buyer who could not pass a background check.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan042011

Feds Probe NYC Blizzard Cleanup

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosecutors are probing whether any sanitation workers committed a conspiracy to commit fraud by purposefully delaying road clearing and snow cleanup following the recent blizzard in New York City, ABC News has learned.

Local prosecutors in the city boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn are also looking into the alleged work slowdown to determine if any lives were lost or anyone was injured, as well as to determine whether state labor laws may have been violated.

A broader probe is underway in Queens, where City Councilman Dan Halloran has repeatedly claimed that sanitation workers, embarrassed by the alleged work stoppage, have come forward to provide information.

"Council member Halloran is pleased that law enforcement is taking this matter as seriously as he is and as all New Yorkers are," Steven Stites, a spokesman for Halloran, told ABC News.

In Queens, officials said, the D.A.'s office is conducting a preliminary probe to see if there is any evidence of criminality, including overtime slips that were improperly filled and documents that falsely stated roads had been cleaned.

"This office is reviewing information provided to it by City Councilman Dan Halloran, among others, with respect to last week's snowstorm and the City's response thereto," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. "At this point, however, we have not reached any conclusions as to whether a formal investigation is warranted."

The city council plans to conduct its own hearing into the city's response to the blizzard on Jan. 10.

New York's Channel 2 News broke the story on the federal probe Monday night.

While federal officials would neither confirm nor deny whether a probe was underway, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office also acknowledged that it was conducting a very narrow probe into a video that allegedly shows workers goofing off for hours.

The video, posted on YouTube, purports to show three sanitation workers spending 11 hours in a donut shop. In another video obtained by ABC News, a sanitation worker is seen sitting idly in a parked snow plow.

Sources in NYC government told ABC News they are angry at the possible role of workers in contributing to the weak response to the blizzard, but were also quick to acknowledge their own poor decisions played a major role in the underwhelming response to the blizzard.

"New York's strongest, the men and women of the Sanitation Department, do an amazing job day in and day out and we are grateful for their service. That said, by all accounts, the collective storm response was not anywhere near up to the standards New Yorkers are accustomed to," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio