orlando_florida_fedex_936771_hFedEx, one of the country’s largest courier service providers, is facing serious drug-trafficking charges after a federal grand jury indicted the company, saying it knowingly shipped prescription drugs without prescription for illegal online pharmacies.

According to the indictment, FedEx knew it was shipping prescription drugs for illegal pharmacies for over 10 years. The California-based courier company even went so far as to set up special “credit policies” in an effort to protect the online pharmacies it conducted business with.  Authorities accuse FedEx of setting up these policies to make their clients — illegal online pharmacies — feel more secure and comfortable spending money with them.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been warning FedEx to change its business practices for more than a decade — warnings which the DEA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and members of Congress say were largely ignored.

More specifically, the indictment claims FedEx earned over $820 million in revenue by shipping potentially dangerous and often addictive prescription drugs for illegal online pharmacies. If the courier company is found guilty, it could be subject to a fine in excess of $1.6 billion.

This indictment comes just a year after similar charges were placed against UPS. Ultimately, UPS settled with a $40 million fine and agreed to change its business practices to stop prescription drugs from flowing through its system.

FedEx claims they are doing nothing wrong, citing that each time a list of illegal pharmacies is sent from the DEA, they immediately turn off shipping for those respective companies.

“We have repeatedly requested that the government provide us a list of online pharmacies engaging in illegal activity,” said FedEx senior vice president for marketing and communications Patrick Fitzgerald. “Whenever DEA provides us a list of pharmacies engaging in illegal activity, we will turn off shipping for those companies immediately. So far the government has declined to provide such a list.

FedEx also points out the ramifications of this case. Fitzgerald noted that FedEx is a “transportation company” and not “law enforcement.” Is it the courier’s legal responsibility to ensure each and every package is free of illegal material? This is a question that remains up for debate, but the outcome of this case could spur changes throughout the entire shipping/courier industry.

FedEx executives have been summoned to appear in front of a federal court in San Francisco on July 29.

Photoxpress_1072993Federal prosecutors last week charged a Broward County, Florida banker with a felony count of wire fraud. Authorities believe the banker fed some $20 millions from investors to Scott Rothstein’s ponzi scheme just months before it collapsed.

The Broward County banker, 70-year-old Frank Preve of Coral Springs, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 if convicted.

Rothstein was an attorney working for a Fort Lauderdale law firm. During the course of his massive $1.2 billion ponzi scam, Rothstein allegedly sold bogus legal settlements to clients, claiming they would be rewarded with huge returns — a practice commonly used in ponzi schemes to attract new investors. Investors would be sold on the false promises of receiving steep returns on their original investment. While some of the early investors may receive their promised return, the structure of a ponzi scam prevents any sustainable or lasting success among investors, which ultimately leads to the system’s downfall with clients losing their investment.

As the scam was coming to a close, Rothstein needed additional funding to keep investors satisfied, at which point he allegedly consulted with Frank Preve. Federal prosecutors say Preve became aware that Rothstein was depleting investors’ funds in various trust accounts held at the Toronto Dominion Bank in Fort Lauderdale. Rather than warning investors about this critical risk, though, Preve allegedly encouraged investors to dump more money into Rothstein’s scam — just months before it toppled over.

Preve was charged by information rather than indictment, which suggests he will plead guilty to wire fraud charges. Peeve’s attorney, Ramon Rasco, made a statement following the news of his client’s arrest, saying Preve intends to “enter a plea agreement with the government,” and that “he is cooperating with the government and doing everything in his powers to help investors.”

Levin and Prevé fueled Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme with the false sense of security they gave investors,” Eric Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami regional office, said in a statement. “They promised to safeguard investors’ assets, but gave Rothstein money with nothing to show for it.”

“Levin and Prevé sold promissory notes and created a feeder fund to funnel investor capital to Rothstein, ultimately becoming his largest source of capital,” according to the SEC complaint.

Rothstein left a trail of wake following the collapse of his ponzi scheme, destroying his law firm of 70 employees and leading to the subsequent arrest of several dozen other individuals whom were believed to play a role in the scam.

bright_light_blur_2884_h (1)There are more fireworks set off on July Fourth than any other day of the year. Rather than shooting them into the night sky, however, a 20-year-man allegedly fired them at Santa Cruz police officers.

Police were responding to a fire on the 200 block of First Avenue around 9:45 p.m. Friday night, which was believed to have been caused by the use of illegal fireworks. While the police were attempting to clear an intersection, someone in the crowd of spectators threw burst-style fireworks at the officers’ feet.

According to a police report, the fireworks exploded within 5 yards of the officers. The officers suffered only temporarily hearing loss from the incident.

Witnesses in the large crowd at the 200 block of First Avenue identified the fireworks-throwing perpetrator as Nathan Hansel of Ben Lomond, whom was arrested on site and charged with one felony count of suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

Fireworks have become a growing problem in Santa Cruz, as the region’s exceptionally dry climate creates the perfect climate for wildfires and house fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that more house fires occur on July Fourth than any other day of the year, causing dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.

In an effort to protect the public, the use of unauthorized fireworks remains illegal in Santa Cruz; however, that’s not stopping some residents from bringing them across state lines. Mike Venezio of the Santa Cruz Fire Department notes that the use of fireworks has increased over the years, causing tree fire, brush fires and house fires.

Each year there’s more and more that are coming in, all over the city, all over our county.  And those are the ones that go up in the air, catch trees on fire, brush,” said Battalion Chief Mike Venezio.

The Santa Cruz Fire Department believes illegal fireworks are also to blame for a neighborhood fire that destroyed 3 vehicles. Thanks to a prompt response by the fire department, crews were able to contain the fires and prevent them from spreading to nearby homes and structures.

“[Fireworks] Caught the tree on fire and then dropped down in what appears to be a convertible, caught that vehicle on fire and two others along with it,” said Venezio.

Note: the use of illegal fireworks in Santa Cruz is punishable with a maximum fine of $700.

dragon-slayer-01A joint operation involving jurisdictions from Prince William, Fairfax, Stafford, Manassas and Manassas Park led to the arrests of 68 individuals along with the seizure of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, prescription medications, ecstasy, handguns, shotguns, rifles, various drug paraphernalia, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

Detectives dubbed the joint operation “Operation Dragon Sting.” Dragon is a slag term used to describe heroin — a powerful opioid analgesic that’s currently classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, making it use, sale, and distribution illegal under federal law. This joint operation aims to target street-level drug dealers by carrying out search warrants issued by the respective municipalities and judges.

Operation Dragon Sting is technically the second phase of the Operation Blue Dragon, which netted law enforcement agencies some 40 arrests last November. The first leg of the operation, Operation Blue Dragon, focused more on heavy dealers and less on street-level dealers.

The 68 individuals arrested in Operation Dragon Sting were offered education about the dangers of drug use and distribution, along with guidance on how to overcome addiction. It’s unclear how many of the 68 arrested individuals took part in the educational program.

According to police reports, search warrants were carried in the 9200 block of Douglas Street in Manassas, 14800 block of Emberdale Drive in Dale City, 1300 block of Bayside Avenue in Woodbridge, 7500 block of Gales Court in Manassas, 4600 block of Central Park Drive in Dale City, 15300 block of Inlet Place in Dumfries, 900 block of Wingfield Road in Woodbridge, 13700 block of Joyce Road in Woodbridge, 2900 block of Fox Lair Drive in Woodbridge, 4100 block of Hoffman Drive in Dale City, 2900 block of Buell Court in Dumfries, 16900 block of Jed Forrest Lane in Woodbridge, Maryanne Avenue in Stafford, 2000 block of Youngs Drive in Haymarket, 9200 block of Taney Road in Manassas, 3900 block of Laurel Street in Dumfries, 18500 block of Triangle Street in Triangle, and the 3100 block of Oakmont Avenue in Triangle.

Following the 68 arrests made in conjunction with Operation Dragon Sting, police want to remind the public to lock up any and all prescription medications. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 100 people die in the U.S. from prescription overdose each day (source) — a rate that’s tripled since the early 1990s. You can contact the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Initiative at  1-800-882-9539 to schedule a free pickup of any unused or unwanted prescription medication.