A year after the raids, the investigation at Pilot Flying J is far from over, as federal authorities continue to examine the company in the methodical, painstaking approach that is typical of how the U.S. Justice Department handles complex, white-collar crime cases.
For some investors, the experience can be maddening as they watch lawyers and accountants eat up $380 an hour and more in fees and expenses paid from recovered investor money as cases drag on.
But for some investors who are left with little money when the scam they invested in falls apart, the system of court-appointed receivers taking over fraudulent operations can work wonders in getting back at least some of their funds — even if it sometimes takes years.
Medicare’s massive drug program has a process so convoluted and poorly managed that fraud flourishes, giving rise to elaborate schemes that quickly siphon away millions of dollars. Among the findings of an ongoing investigation by ProPublica and NPR:
Charities and other non-profits often try to keep their losses quiet to avoid spooking donors, but a Washington Post investigation by Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty used a new IRS tax return checkbox to find more than 1,000 organizations that reported significant diversions of assets. The Post’s online database is being used by news organizations around the country (and abroad) to report on charities in their area that were victimized.
"Thousands of residents in U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care institutions have had their personal savings raided or mismanaged after relying on the facilities to safeguard the money in special trust fund accounts, a USA TODAY investigation shows. At least 10 of the thefts have exceeded $100,000 from a single nursing home account."
“Insiders say they were asked to make changes to the San Mateo County Transit District’s financial records that they believe were illegal; they say SamTrans made up expenses to create the appearance it needed more taxpayer money.”
"The fund has raised about $10 million since 2000, including about $1 million or 10 percent that a state law designated to help organ donors’ families pay funeral and medical expenses. But none of the money has been spent to defray those bills, a Tribune-Review investigation found. Even after the state started a smaller program to help living donors or deceased donors’ families to defray hotel and meal expenses, it spent slightly more than $180,000 of the $1 million for that. Only one deceased donor’s family was helped before the state stopped reporting the results in 2011."
Sex Predators Unleashed | Sun-Sentinel
"Another child is dead. This time, a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl, a year younger than Jimmy Ryce. A 1999 law passed after Jimmy was raped and murdered at age 9 is meant to protect Floridians from sex offenders by keeping the most dangerous locked up after they finish their prison sentences. But an eight-month Sun Sentinel investigation into the law named in Jimmy’s memory has uncovered shocking failures. Florida’s safeguards have broken down at every stage, setting hundreds of rapists and child molesters free to harm again."
Taken | The New Yorker
"The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime. But the system has also given rise to corruption and violations of civil liberties. Over the past year, many have expressed concern that the state laws designed to go after high-flying crime lords are routinely targeting the workaday homes, cars, cash savings, and other belongings of innocent people who are never charged with a crime."
New York Promised Help for Mentally Ill Inmates – But Still Sticks Many in Solitary | WNYC/ProPublica
"In New York, inmates diagnosed with “serious” disorders should be protected from solitary confinement. But since that policy began, the number of inmates diagnosed with such disorders has dropped."
Costly perk forces DWP to shell out extra if it gives work to outside contractors | Los Angeles Times
"It's no secret Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employees are paid well. But a little-known clause in their union contract ensures they can work extra hours and collect even higher wages when private contractors are hired to help them get the job done."
Locked in Terror | Fresno Bee
"The Fresno County Jail has been a place of terror and despair for mentally ill inmates who spiral deeper into madness because jail officials withhold their medication. About one in six jail inmates is sick enough to need antipsychotic drugs to control schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and other psychiatric conditions, but many sit for weeks in cells without medication previously prescribed by private doctors, say family members, lawyers and psychiatrists. If the inmates do get medication, it’s often at a lower dose or is a cheaper generic substitute that doesn’t work as well, they say."
Victims’ Dilemma: 911 Calls Can Bring Eviction | The New York Times
"Aiming to save neighborhoods from blight and to ease burdens on the police, municipalities have adopted ordinances requiring landlords to weed out disruptive tenants."
At DCF, an untold epidemic of abuse, neglect and death | Miami Herald
"A Miami Herald investigation — which included a review of hundreds of pages of agency emails, incident reports and other documents obtained through Florida’s public records law — shows the number of children who died is nearly four times what had been acknowledged."
Portland drug informant's cases fall apart after questions about his credibility, whereabouts | The Oregonian
"Police and prosecutors say checks-and-balances ensure the integrity of the system. But defense attorneys -- whose clients faced years in prison because of Jackson's work -- say police wasted thousands in taxpayer dollars putting so much faith in a dubious undercover source."
Truck company vehicles were taken out of service for maintenance problems | San Antonio Express-News
"Defective brakes, axle problems and cracked wheel rims were among the most serious maintenance problems state inspectors found on trucks owned by B&E Transport, the firm involved in last week's crash that damaged a bridge over U.S. 281."
Nevada chief justice orders courts review after potentially more than 2,400 ruled mentally ill not reported to gun database | Reno Gazette-Journal
"An RGJ report this week found that Washoe District Court in Reno did not send 179 names to the Department of Public Safety’s database of people prohibited from possessing a gun. When the RGJ asked the department how many reports it had received from other courts in the state, the director said only 13 in the past year: five from Lyon County; five from White Pine County and three from Reno Municipal Court."
Before Bakken well violation, a $22M fraud case in the Texas oil patch | EnergyWire
"A little-known company called Halek Operating ND LLC is facing the largest fine North Dakota has ever levied against an oil and gas producer -- $1.5 million -- for jeopardizing drinking water near Dickinson. But even before the company drilled its first well in North Dakota, federal officials say the man behind it had swindled $22 million out of 300 investors in a Texas oil and gas project."
Shortcomings seen in response to missing Iowans | Des Moines Register
"A Des Moines Register examination of missing-person cases revealed ongoing shortcomings in how Iowa responds when its residents vanish."
Woman says KCMO councilman’s sexting scandal connected to taxpayer money, shares story with FBI | 41 Action News (Kansas City)
"41 Action News has spoken exclusively with a woman who is convinced the taxpayer money was used to help keep a sexting scandal out of the public spotlight. And she’s shared her story with the FBI."
Even Small Amounts of Precipitation Dump Raw Sewage into Potomac River | Alexandria Gazette Packet
Don't believe the signs city officials have posted at the four outfall spots that dump raw sewage into the Potomac River. The truth is much worse.
In Afghanistan, redeployed U.S. soldiers still coping with demons of post-traumatic stress | The Washington Post
"A diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is not a barrier to being redeployed. Not when the Army needs its most experienced soldiers to wrap up the war. Instead, the Army is trying to answer a new question: Who is resilient enough to return to Afghanistan, in spite of the demons they are still fighting?"
Poway schools rely on Mello-Roos tax machine – For lunches, signs and old school repair | inewsource
There is no legal limit and no standardized formula for calculating Mello-Roos Taxes. In some cases, the formulas are so convoluted that homeowners have virtually no way of knowing whether they’re paying the correct amount. What’s more there is no state oversight over the funds: at a minimum, the system is far from transparent to those who are footing the bill. Some are asking whether it’s even legal.
Even Odds | The San Francisco Chronicle
Being male and black in Oakland means being about as likely to be killed as to graduate from high school ready for college
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"A highly paid psychiatrist working in state mental health hospitals engaged in a pattern of false billing claims while collecting more than $430,000 in payments beyond his base salary over three years, according to investigative documents obtained by the Star Tribune." Read the Star Tribune's full investigation here.
“Reuters first reported in late February of last year that the SEC had spent millions of dollars hiring Booz Allen consultants to help streamline the agency, leading some agency insiders to question whether the SEC was getting its money's worth.”