Happy new year! While the shutdown has slowed DOJ, it has not stopped it. And we have fraud documentaries from Netflix and Hulu.
- Just after the new year, the Senate confirmed Brian Moran as the Western District of Washington’s new U.S. Attorney.
- Also in Seattle, a guilty plea to wire fraud and filing a false tax return. The scheme involved defrauding the Washington Department of Revenue by under-reporting chewing tobacco purchased from tribal smoke shops and claiming phony tax credits for sham tobacco sales to those smoke shops.
- A cautionary tale: one of the country’s most prominent law firms has to fork over $4.6 million to the government for its work on behalf of Ukraine’s government. The firm was acting as unregistered agent of a foreign principal, a no-no under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). Though the work was Manafort-related, these requirements govern folks from both parties. The lead lawyer was former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig, politely referred to as “Partner-1” in the firm’s agreement with DOJ. According to that same agreement, Partner-1 made false and misleading statements to DOJ’s FARA Unit. While we can’t know the implications without more information, I wouldn’t want to be Partner-1 right now.
- Nor would I want to be Individual-1. We all remember him, right? Well, yesterday Buzzfeed [insert joke about listicles here] dropped a bombshell report claiming that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. If true, that’s a game-changer. But I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions yet: the notoriously tight-lipped Special Counsel’s Office said today that Buzzfeed‘s characterization is inaccurate. Jokes aside, however this story turns out, Buzzfeed has been doing some exceptional reporting for years, and Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier—the co-authors of this story—are required reading on the Russia investigation.
- Because we live on the strangest possible timeline, not one but two documentaries about the infamous Fyre Festival are now out—one from Hulu and the other from Netflix. We’ve brought up Fyre Fest before on these pages. Though it’s hard to feel too bad for victims who shelled out obscene amounts of money for the chance to take an Instagram selfie with Kendall Jenner, lots of people—including local workers in the Bahamas—were hurt by the 2017 debacle.
- Finally, my favorite (or perhaps favourite?) fraud story of 2019 thus far: an indictment in Seattle for a Canadian man who allegedly pretended to be a British billionaire to bilk investors. I hope the accent was convincing.