Wire Fraud: Two Nigerian Athletes Convicted In US, Face 10 Years In Prison

A file photo of a court gavel.
A court gavel

 

A United States District Court in Hattiesburg, Mississippi State has found two collegiate athletes, Emmanuel Ineh, 23, and Toluwani Adebakin, 25, guilty of transferring thousands of dollars to Nigeria as part of a complex fraud scheme.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew W. Eichner.

This was contained in a statement on Thursday by U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Special Agent in Charge Jermicha Fomby of FBI’s Jackson Field Office, and made available on the website of the US Department of Justice.

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According to court documents, Ineh and Adebakin pleaded guilty to violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957, for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activities, collectively sending tens of thousands of illicitly obtained proceeds to fraudsters in Nigeria as part of a larger mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.

The scheme involved track-and-field athletes from multiple higher learning institutions in the United States, with part of the conspiracy being operated out of Hattiesburg, while Ineh and Adebakin were track-and-field teammates at William Carey University.

William Carey University was reportedly cooperative throughout the investigation.

Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on February 15, 2023 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Immigration Raids Leave Migrant Children Begging For Parents’ Return

This image released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows ICE and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers executing search warrants on August 7, 2019.
PHOTO / US Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AFP

Raids by immigration authorities that swept up 680 migrants in the southern US state of Mississippi left their children to fend for themselves with the help of friends and neighbors.

The raids, which targeted seven food processing plants in six Mississippi cities on Wednesday, were believed to be the largest in a single state in US history.

The migrants were bused to detention centers for processing and possible deportation, but children in Forest, Mississippi discovered their parents gone only after coming home from school.

In tearful scenes captured by a local television station, children wept and begged on camera for their parents’ release.

“I need my dad and mommy,” 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio told WJTV. “My dad didn’t do anything, he’s not a criminal.”

Neighbor Christina Peralta said the girl’s mother had been in the country for 15 years and had no record.

Peralta was taking care of two boys whose mother also was arrested.

“They’ve been crying all day since they got home from school,” she said.

Friends and neighbors took charge of the children and brought them to the Clear Creek Boot Camp, where they spent the night. Community groups donated food and bedding.

Videos and pictures showed children crying, covering their faces, consoling each other, and seated on the floor eating pizza from napkins.

Jordan Barnes, owner of the Clear Creek Boot Camp, said he hoped to “ease their pain a little bit” by giving the children a place to stay.

WJTV said all the children had returned home or to the homes of relatives by Thursday.

“These ICE raids are designed to tear families apart, spread fear, and terrorize communities,” Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris charged, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“These children went to daycare and are now returning home without their parents because Trump wants to play politics with their lives,” she said.

At a news conference on Wednesday, officials said the raids were months in the planning.

“They have to follow our laws, they have to abide by our rules, they have to come here legally or they shouldn’t come here at all,” Mike Hurst, the US attorney for the southern district of Mississippi, said.

Mexico said 107 of its nationals were among the 680 detained.

AFP

Two Killed, One Police Officer Injured In Walmart Store

Walmart in Middletown, DE, on July 26, 2019.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Two people died and a police officer was wounded in a shooting early Tuesday at a Walmart in Mississippi, US media reported.

DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco told the Commercial Appeal newspaper that the suspect had been shot and wounded in the shooting in the city of Southhaven.

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The two people shot dead were believed to be Walmart employees, the sheriff said, and the suspect was an employee until Monday.

He said the suspect and wounded police officer had been taken to local hospitals.

Southhaven is a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, which lies just to the north over the state line.

AFP

Obama’s Name To Replace Jefferson Davis’ On Mississippi School

Obama Denies Tapping Trump's Phone

A public school in Mississippi is to drop the name of the Civil War leader of the pro-slavery South and be named after the first black United States president, Barack Obama, the local newspaper reported.

The move in Jackson, Mississippi, comes amid a national debate over a campaign to remove statues and other monuments to generals and leaders of the 1861-1865 Confederacy.

The Clarion-Ledger said Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School, whose enrollment is 98 percent black, will be renamed Barack Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary School next year.

Janelle Jefferson, head of the parent-teacher association, informed the Jackson school board of the plan to rename the school at a meeting on Tuesday evening, the newspaper said.

“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Jefferson told the board.

She said the school community had voted to rename the school “to reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group, more than 100 public schools in the United States — primarily in the South — are named for Confederate icons.

A protest against the removal of a Confederate statue turned deadly in August when an avowed white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman.

White nationalists and neo-Nazis had staged a rally in the city to oppose the planned removal from a public park of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, the Civil War commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

AFP

U.S. Baby’s HIV Infection Cured Through Very Early Treatment

A baby girl in Mississippi who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard HIV drugs, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday, in a potentially ground-breaking case that could offer insights on how to eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims.

Dr. Deborah Persaud
Dr. Deborah Persaud

The child’s story is the first account of an infant achieving a so-called functional cure, a rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs and standard blood tests show no signs that the virus is making copies of itself.

More testing needs to be done to see if the treatment would have the same effect on other children, but the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated and possibly lead to a cure for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants,” said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

The child’s story is different from the now famous case of Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” whose HIV infection was completely eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.

“We believe this is our Timothy Brown case to spur research interest toward a cure for HIV infection in children,” Persaud said at a news conference.

Instead of Brown’s costly treatment, however, the case of the Mississippi baby, who was not identified, involved the use of a cocktail of widely available drugs already used to treat HIV infection in infants.

When the baby girl was born in a rural hospital in July 2010, her mother had just tested positive for HIV infection. Because her mother had not received any prenatal HIV treatment, doctors knew the child was at high risk of infection. They transferred her to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where she came under the care of Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist.

Because of her risk, Dr. Gay put the infant on a cocktail of three HIV-fighting drugs – zidovudine (also known as AZT), lamivudine, and nevirapine – when she was just 30 hours old. Two blood tests done within the first 48 hours of the child’s life confirmed her infection and she was kept on the full treatment regimen, Persaud told reporters at the conference.

In more typical pregnancies, when an HIV-infected mother has been given drugs to reduce the risk of transmission to her child, the baby would only have been given a single drug, nevirapine.

Researchers believe use of the more aggressive antiretroviral treatment when the child was just days old likely resulted in her cure by keeping the virus from forming hard-to-treat pools of cells known as viral reservoirs, which lie dormant and out of the reach of standard medications. These reservoirs rekindle HIV infection in patients who stop therapy, and they are the reason most HIV-infected individuals need lifelong treatment to keep the infection at bay.

10-MONTH GAP

After starting on treatment, the baby’s immune system responded and tests showed diminishing levels of the virus until it was undetectable 29 days after birth. The baby received regular treatment for 18 months, but then stopped coming to appointments for a period of about 10 months, when her mother said she was not given any treatment. The doctors did not say why the mother stopped coming.

When the child came back under the care of Dr. Gay, she ordered standard blood tests to see how the child was faring before resuming antiviral therapy.

What she found was surprising. The first blood test did not turn up any detectible levels of HIV. Neither did the second. And tests for HIV-specific antibodies, the standard clinical indicator of HIV infection, also remained negative.

“At that point, I knew I was dealing with a very unusual case,” Dr. Gay said.

Baffled, Dr. Gay turned to her friend and longtime colleague, Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts, and she and Persaud did a series of sophisticated lab tests on the child’s blood.

The first looked for silent reservoirs of the virus where it remains dormant but can replicate if activated. That is detected in a type of immune cell known as a CD4 T-cell. After culturing the child’s cells, they found no sign of the virus.

Then, the team looked for HIV DNA, which indicates that the virus has integrated itself into the genetic material of the infected person. This test turned up such low levels that it was just above the limit of the test’s ability to detect it.

The third test looked for bits of genetic material known as viral RNA. They only found a single copy of viral RNA in one of the two tests they ran.

Because there is no detectible virus in the child’s blood, the team has advised that she not be given antiretroviral therapy, whose goal is to block the virus from replicating in the blood. Instead, she will be monitored closely.

There are no samples that can be used by other researchers to confirm the findings, which may lead skeptics to challenge how the doctors know for sure that the child was infected.

Persaud said the team is trying to use the tiny scraps of viral genetic material they have been able to gather from the child to compare with the mother’s infection, to confirm that the child’s infection came from her mother. But, she stressed, the baby had tested positive in two separate blood tests, and there had been evidence of the virus replicating in her blood, which are standard methods of confirming HIV infection.

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said although tools to prevent transmission of HIV to infants are available, many children are born infected. “With this case, it appears we may have not only a positive outcome for the particular child, but also a promising lead for additional research toward curing other children,” he said.

Dr. Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which helped fund the study, said the fact that the cure was achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone makes it “imperative that we learn more about a newborn’s immune system, how it differs from an adult’s and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured.”

Because the child’s treatment was stopped, the doctors were able to determine that this child had been cured, raising questions about whether other children who received early treatment and have undetectable viral loads may also be cured without their doctors knowing it.

But the doctors warned parents not to be tempted to take their children off treatment to see if the virus comes back. Normally, when patients stop taking their medications, the virus comes roaring back, and treatment interruptions increase the risk that the virus will develop drug resistance.

“We don’t want that,” Dr. Gay said. “Patients who are on successful therapy need to stay on their successful therapy until we figure out a whole lot more about what was going on with this child and what we can do for others in the future.”

The researchers are trying to find biomarkers that would offer a rationale to consider stopping therapy within the context of a clinical trial. If they can learn what caused the child to clear her virus, they hope to replicate that in other babies, and eventually learn to routinely cure infections.

Obama declares state of emergency on areas affected by storm

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, following the Storm Isaac that threatened to hit the area.

According to the BBC reports, Isaac is heading for New Orleans, possibly as early as Tuesday night, nearly seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Isaac killed at least 24 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The storm also caused flooding and damage in the Caribbean.

Late on Monday, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned Isaac could reach category two strength, with top winds of 100mph (160km/h). The forecast was revised up from category one.

President Obama approved Louisiana’s request for a federal disaster declaration, making available federal funds for recovery activities such as clearing debris.

The governors of Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama declared emergencies in their states.

The Republican governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have cancelled their trips to their party’s convention to focus on disaster prevention efforts.

The weather officials warned that Isaac is already a large storm and could bring significant damage to areas within hundreds of miles of its center.

The NHC said that at 20:00 EDT (20:00 GMT) on Monday, Isaac was centered about 230 miles (370km) south-east of the mouth of the Mississippi river, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 70mph (110km/h).

The storm is moving forward at about 10mph and storm winds extend out about 205 miles from the center.

The NHC warned that wind speeds could reach between 96-110mph before the storm makes landfall.

Evacuations have already been ordered for some low-lying Louisiana parishes and parts of coastal Alabama.

Wednesday will be the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which strengthened in the Gulf to a category five storm, before weakening to category three by the time it reached New Orleans.

Federal officials said the levees around New Orleans are now equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, “It’s a much more robust system than what it was when Katrina came ashore,”

Fugate also said that Isaac was not just a New Orleans storm.

“This is a Gulf Coast storm. Some of the heaviest impact may be in Alabama and Mississippi,” he said.

Vehicles were left at New Orleans on the highway heading west for Baton Rouge on Monday, as people made their way to higher ground.

A hurricane warning is already in effect for some 300 miles of the Gulf Coast in four states from Louisiana to Florida, with lower-level warnings issued for many areas along Florida’s west coast.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida said 60,000 people were already without power as a result of the storm.