Iraqi Christians Evacuate Following Turkish Airstrikes

On Saturday, the International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported that since the beginning of Turkey’s airstrike operations in northern Iraq, nine of the 11 Christian villages in the Zakho district have reportedly evacuated.

The Turkish Defense Ministry began Operation Eagle Claw in mid-June, bombing alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Turkey-PKK conflict has not only displaced several Christian communities but also severely impacted the livelihood of the civilians staying behind.

Christian villagers complain of serious economic tolls, as agriculture is burned during the airstrikes and tourists are prevented from utilizing the hospitality industry.

Turkey’s military operations against the PKK are seriously endangering the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

The airstrikes are indiscriminate and target areas that are home to minority groups—not the PKK.

For many of these Christians, they are also struggling to recover from period of ISIS’s genocide against religious minorities.

Many see no difference between then and now, except that the main actor has changed.

Blogs to Follow: (July 2020) Iraqi Christians Evacuate Following Turkish Airstrikes

Nigerian National Brought to U.S. to Face Charges of Conspiring to Launder Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes

A Dubai resident who flaunted his extravagant lifestyle on social media has arrived in the United States to face criminal charges alleging he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an English Premier League soccer club.

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, 37, a.k.a. “Ray Hushpuppi” and “Hush,” a Nigerian national, arrived in Chicago Thursday evening after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Abbas made his initial U.S. court appearance this morning in Chicago, and he is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.

Abbas was arrested last month by UAE law enforcement officials. FBI special agents earlier this week obtained custody of Abbas and brought him to the United States to face a charge of conspiring to engage in money laundering that is alleged in a criminal complaint filed on June 25 by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.

According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Abbas maintains social media accounts that frequently showed him in designer clothes, wearing expensive watches, and posing in or with luxury cars and charter jets. “The FBI’s investigation has revealed that Abbas finances this opulent lifestyle through crime, and that he is one of the leaders of a transnational network that facilitates computer intrusions, fraudulent schemes (including BEC schemes), and money laundering, targeting victims around the world in schemes designed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to the affidavit.

The affidavit describes BEC schemes as often involving a computer hacker gaining unauthorized access to a business’ email account, blocking or redirecting communications to and/or from that email account, and then using the compromised email account or a separate fraudulent email account to communicate with personnel from a victim company and to attempt to trick them into making an unauthorized wire transfer.

“BEC schemes are one of the most difficult cybercrimes we encounter as they typically involve a coordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “This case targets a key player in a large, transnational conspiracy who was living an opulent lifestyle in another country while allegedly providing safe havens for stolen money around the world. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live.”

“In 2019 alone, the FBI recorded $1.7 billion in losses by companies and individuals victimized through business email compromise scams, the type of scheme Mr. Abbas is charged with conducting from abroad,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “While this arrest has effectively taken a major alleged BEC player offline, BEC scams represent the most financially costly type of scheme reported to the FBI. I urge anyone who transfers funds personally or on behalf of a company to educate themselves about BEC so they can identify this insidious scheme before losing sizable amounts of money.”

“This was a challenging case, one that spanned international boundaries, traditional financial systems and the digital sphere,” said Jesse Baker, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Los Angles Field Office. “Technology has essentially erased geographic boundaries leaving trans-national criminal syndicates to believe that they are beyond the reach of law enforcement. The success in this case was the direct result of our trusted partnerships between the Department of Justice and our federal law enforcement colleagues. These partnerships helped dismantle a sophisticated organized crime group who preyed upon unsuspecting businesses. It is thanks to these partnerships that the American people can feel a bit more secure today.”

The affidavit alleges that Abbas and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019. Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.

The affidavit also alleges that Abbas conspired to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019, in which the stolen money was sent to bank accounts around the world. Abbas allegedly provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe that Abbas anticipated each would receive €5 million (about $5.6 million) of the fraudulently obtained funds.

Abbas and others further conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100 million (approximately $124 million) from an English Premier League soccer club, the complaint alleges.

         A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Abbas would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The FBI led the investigation of Abbas, and the United States Secret Service was also involved and provided substantial assistance. The FBI further thanks the government of the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai Police Department for their substantial assistance.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter.

Blogs to Follow: (July 2020) Nigerian National Brought to U.S. to Face Charges of Conspiring to Launder Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes

CBP’s Autonomous Surveillance Towers Declared a Program of Record along the Southwest Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday announced that the Autonomous Surveillance Towers (AST) system has become a Program of Record for U.S. Border Patrol (USBP). Autonomous surveillance towers, known formerly as Innovative Towers, operate off-grid with 100 percent renewable energy and provide autonomous surveillance operations 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

Perfectly suited for remote and rural locations, the AST scans the environment with radar to detect movement, orients a camera to the location of the movement detected by the radar, and analyzes the imagery using algorithms to autonomously identify items of interest, such as people or vehicles. 

Border Patrol agents are then alerted to this event and have the opportunity to make the final determination on what the item is and if it poses a threat.

These innovative towers operate completely off grid using 100 percent renewable energy, have a small geographic footprint, and minimize the impact to land owners and public lands to the maximum extent.

CBP personnel are able to re-locate a tower within two hours, providing front-line agents with a highly flexible, autonomous system that enhances situational awareness, agent effectiveness, and safety.

“These towers give agents in the field a significant leg up against the criminal networks that facilitate illegal cross-border activity,” said Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott. “The more our agents know about what they encounter in the field, the more safely and effectively they can respond.”

CBP first piloted the towers in early 2018 with four towers in the San Diego Border Patrol Sector, and has since procured 56 additional towers. CBP is on a path to procure and deploy 140 additional towers in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022, to reach a total of 200 towers.

Autonomous technology is a true force multiplier for CBP, enabling Border Patrol agents to remain focused on their interdiction mission rather than operating surveillance systems. 

Investments in autonomous operation, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies native to the Autonomous Surveillance Towers are absolutely essential to border security and compliment other capabilities such as the Border Wall System, Remote Video Surveillance System, Integrated Fixed Towers, Mobile Surveillance and small drones.

Blogs to Follow: (July 2020) CBP’s Autonomous Surveillance Towers Declared a Program of Record along the Southwest Border

Warrant and Complaint Seek Seizure of All Iranian Gasoil Aboard Four Tankers Headed to Venezuela Based on Connection to IRGC

A forfeiture complaint and warrant were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all petroleum-product cargo aboard the Bella with international maritime organization (IMO) number 9208124, the Bering with IMO number 9149225, the Pandi with IMO number 9105073, and the Luna with IMO number 9208100 are subject to forfeiture based on the terrorism forfeiture statute.

John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Steven W. Cagen, Special Agent in Charge, Denver, Colorado, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Rainer S. Drolshagen, Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement today.

The documents allege a scheme involving multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC to covertly ship Iranian gasoil, obtained via ship-to-ship transfers, to Venezuela. 

The shipments are alleged to be a “source of influence” for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization. 

The documents allege that profits from petroleum sales support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad. 

There are approximately 302,502 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Bella, approximately 302,522 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Bering, approximately 259,700 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Luna, and approximately 298,484 barrels of Iranian gasoline currently on board the Pandi. 

United States District Judge James E. Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all Iranian gasoline on these four vessels, based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability.  The warrant commands the property to be brought to the sole jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 

A warrant for arrest and civil forfeiture complaint are merely allegations.  The burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government.  Funds successfully forfeited based on terrorism authorities are in part directed to the the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (

In announcing the forfeiture complaint, Assistant Attorney General Demers, Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin, Special Agent in Charge Cagen, and Special Agent in Charge Drolshagen commended the work of those who investigated the case from HSI and FBI. 

Finally, they acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zia Faruqui, Brian Hudak, and Stuart Allen; National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon and Trial Attorney David Lim; and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia Paralegal Liz Swienc and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick.

Blogs to Follow: (July 2020) Warrant and Complaint Seek Seizure of All Iranian Gasoil Aboard Four Tankers Headed to Venezuela Based on Connection to IRGC

DHS Announces New Task Force to Protect American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues

Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad F. Wolf, announced the establishment of the DHS Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), a special task force to coordinate Departmental law enforcement agency assets in protecting our nation’s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities.

“DHS is answering the President’s call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks,” said Acting Secretary Wolf. “We won’t stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities.”

On June 26th, President Trump issued an Executive Order to ensure that our historic monuments and statues will be protected.

The Order, “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Activity,” directs DHS, within its statutory authority, to provide personnel to assist with the protection of federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.

As a result, DHS created the PACT, which will conduct ongoing assessments of potential civil unrest or destruction and allocate resources to protect people and property.

This may involve potential surge activity to ensure the continuing protection of critical locations.

DHS’s Office of Operations Coordination will also partner closely with the Departments of Justice and Interior to establish information and intelligence sharing.

“As we approach the July 4th holiday, I have directed the deployment and pre-positioning of Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT) across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property,” said Acting Secretary Wolf. “While the Department respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated.”

Blogs to Follow: (July 2020) DHS Announces New Task Force to Protect American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues