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Adams Picks Former Police Officer Tied to Scandal for Public Safety Post – NBC New York

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams is naming a former high-ranking police official with a questionable past as his deputy mayor for public safety, reviving a position not seen in the Big Apple since the early 1990s.

Former NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks confirmed his selection, which had been widely anticipated since Adams’ election, in a guest essay Friday in the New York Daily News.

The mayor’s office sent out an official announcement hours after Banks’ essay appeared, but did not respond to questions from The Associated Press regarding his selection.

“I need a partner in government who understands what it takes to keep New Yorkers safe. Phil Banks is that person, and I am grateful for his continued public service in this new role to help our administration deliver the safety we need and the justice we deserve,” Adams said in a statement released by his office.

Banks, a top adviser to Adams, has been helping to reshape the police department for the new mayor’s administration, taking a leading role in the search that led to the appointment of Keechant Sewell as the city’s first female police commissioner.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — who has said fighting for safer streets, fairness and going after corruption are all priorities — said that he “looks forward to working with (Banks) to deliver safety and justice for all.”

Also Friday, the mayor appointed his brother, retired NYPD Sergeant Bernard Adams, as a deputy police commissioner. Bernard Adams’ LinkedIn profile lists his recent employment as a parking administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Adams, a former police captain, has given outsize attention to his old department in his first week on the job, accompanying Sewell to events and addressing officers one morning at roll call.

Typically, the police commissioner reports directly to the mayor and has final say on hiring and disciplinary issues. It was not immediately clear how that might change with Banks also taking on a public safety leadership role.

Adams previously selected Banks’ brother David Banks to serve as the city’s schools chancellor.

The New York Post reported last month that former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best lost out on the commissioner’s job after raising concerns that she would have to report to a deputy mayor for public safety, weakening the authority and power of the commissioner.

Philip Banks abruptly quit the police department in 2014 after then-Commissioner William Bratton announced his promotion to First Deputy Commissioner. It was later revealed he was an unindicted co-conspirator in a police bribery scheme.

Court papers showed federal investigators obtained approval for a wiretap on Banks’ cellphone the day before he resigned amid questions about $300,000 that wound up in bank accounts belonging to him and his wife.

Banks denied any wrongdoing but apologized for what he said was a mistake in interacting with two men who went to prison for their involvement in the bribery scheme.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams is calling out new progressive city council before he even moves into Gracie Mansion. Melissa Russo reports.

Banks said he had invested his money with one of the men, a fundraiser for former Mayor Bill de Blasio, because he had believed he was a legitimate businessman.

“I never broke the law, nor did I ever betray the public trust by abusing my authority as an NYPD official,” Banks wrote in his guest essay.

“The central theme of the reports about my involvement in the corruption scheme was that I was party to it; that I traded favors as a senior NYPD official for some form of compensation. That is 100% false,” Banks wrote.

He also denied that he left the NYPD to avoid a departmental disciplinary trial on the investigation, calling the suggestion “completely false.”

The Detectives Endowment Association supported the selection of Banks, saying in a statement that they “stand with Mayor Adams as we work together to reclaim our city’s streets for our citizens. Phil Banks knows what must be done.”

Banks joined the police department in 1986 and worked as the commanding officer of a Manhattan patrol borough and several precincts before being named chief of department in March 2013.

“It is an odd thing to watch and listen to your name get dragged through the mud,” Banks wrote.


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Kraken Coughs Up $362,158 to OFAC to Settle Iran Sanctions Violations

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Cryptocurrency companies are in trouble.  Regulators are bearing down on crypto companies with the Eye of Sauron – pulling the crypto companies into their jurisdiction, prosecuting fraud cases, and aggressively prosecuting companies for sanctions and anti-money laundering violations.  One by one you can bet that crypto companies will be in the enforcement headlines.  As they fall, policy makers can point to their continuing excesses as the basis for robust regulation. 

Crypto companies, however, appear to be ignoring these trends somehow believing they will escape the enforcement knife.  With all of the scandals piling up, investors are losing more money and complaints from investors will ultimately result in a comprehensive regulated framework.  The only real question remaining is how quickly this regulatory regime will take to be implemented and how broad a scope will be imposed.

Payward, Inc. d/b/a Kraken (“Kraken”), a large virtual currency exchange agreed to pay OFAC $362,158 to settle its violation of the Iran Sanctions Program.  Kraken is a Delaware company that  operates in the United States and elsewhere.  As part of the settlement, Kraken agreed to invest an additional $100,000 in certain compliance controls.

Kraken failed to implement basic compliance tools, including an automated internet protocol (IP) address blocking system.  As a result, Kraken exported services to users who appeared to be in Iran when they completed virtual currency transactions. Kraken voluntarily disclosed the conduct to OFAC.

Kraken began operations in 2011 and initiated public trading in 2013.  Users can buy, sell, trade or hold cryptocurrencies, and trade fiat currency for cryptocurrencies. Kraken maintained an AML and sanctions compliance program, which included basic screening of customers when onboarded and daily thereafter, as well as review of IP address information generated at the time of onboarding.  Notwithstanding these controls, between October 2015 and June 2019, Kraken mistakenly processed 826 transactions, totaling $1,680,577 on behalf of individuals who appeared to be located in Iran at the time of the transactions.

Kraken had a large gap in its screening regime – they screen a customer when onboarded but they did not implement IP address blocking on transactional activity involving existing customers.

Kraken’s IP address data revealed that customers who set up accounts outside of sanctioned jurisdictions appear to have accessed their accounts and conducted transactions later from a sanctioned jurisdiction.  

After identifying the problem, Kraken implemented automated blocking for IP addresses linked to sanctioned jurisdictions. To further its compliance efforts, Kraken also implemented multiple blockchain analytics tools to enhance its monitoring program.

As noted in its penalty calculations section, Kraken was credited for voluntarily disclosing the matter, and for agreeing to invest an additional $100,000 in its compliance program, including training and technical enhancements to improve sanctions screening.

OFAC stated that Kraken failed to exercise due caution or care for its sanctions compliance obligations, when knowing that its customer base was global, it limited its geolocation controls to the onboarding of customers and failed to apply these controls to subsequent transactions.  Such a failure was compounded by the fact that Kraken had reason to know based on its IP address data that transactions were being conducted from Iran.

Kraken fully cooperated with the OFAC investigation of this matter and implemented significant remediation, including: (a) adding geolocation blocking to prevent clients in prohibited locations from accessing their accounts on Kraken’s website; (b) implementing multiple blockchain analysis tools to assist with sanctions monitoring; (c) investing in additional compliance-related training for its staff, including in blockchain analytics; (d) hiring a dedicated head of sanctions to direct Kraken’s sanctions compliance program, in addition to hiring new sanctions compliance staff; (e) expanding its contract with its current screening provider to add additional screening capabilities to ensure compliance with OFAC’s “50 Percent Rule,” including detailed reports on beneficial ownership; (f) contracting with a vendor that assists with identification and nationality verification by using artificial intelligence tools to detect potential issues with supporting credentials provided by users; and (g) implementing an automated control to block accounts using cities and postal codes associated with the Crimea region and in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics of Ukraine.

OFAC noted that under its Sanctions Compliance Guidance for the Virtual Currency Industry, OFAC strongly encourages a risk-based approach to sanctions compliance. An adequate sanctions compliance program for cryptocurrency companies will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of business involved, its size and sophistication, products and services offered, customers and counterparties, and geographic locations served. It also should be predicated on and incorporate at least five essential components: (1) management commitment; (2) risk assessment; (3) internal controls; (4) testing and auditing; and (5) training.

OFAC stated that this enforcement action underscored the importance of using geolocation tools, including IP blocking and other location verification tools, to identify and prevent users located in sanctioned jurisdictions from engaging in prohibited virtual currency-related transactions. In particular, OFAC noted that limiting the use of such controls only to the time of account opening — and not throughout the lifetime of the account or with respect to subsequent transactions — could present sanctions risks to virtual currency-related companies. This case also demonstrates the value of a company implementing robust remedial measures after becoming aware of a potential sanctions issue, including the deployment of blockchain analysis tools and compliance-related training on blockchain analytics, as well as committing to future sanctions compliance investments.


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Eric Adams faces accusations of corruption as he uses city hall lawyer to fight rat infestation case

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Embattled New York City Mayor Eric Adams is facing a new scandal after it emerged that he used a City Hall lawyer to fight a private summons over a rat infestation at his former home in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn. 

According to a new report from the New York Times, Adams enlisted deputy chief counsel in the mayor’s office, Rahul Agarwal, to handle the summons.    

Adams’ record showed an unpaid summons penalty for $330 that he received in May – after it was found that the residence he owns along Lafayette Avenue is flooded with the rodents. In September, Agarwal filed a motion to vacate the summons, an official in the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings told the Times.

The mayor repeatedly failed to appear before the tribunal.  Agarwal argued that Adams only found out about the summons in September because he now lives at the mayoral residence at Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side. 

On Tuesday, Adams finally appeared at a virtual hearing and stressed that he has taken steps to read his former residence of the rats. The panel will take 30 days to render a verdict. 

The mayor’s hatred of rodents is famous. During his time as Brooklyn Borough President, Adams endorsed and demonstrated an elaborate rat drowning device that required users to scoop dead rodents out of a vat.  

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been outspoken in his hatred of rats and his wish to rid the Big Apple of the rodents

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been outspoken in his hatred of rats and his wish to rid the Big Apple of the rodents

Deputy Chief Counsel Rahul Agarwal has been working in City Hall since January 2022 having previously worked at the United States Attorney's Office in New Jersey

Deputy Chief Counsel Rahul Agarwal has been working in City Hall since January 2022 having previously worked at the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey

Adams' home is seen on Lafayette Street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. During his run for mayor, Adams said that lives in the basement and rents out the other two floors

Adams’ home is seen on Lafayette Street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. During his run for mayor, Adams said that lives in the basement and rents out the other two floors

When Adams failed to appear at a hearing in November, Agarwal argued that his absence was due to scheduling conflicts. Bizarrely during that appearance, Agarwal told a tribunal: ‘I am not actually appearing officially on his behalf.’

One of Adams’ spokespeople, Fabian Levy, did not address Adams’ use of a city hall lawyer in the case but said that it had been the mayor’s plan to represent himself in the hearing. 

Levy told the New York Times: ‘[Adams] spent thousands of dollars to remediate an infestation at his residence in Brooklyn earlier this year, and was happy to appear before OATH today to state as much.’ 

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings is referred to as being an independent body tasked with investigating internal affairs in the New York City’s government. 

The commissioner of the body, Asim Rehman, was personally appointed by Adams in March. 

Adams shows the rat traps as he and announces the results of a pilot program aimed at curbing the rat population around Brooklyn in 2019

Adams shows the rat traps as he and announces the results of a pilot program aimed at curbing the rat population around Brooklyn in 2019

The Ekomille rat trap being displayed in 2019, Adams received huge criticism for his promotion of the supposedly inhumane device

The Ekomille rat trap being displayed in 2019, Adams received huge criticism for his promotion of the supposedly inhumane device

Adams watching a demonstration of the Ekomille rat trap in action

Adams watching a demonstration of the Ekomille rat trap in action 

In 2019, Adams annoyed animal rights activists — and upset the stomachs of some journalists — by demonstrating a trap that used a bucket filled with a vinegary, toxic soup to drown rats lured by the scent of food.

More recently, this past May, Adams announced the city’s latest effort: padlocked curbside trash bins intended to reduce the big piles of garbage bags that turn into a buffet for rodents.

‘You’re tired of the rodents, you’re tired of the smell, you’re tired of seeing food, waste and spillage,’ the mayor said.

Rats not only strike fear among the easily squeamish, they can also be a public health concern.

Last year, at least 13 people were hospitalized — one died — because of leptospirosis, a condition that attacks the kidneys and liver. Most human infections are associated with rats.

Bernard Adams, right, brother of New York mayor Eric Adams, mingles with supporters at his brother's election night party, June 22, 2021, in New York

Bernard Adams, right, brother of New York mayor Eric Adams, mingles with supporters at his brother’s election night party, June 22, 2021, in New York

Adams and his girlfriend Tracey Collins attend the victory of Serena Williams of USA on Day 1 of the US Open 2022

Adams and his girlfriend Tracey Collins attend the victory of Serena Williams of USA on Day 1 of the US Open 2022

The use of a government lawyer for a personal case is the latest in a line scandals plaguing Adams’ office. 

Just two months ago,  New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks promoted first-girlfriend Tracey Collins to a top job at the Department of Education several months after Adams hired Banks’ girlfriend as a deputy mayor.

The New York Post reported that Banks named Tracey Collins – longtime partner to Adams – to the role of ‘senior advisor to the deputy chancellor of school leadership.’ Her new role began in July and came with a massive 23% raise, bumping her public salary up to $221,597.

Last December, Adams made Sheena Wright – Banks’ girlfriend – a deputy mayor. She pulls in $251,982, based on what NYC deputy mayors made in fiscal year 2021.

While in January, Adams backed off plans for a $210,000-a-year, city-paid security job for his brother, Bernard,  who will now volunteer instead as an advisor. 

The retired New York Police Department sergeant now makes $1 a year, so he can officially be a city employee.

‘It was never about the money. My brother wants to be here with his brother, and when it comes down to personal security, you know, what is more important than to have someone you trust?’ the mayor told Spectrum News NY1 at the time. ‘I’m blessed to be able to have my brother.’

The mayor previously said he hated nothing more than rats. He is currently searching for someone to handle the city's rat infestation

The mayor previously said he hated nothing more than rats. He is currently searching for someone to handle the city’s rat infestation

The mayor declared a war on city rats last week when he posted a job searching for what he called the Big Apples ‘Rat Czar,’ more formally known as Citywide Director of Rodent Mitigation.

‘There’s nothing I hate more than rats,’ he said last week while advertising the new job posting.

This comes after Jessica Tisch, Department of Sanitation’s commissioner, sensationally said last month: ‘The rats don’t run this city, we do.’

Adams appeared to be tackling his rat issues by putting rat traps around his home, photos obtained by New York Daily News showed.

Bags of trash also sat in front of his home outside of two filled garbage cans – which may not have helped his growing rat issue.

The mayor’s Brooklyn neighborhood is known to have rat issues and has been treating the problems with the help of the Department of Health.

While Adams is set to appear in court next week, he has ‘spent thousands of dollars to remediate [the] infestation at his residence in Brooklyn earlier this year,’ a spokesperson for the mayor told the Daily News.

But records showed that Adams failed to address the infestation.

Adams’ Brooklyn neighbors said rats are a massive issue on the block due to trash bags on the streets and construction.

‘Every night you’re dodging rats,’ Meredith Rogers said.

The mayor said he lives in the basement of the property with his son and rents out the upper levels.

At the time, Adams was the president of the borough of Brooklyn. He staged a press conference, beside his son, Jordan, 25, to insist that he did live in the property

At the time, Adams was the president of the borough of Brooklyn. He staged a press conference, beside his son, Jordan, 25, to insist that he did live in the property

Adams is seeking to pay a rat hunter more than $120,000 to help rid of the rodents in the city

Adams is seeking to pay a rat hunter more than $120,000 to help rid of the rodents in the city 

Adam’s home serves as a partial rental property. The mayor previously failed to list his home as a rental and critics have accused him of actually living in New Jersey with his girlfriend Tracey Collins.

He previously debunked the claims last year – before he became mayor – when he took reporters into his Brooklyn home and showed them his scruffily-made bed and creaking floors.

The mayor said he lived in the basement and rents out the floors above to pay for his son Jordan’s college fees.

Adams is registered to vote on the first floor, yet a tenant who has lived there for years is listed under the same unit in multiple documents obtained by Politico last year.

His neighbors also previously said they didn’t know Adam’s lived on their block.  

Adam’s rat issue extends outside of his home and into the streets of New York. Last week, he launched his job search for a rodent mitigation specialist.

The job, which pays between $120,000 to $170,000, is being listed for anyone with a background in urban planning, project management, or government work, but it seems the Democratic mayor wants someone with a flair for the position.

A city councilmember told CBS that the city has had a 71 percent increase in rat sightings since 2020.

Adams invited reporters to tour his basement home in Brooklyn last year, in a bid to prove that he actually lived in the city - rather than in New Jersey

Adams invited reporters to tour his basement home in Brooklyn last year, in a bid to prove that he actually lived in the city – rather than in New Jersey

Adams appears to be fighting rats in his own home and throughout the city. Pictured: a rat in the subway

Adams appears to be fighting rats in his own home and throughout the city. Pictured: a rat in the subway 

Adams held a press conference in October where he said that ‘fighting rats’ was up there with crime and inequality as what he was focused on in his attempt to make New York a livable city.

The rat hunting job description explained the job as doing ‘the impossible’ in stopping the city’s rats.

It also suggests you have a: ‘swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor and general aura of badassery.’ A knowledge of PowerPoint is also necessary.

There’s a dark side to the position, however, as it says that you’ll need ‘stamina and stagecraft’ and that ‘the ideal candidate is highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty.’

The posting notes: ‘Despite their successful public engagement strategy and cheeky social media presence, rats are not our friends. Rodents spread disease, damage homes and wiring and even attempt to control the movements of kitchen staffers in an effort to take over human jobs.’

This is perhaps a reference to a time when rats are seen chowing down on everything from pizza, and bagels to the salad that went viral online.

The first rodent to take social media by storm for its larger-than-life appetite was Pizza Rat.

In September 2015, New Yorkers were amazed when footage emerged of it carrying an entire large slice of pizza down the steps of a subway station.

Despite the slice being bigger than it, the rat managed to drag it down several stairs before it was forced to admit defeat.

The video clip of its valiant effort went viral.


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Who Is Viktor Bout, the ‘Merchant of Death’ Arms Dealer Biden Traded to Russia For Brittney Griner?

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President Joe Biden on Thursday traded Viktor Bout, the notorious international arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death,” to Russia for U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport earlier this year with cannabis oil in her luggage.

But how exactly did Bout earn his nickname?

A former Soviet military translator, Bout supplied arms for deadly conflicts around the world by using his air cargo companies to smuggle weapons from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s and early 2000s. Bout allegedly delivered surface-to-air missiles to Kenya for an attack on an Israeli airliner in 2002. And four years later, Bout reportedly met with Islamic terrorist organization Hezbollah prior to the Lebanon war. The “Merchant of Death” also had a “considerable commercial presence in Libya” during former leader Muammar Qaddafi’s reign, according to intelligence records found in the country in 2011.

U.S. officials under the Bush administration captured Bout during a 2008 sting operation in Bangkok, where the arms dealer believed he was meeting with Colombian narco-terrorist group FARC to secure the sale of 100 surface-to-air missiles and rocket launchers. Bout was extradited from Thailand to the United States in 2010 on terrorism charges including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, and conspiracy to kill U.S. officials. A U.S. jury sentenced Bout to 25 years in prison in Manhattan in 2011.

While Biden agreed to swap Griner for Bout in a deal announced Thursday morning, the Democrat did not secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine whom Russia convicted in June 2020 on espionage charges that American officials have called manufactured. Russia did not agree to include Whelan in the deal, according to the New York Times, leaving Biden to agree to a “one-for-one swap.”




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