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Archive for July, 2015

guzman drug baron arrested image

Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped through a lengthy tunnel under his prison cell’s shower, authorities have said, marking his second jail break and an embarrassing blow to the government.

A massive manhunt was launched after Guzman vanished late on Saturday from the Altiplano maximum-security prison, some 90km west of Mexico City.

The Sinaloa cartel kingpin, whose empire stretches around the globe, had been in prison for 17 months after spending 13-years on the lam.

After security cameras lost sight of Guzman, guards went into the cell and found a hole 10m deep with a ladder, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said.

The gap led to the 1.5km tunnel with a ventilation and light system, Rubido said, adding that its exit was in a building that was under construction in central Mexico State.

A motorcycle on a rail system was found in the tunnel and is believed to have been used to transport tools and remove earth from the space, which was 1.7m high and around 80cm wide.

Rubido said 18 prison guards will be interrogated by prosecutors in Mexico City.

Until Guzman escaped, Rubido said, “the day had gone on normally and at around 8:00 pm he was given his daily dose of medicine.”

Some 250 police and troops guarded the outskirts of the vast prison, surrounded by corn fields, while a helicopter hovered overheads.

Soldiers manned checkpoints on the nearby highway, using flashlights to look at the faces of car passengers and searching car trunks and the backs of trucks.

Flights were suspended at the nearby Toluca airport.

The Altiplano prison in central Mexico State houses the country’s most notorious drug lords, murderers and kidnappers.

Guzman’s first break from prison was in 2001, when he slipped past authorities by hiding in a laundry cart. He had been arrested in Guatemala in 1993.

Marines had recaptured him in February 2014 in a pre-dawn raid in a condo in Mazatlan, a Pacific resort in Sinaloa state, with the help of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Authorities had already investigated a strange prison visit to Guzman in March, when a woman managed to see him by using a fake ID to get in.

His second escape is sure to embarrass the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who was flying to France for a state visit when Guzman fled.

Pena Nieto’s government had won praise for capturing the powerful kingpin, a diminutive but feared man whose nickname means “Shorty.”

After his last capture, the government had paraded Guzman in front of television cameras, showing the mustachioed mafia boss being frogmarched by two marines before taking him to prison on a helicopter.

The US government had hailed his capture as “landmark achievement” while some US prosecutors wanted to ask for his extradition, but Mexican officials insisted on trying him first.

Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel empire stretches along Mexico’s Pacific coast and deals drugs to the United States and as far as Europe and Asia.

His legend grew in the years that followed his first escape.

The United States had offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to his arrest, while the city of Chicago — a popular destination for Sinaloa narcotics — declared him “Public Enemy Number One,” joining American gangster Al Capone as the only criminal to ever get the moniker.

Folk ballads known as “narcocorridos,” tributes to drug capos, sang his praises.

He used to be on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires until the US publication said in 2013 that it could not verify his wealth and that it believed he was increasingly spending his fortune on protection.

He married an 18-year-old beauty queen, Emma Coronel, in 2007 and is believed to have 10 children with various women.

Coronel was with him when he was arrested last year. His capture sparked small protests by supporters in Culiacan, Sinaloa’s capital, where Guzman nurtured a Robin Hood image.

In Culiacan, authorities found a home with a bathtub that rose up electronically to open a secret tunnel that he used to escape the authorities before being caught in Mazatlan.

His cartel became entangled in brutal turf wars against the paramilitary-like Zetas cartel and other gangs for years.

More than 80,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since 2006.

The drug war began to escalate after former president Felipe Calderon sent the army and navy to rein in the cartels in 2006, a deployment that analysts say exacerbated the violence.

More than 10,000 were killed in Ciudad Juarez alone in violence attributed to battles between Sinaloa and Juarez cartel members for supremacy in the key drug corridor at the border with the US state of Texas.



He pumped poisonous chemotherapy drugs into patients for years, telling them they had cancer. They didn’t.

He over-treated terminal cancer patients rather than letting them die peacefully. When he could profit from it, he also under-treated actual cancer patients.

Melinda Tolar holds a picture of her father, Stanton Richard Lamb, who died while be treated by Fata without cancer.image

Melinda Tolar holds a picture of her father, Stanton Richard Lamb, who died while being treated  without cance rby Fata . Photo: Todd McInturf/AP

And on Friday, nearly two years after his arrest, Dr Farid Fata was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison for violating more than 550 patients’ trust and raking in more than $US17 million ($22 million) from fraudulent billings.

For many people tortured by Oakland County oncologist’s treatments, it was a weak punishment.

“He killed my husband,” said Patricia Loewen of Prudenville, whose husband, Kenneth Paul Loewen, died in September at age 62. She said the former cancer doctor, now age 50, deserves to never be freed.

FATA Victims and their families outside the federal courthouse image

Victims and their families outside the federal courthouse. Photo: David Guralnick/AP

Loewen was one of hundreds of victims over-treated, misdiagnosed or under-treated so Fata could fraudulently rake in millions. Federal prosecutors call it the most egregious case of fraud case they’ve ever seen.

“This is a huge, horrific series of criminal acts that were committed by the defendant,” US District Judge Paul Borman said before sentencing Fata, saying the once-prominent oncologist “practiced greed and shut down whatever compassion he had.”

Borman, who sentenced Fata to 45 years total on multiple counts of health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, said the crimes called for “a very significant sentence for very, very terrible conduct.”

Ellen Piligian speaks about her father, a former patient of Dr Farid Fata image

Ellen Piligian speaks about her father, a former patient of Dr Farid Fata. Photo: Paul Sancya/AP

US Attorney Barbara McQuade’s prosecutors asked for 175 years, the maximum. She said afterward that the result was “close to a life sentence,” and that she didn’t expect the case to be so egregious when they’d started on it.

“Chemotherapy, as you know, is poison,” McQuade said. “Dr Fata gave poison to people who didn’t even have cancer … to make money.”

Loewen said 45 years is a poor deterrent to other bad doctors. Parole isn’t possible in the federal case, but Fata could be released while he’s still alive because of good behaviour while in prison.

A McQuade spokeswoman said she didn’t know how much credit Fata could get for behaving himself, and a spokesman with the Federal Department of Prisons didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Not all victims were upset with Borman’s sentence.

Sydney Zaremba’s 87-year-old mother died less than four months after Fata started chemotherapy for a stage one (early stage) tumour in her neck. She said it was confirmed her mother was over-treated with support drugs, and that she didn’t deserve to die the way she did.

Cheryl Blades hugs a lady who asked not to be identified after the sentencing. The lady was treated by Fata while she was pregnant twice and is still treated for an unknown condition.

Cheryl Blades hugs a lady who asked not to be identified after the sentencing. The lady was treated by Fata while she was pregnant twice and is still treated for an unknown condition. Photo: Todd McInturf/AP

“Of course, everybody would want to see life,” Zaremba said of Fata’s sentence. “No matter what happens, nobody wins in this situation. There will never be justice.”

She said she believes Borman gave Fata 45 years knowing that if the sentence is appealed, “whoever takes that on will look at it and say, ‘That’s pretty reasonable.'”

Loewen’s husband had esophageal cancer, and she said Fata started chemotherapy before he had a chance to heal from surgery. And her husband was put on Neulasta, a drug so strong it knocked him “to the ground and on the couch for days,” she said.

“It only made my husband sicker,” she said. “And to find out the Neulasta shots were unnecessary, I’m just devastated.”

Loewen said her husband was scheduled for eight radiation treatments one day after Fata was arrested; when they went to different doctors, they learned he didn’t even need radiation

Dr Farid Fata has been jailed for 45 years image

Fata, who openly wept in court Friday as he apologised for his actions, admitted to fraudulently billing Medicare, insurance companies and at least 550 patients through misdiagnoses, overtreatment and undertreatment. In some cases, he gave nearly four times the recommended dosage amount of aggressive cancer drugs; in at least one, a patient was given toxic chemotherapy for five years when the standard treatment was six months, according to former patients and experts who testified in court this week.

“I misused my talents … because of power and greed. My quest for power is self-destructive,” Fata told the court before sentencing. He said he is “horribly ashamed of my conduct” and prays for repentance.

Zaremba said she believes Fata was sincere.

“I actually cried,” she said, adding that the educated, Christian man with such training to help people must feel intense remorse. “I had felt pity the first time I saw him come in in shackles.”

Defense attorney Christopher Andreoff asked Borman to sentence Fata to no more than 25 years in prison, saying even that could be a life sentence because of Fata’s health.

“Our recommendation will give him nothing more than a chance for release before he dies,” Andreoff said.

US Assistant Prosecutor Catherine Dick told the court her office has “never seen anything like this before. … And that is because of the harm.”

“Fata was greedy, and he wanted that money,” Dick said. “What this defendant did is unquantifiable. There is no way to quantify the suffering.”

Dick said patients died in horrible pain from Fata’s treatments.

Borman had set the sentencing guidelines to 30 years to life on Thursday based on the charges and circumstances.

“My role … is to impose a sentence sufficient but not greater than necessary,” Borman said Friday morning.

The federal court this week heard accounts of about 22 victims, who shared unthinkable experiences of a healthy adult undergoing chemotherapy and losing nearly all his teeth, of a patient diagnosed with lung cancer when he had kidney cancer, and more. Some statements were read by family members of patients who died.

Some patients with no documented iron deficiencies were given overwhelming amounts of iron, while others were given lower-than-needed doses of chemotherapy drugs, experts testified.

McQuade called his case the “the most egregious” health care fraud case her office has seen. On Friday after sentencing, she applauded the whistleblower office manager who tipped off investigators. She also thanked the victims for their help in prosecuting and applauded the cooperation among the FBI, IRS and US Department of Health and Human Services in bringing Fata to justice.

Fata, arrested in August 2013, pleaded guilty last September to 13 counts of health care fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiring to pay and receive kickbacks. The case involves $US34.7 million ($46 million) in billings to patients and insurance companies, and $17.6 million ($23 million) paid for work Fata admitted was unnecessary. He remains incarcerated, and his medical license has been revoked.

The former doctor has agreed to forfeit $US17.6 million ($23 million) and a number of assets in the case. The sentencing hearing began Monday and has also included testimony from experts on behalf of prosecutors, as well as statements from victims who support Fata.

Gregory Cadd of White Lake said Fata should’ve gotten double the sentence, and he doesn’t care about getting any money.

“I don’t want anything back from him,” he said. “If anyone shoves a check in my hand, I’m going to find the nearest charity that I can to give it to in the name of my father.”

Cadd said his father’s good insurance policy and lung cancer is what led to the over-treatment by Fata, who “just kept it up, kept it up until finally my father passed away because of that monster,” Cadd said, becoming tearful. “That’s all he ever was is a monster out to live off people’s pain and suffering, and wanted to live the good life.”

Fata, a married father of three and a naturalised US citizen whose native country is Lebanon, was charged with running the scheme that involved billing the government for medically unnecessary cancer and blood treatments. His family has moved out of the country, and his attorney said he is lonely while incarcerated.

The government said Fata ran the scheme from 2009 to 2014 through his medical businesses, including Michigan Hematology Oncology Centres, with offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park.

The once highly-respected doctor clutched a handkerchief while addressing the court Friday, his voice becoming high-pitched with emotions at times.

“I have violated the medical oath, and I have caused anguish, hardship and pain to my patients and their families,” he said. “They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed them.”

He didn’t visibly react when the sentence was read or when he was handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom.

Henry Sapiecha

isis members being executed image

TERROR group ISIS have been given a taste of their own brutal medicine after a rival jihadist group in Syria released a brutal video showing the execution of 18 ISIS members.

The video, which runs for 19 minutes, shows members of Syrian rebel group Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) dressed in orange and standing menacingly over captured ISIS fighters, chained together with ankle and hand shackles, and dressed in black.

The colours are a sick role reversal on the usual ISIS murder videos, which typically showcase ISIS fighters wearing black while their victims are dressed in orange.

The production mimics many aspects of the ISIS group’s own execution videos, with similar sound effects and visuals.

In the video, Jaysh al-Islam fighters say the ISIS fighters are being executed in part as revenge for the deaths of at least three of the rebel group’s members, who were beheaded by ISIS.

The rebel group also refers to a major battle it fought with ISIS in February. It accuses ISIS of being allied with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against its fighters and those of other Islamist rebel groups.

The video includes starkly sectarian language, accusing ISIS of betraying Sunni Muslims and allying with Shiite Muslims and “Nusayris,” a derogatory terms for the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.

Condemned  A mugshot of some of the executed ISIS soldiers image

Condemned … A mugshot of some of the executed ISIS soldiers.

“This group claimed to be the mother state and made Takfir on other Muslims [accused them of apostasy], shed their blood and looted their properties and dignities,” one of the Army of Islam fighters says before the video cuts to the executions.

“This is the penalty for what they have committed. We also call on their fellows to repent,” he says.

It also contains lengthy “confessions” from ISIS fighters, who claim that they did not fight against the Syrian army while with ISIS.

The interrogations appear intended to show that ISIS has focused its fight on other opposition forces, rather than the Syrian government.

The last part of the video shows the 18 IS fighters in black, kneeling before Jaysh al-Islam executioners who shoot them in the head.

Role reversal  ISIS fighters were forced to “confess” before their death, a common feature of the group’s own video production image

Role reversal … ISIS fighters were forced to “confess” before their death, a common feature of the group’s own video production. Picture: YouTube

The shots are filmed from multiple angles and include gruesome close-up shots.

The Islamic State group emerged in Syria in 2013, when it sought to merge with Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

But Al-Nusra refused the merger, and IS has since been at odds with the group as well as Islamist and moderate rebels.

In the area around Damascus, its forces have battled Jaysh al-Islam and other rebel organisations.

Last week, a video emerged showing IS jihadists beheading 12 men from rival groups, among them at least three from Jaysh al-Islam and one from Jaysh al-Islam and one from Al-Nusra

Who are ISIS?



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