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Op-Ed: County Inspector General has a history of selective enforcement of public corruption

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Max Huntsman is a man of his era.  As an L.A. county prosecutor he was supposed to have ensured that justice was on the side of working and middle-class Angelenos.  Instead of standing up to the powerful, Huntsman was on their side.

Let’s take a step back into our region’s recent history.  The 2000’s were a time of fantastic prosperity for the elites, though let’s be honest, not for most of us.  It was a time, when the powerful did as they pleased.  It was a time of wage theft, pension and mortgage scams. 

It was the 2000s.  The decade that defined Max Huntsman rather pathetic career. 

It was the 2000s.  Real estate was booming.  L.A. office building and hotel owners were raking in monopoly profits like seldom before.  It wasn’t enough for the real estate barons.  They then turned a blind eye to their managers and contractors who stole from their low wage service workers.

In 2010, researchers at UCLA released an historic report documenting the little told story of pervasive violations of labor laws.  Across Los Angeles County, big and small employers alike again and again violated legal mandates for minimum wages, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks and overtime pay. 

In all, these criminal employers stole $1.4 billion a year from predominately low wage workers.  The impact of the employers’ theft was hardest on African American and Latino workers.  By far the greatest impact was on undocumented women workers.

What did assistant district attorney do to confront rotten wage theft employers?  Nothing.

It was the 2000’s.  Wall Street was booming.  It wasn’t enough for titans of finance.  When they failed to “privatize” social security, they targeted city, county and state workers’ pensions.  They charged unprecedented fees of 2% on every dollar managed and a staggering 20% of profits. 

From New York State to California to Los Angeles, insiders used their connections to make Wall Street financiers into billionaires.  One insider, who turned state’s evidence, gave back millions in ill-gotten gains, and stepped down from the board of the LA Police and Firemen Retirement System.

That multi-millionaire insider did not spend one day in prison.  And a decade later in 2020, now a Trump fundraiser, he again plead guilty to a felony, this time for violating foreign lobby laws.  In short order, he was pardoned by the President, again not spending a day in prison for his crimes. 

What did assistant deputy attorney do to confront corrupt insiders ripping off public service pensioners?  Nothing.

It was the 2000s.  Banks were booming.  Home prices rose to unprecedented heights.  It wasn’t enough for mortgage lenders.  Through “creative” (read, should have been illegal) lending products, banks cynically targeted hard working African American and Latinos aspiring to a better life.

In 2013, a UCLA report summarized the results of bankers racialized lending practices.  African Americans and Latino homebuyers were three and a half times more likely than whites to receive questionable sub-prime loans.  And as a result of this targeting, African Americans and Latinos were 3 times more likely to be foreclosed on. 

And what did assistant deputy attorney do to defend homebuyers from predatory lenders?  Nothing.

Then what did Max Huntsman do in the 2000s?  Good question.

Max Huntsman sought a life-time sentence, under California’s three strikes law, against a small-time con man.  The con man, previously twice found guilty of residential burglary, attempted to swindle African American residents of South LA out of their homes.

The three strikes law was written to target violent criminals.  Burglary is considered a violent crime.  Fraud is not.  Huntsman, playing a little fast and loose with the law, contended that because the fraud happened in the victims’ kitchens it was essentially burglary. 

The con man for his crimes was eventually sentenced to prison for 33 years.  Not an inconsiderable amount of time.  But how many years did wage theft employers serve? How many years did pension and mortgage scammers serve? 

As a deputy district attorney, let’s be honest, Max did not hunt down the worst of white-collar criminals, the most powerful among us.  Max, in effect, covered up their crimes.  And instead threw the book at a small-time con man.  Oh, did we mention that the powerful criminals were white and the small-time con man was African American?

Max Huntsman has no credibility when it comes to public corruption nor oversight. He is a professional hack who prosecuted small time fraud under the veil of public integrity. He now conducts a media tour making wild allegations against our duly elected sheriff at the behest of the Los Angeles County Board of supervisors. It is a three card monety style card trick to distract us from the Board’s deep and fast union busting contracting out of solid middle class Union jobs held by many women and people of color.


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‘You can’t have cops watching cops’ — NYPD officer, ex-cop lawyer sue NYC — Queens Daily Eagle

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Lee’s  complaint claims that the named defendants — NYPD brass, including former Commissioner Bill Bratton, and several allegedly crooked cops — “have engaged in retaliatory action, consisting of a persistent campaign to harass, defame, threaten, intimidate, extort, and endanger [Lee’s] life.” The NYPD has denied him “hundreds and hundreds” of hours of overtime and fair compensation for his undercover workload, when he would clock out at the station house so as not to tip off his colleagues, he said.

Meanwhile, Internal Affairs has swept his allegations under the rug in order to protect high-ranking and well connected cops — a routine exercise in the NYPD, Lee and Murray said.

“It’s everyone. This is job-wide,” Lee said. “You have a good cops who are there trying to do a good job. Trying to do their work, then you have other people who have other agendas saying, ‘No, don’t do that.”

Lee said the notion that the NYPD can police itself is the root of the problem.

“Let’s say the feds come in and say, ‘Hey, we want to investigate the Latin Kings and the Latin Kings say, ‘OK. We’ll investigate ourselves and we’ll let you know what’s going on.’”

Murray said the NYPD is desperate to protect top officials.

“They will crush the low-level cops,” Murray said. “It’s the bosses protecting the bosses, because they’re looking out for each other.”

A spokesperson for the New York City Law Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We don’t try cases in the press,” the spokesperson said. “We’ll respond to the complaint in due course.”

The NYPD declined to comment on pending litigation and referred questions to the city Law Department.

A nightmarish ‘dream job’

The 109th Precinct in Flushing was a “dream job” for Lee, who is Chinese-American and speaks Mandarin.

“I finally got to help my people, to help my own community,” he said, recalling an instance when a Chinese woman who didn’t speak English came into the station house and described a sex trafficking operation. Since he understands Mandarin, he was able to translate for her and led cops to the home of a man who allegedly kidnapped the woman and forced to perform sex work at night.

Nevertheless, the 109th was marred by controlling cliques and low morale, he said.

Things should have changed for the better when the NYPD brought in a “straight cop,” Capt. Thomas Conforti, to take over the precinct. But several of the cops bristled at Conforti’s arrival.

Officers were allegedly paid off in a scheme to protect a number of Flushing karaoke bars that contracted with an ex-cop’s security firm. They didn’t like the change in command, Lee said.

The bars doubled as drug dens and brothels connected with organized crime figures from the local Chinese community, he said.

When one fellow cop told Lee about a plan to get one of the sex workers, known as a “PR girl” to “get rid of” Conforti by accusing him of rape, Lee decided to alert Conforti. A few days later, Internal Affairs asked Lee to record the cops discussing the “rape frame-up” plan, the suit claims.

Lee said he had no choice but to accept the role. He quickly realized that he had just scratched the surface of the corruption.

The cop who proposed the frame-up job was involved in the wider scheme to enable drug-dealing and sex work in the karaokes, Lee said.

“Something fishy’s going on. You sure you want to do this? Because it seems like you’re opening a whole can of worms,” Lee said he told his Internal Affairs handlers. They encouraged him to continue working undercover and recording what happened at the karaoke bar.

“During this time, [Lee] learned of a far greater scheme of corruption, involving a huge network of police-protected karaoke bars, in exchange for free alcohol and free prostitutes,” the suit states. “In addition to free alcohol and free prostitutes, [Lee] learned that high-ranking police personnel were also receiving large regular stipends, of thousands of dollars per month.”

On one occasion, Lee and other officers arrived at a bar to conduct a routine inspection — one that the bar owner was already alerted to by other officers. “I’m supposed to find nothing,” Lee said.

This time, though, Lee and two other officers found a handful of people sniffing cocaine in one of the private rooms, he said. They moved to arrest the suspects who were in possession of a large quantity of drugs, but Lee’s Internal Affairs handlers told him to tell the other two cops to let the suspects go. Arresting them could have jeopardized the investigation, he said the handlers told him.

After 18 months of taping and documenting illegal operations and the officer-backed protection scheme, the NYPD refused to pursue charges against any of the people involved, however, Lee said.

Instead, he said, they used the two low-level cops who released the drug dealers as “sacrificial lambs,” forcing them out of the department.

Lee persisted and tried to rally Internal Affairs to pursue additional charges, but they declined. Soon, he said, he began to experience a pattern of harassment by supervisors and administrators.

Flashbacks for Murray

Lee’s experience hit home for Murray, a former cop in the 115th Precinct.

Murray first got on the brass’ bad side after a confrontation with another cop who had allegedly roughed up his friend. The rival cop shoved Murray and Murray threw a punch broke that the man’s jaw, he said. Murray beat the departmental charges against him but said he became persona non grata.

“I took the side of the perp [his friend] and the department hung me out to dry,” he said.

The ill will intensified when Murray questioned a new policy that replaced experienced, trained officers on the DWI Unit with rookie cops because of overtime concerns.

“They figured they were going to take all these rookies, put them on the midnight shifts and assign them arrests for DWI, and do it on straight time,” he said. “But they gave them barely any training and they’re telling them to stick their head in the cars and take a whiff.

“They were just looking for numbers and the rookies are pups. They’ll do what they’re told,” he continued.

Murray said some directives endangered cops and others, like going after drivers who seemed to deliberately avoid checkpoints, violated the law.

‘The commanding officer of the unit got very upset with me because I kept trying to fight back,” he said. “It’s so hard for the rookies to stand up for themselves and so I locked horns with him.”

The commanding officer sent Murray back to the 115th, where he saw a colleague get suspended by the Civilian Complaint Review Board over what he considered a bogus charge. He wrote a letter to the police commissioner.

“So now I get known as a letter-writer,” he said. “The new [Commanding Officer] comes in, calls me into his office and says, ‘I got the story on you. You’re not allowed to write any letters unless you come to me first.’”

Eventually, Murray retired from the force and pursued his law degree.

Lee said he has no such plans just yet.

“If I quit now, I’d be throwing away 14 years of my life. I wouldn’t get a pension,” he said. “I’d be letting them win … This has to stop.”


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Warnock Fundraises With Tom Steyer After Voting for Legislation That Poured Billions Into Green Energy

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Events come amid global surge in energy prices as Democrats vilify fossil fuels

• September 30, 2022 4:30 pm

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) raked in cash from wealthy green energy moguls at a series of San Francisco fundraisers last weekend, a month after voting to pass legislation that steered billions to climate initiatives and the green energy industry.

During his West Coast fundraising swing, the senator partied with billionaire investor Tom Steyer, biofuels CEO Wade Randlett, and “Defund the Police” advocate Meena Harris, the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, according to photos. Steyer cohosted an event for Warnock in San Francisco on Saturday, along with NextGen America board member Andrea Evans, according to an invitation for the fundraiser. Randlett cohosted an event for Warnock on Friday.

The parties came weeks after Warnock voted for the Biden administration’s budget reconciliation bill—officially dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act—and highlight the cozy relationship between Democratic political leaders and the lucrative green tech industry. The legislation poured billions into green energy initiatives and is expected to benefit industries in which Steyer is an investor, according to analysts. The fundraisers also come amid a global surge in energy prices, with many Americans struggling to pay utility bills, and as Democratic lawmakers continue to vilify the fossil fuel industry.

Steyer, a Democratic donor who ran a short-lived campaign for president in 2020, launched a “climate investment fund” called Galvanize in 2021 with a goal of investing “billions” into decarbonization companies. The fund’s reported investments include Regrow Ag, a startup that “aims to help accelerate the shift to climate-friendly farming” and Arable, which seeks to “create a more sustainable food supply.”

Both Regrow Ag and Arable were named as companies that are likely to benefit from a $20 billion earmark in the federal spending bill, according to an analysis published by the clean energy investment firm G2 Venture Partners on Aug. 17, the day after the bill was signed by President Joe Biden.

The bill “has earmarked $20B to (1) target methane and nitrous oxide emission reduction (e.g. Arable, Trace Genomics), (2) improve soil carbon and nitrogen content (e.g. Pivot Bio), and (3) avoiding / sequestering GHG emission (e.g. ProducePay, Regrow, Cloud Agronomics),” wrote G2 Venture Partners.

Steyer praised the passage of the bill as the “culmination of a decade of advocacy and persistence.” Earlier this month, he attended a party at the White House celebrating the legislation.

The Friday fundraiser was cosponsored by Randlett, a biofuels mogul and CEO of the transportation fuels division at General Biofuels. The spending bill extended the biodiesel tax credit and was praised by leaders in the biofuels industry.

“This bill represents the most significant federal commitment to low-carbon biofuels since the Renewable Fuel Standard was expanded by Congress in 2007,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Geoff Cooper in a statement applauding the bill.

Andrea Evans, a board member at Steyer’s nonprofit group NextGen, also cohosted the Saturday Warnock fundraising event.

The Inflation Reduction Act has faced some criticism, with Republicans arguing that it will raise taxes while steering federal funds to Democratic constituencies. Warnock praised the bill, saying it will “help lower costs for families in every corner of our state—all without raising taxes for hardworking Georgia families. That’s a win-win.”

Photos from Warnock’s California fundraising trip also show him posing with his arm around Meena Harris, an Instagram lifestyle influencer and the niece of Kamala Harris. Meena Harris is a vocal advocate for the “defund the police” movement.

“Defund the police and reallocate funds to mental health and social services. This shouldn’t be controversial,” wrote Harris in one Twitter post.

She later expanded on this by adding: “To everyone in my mentions policing my language, let me clarify: Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police. Defund the police.”

The senator is the party’s top fundraiser for the midterm cycle, pulling in a whopping $17 million last quarter in his competitive faceoff against Republican challenger Herschel Walker.




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