From the daily archives: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brown and Arizona AG Goddard Announce $94 Million Agreement with Western Union to Fight Money Laundering by Mexican Cartels

Los Angeles – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a $94 million settlement with Western Union Financial Services, Inc., that resolves a decade-long investigation into illicit money transfers that “have flowed freely” in the Southwest border region.

The settlement includes $50 million in funding for the “Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance,” a four-state coalition against money laundering that includes the attorneys general of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

“For years, billions of dollars in smuggling profits have flowed freely between the United States and Mexico,” Brown said. “Today’s agreement with Western Union gives our region the resources and cooperation we need to stem the flow of illicit cash across our borders.”

The settlement follows a decade-long investigation by the Office of the Arizona Attorney General into illegal money-laundering activity in the Southwest border region. The investigation found that hundreds of millions of dollars are being channeled to drug, weapon and human traffickers through Western Union money transfers.

To resolve Arizona’s investigation and more effectively address illegal money laundering, Western Union has agreed to:

– Provide $50 million to establish and fund the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance;
– Invest $19 million over the next several years into upgrades to its anti-money-laundering program;
– Provide $4 million to support an independent monitoring program established to ensure anti-money-laundering measures are implemented; and
– Pay $21 million to the State of Arizona to cover investigation and litigation expenses.

Additionally, today’s settlement requires Western Union to provide California with access to transaction data so investigators can track trends in the flow of illicit money, identify money-laundering points and target drug, weapon and human traffickers.

The Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance will support and fund training, information sharing and other initiatives in member states and Mexico and will work to enhance and better coordinate money-laundering investigations and prosecutions. Under the agreement, law enforcement organizations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas will each be guaranteed grants totaling a minimum of $7 million to bolster efforts to combat money laundering.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that $18 billion to $39 billion is being smuggled from the United States to Mexico every year.

Today’s agreement with Western Union and the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance’s governing agreement are attached.

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You may view the full account of this posting, including possible attachments, in the News & Alerts section of our website at: http://ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/release.php?id=1860

 

In an effort to balance the budget in the City of San Diego, “rolling brownouts” will commence on February 6, 2010.  Fire crews will be rotated and equipment will be less available, meaning that first responders may take longer to respond to an emergency.  The American Red Cross reminds San Diego families to be prepared in the event that disaster strikes.
GET A KIT – Create an emergency preparedness kit for your family and review its contents every six months. If you don’t have one, you can make one yourself or purchase one at the online Red Cross store at www.sdarc.org.  An emergency preparedness kit contains essential emergency items such as food, water, light sticks, blankets and a first aid kit, among other necessities. These family-friendly kits are available stocked with supplies for one, two or four people.
MAKE A PLAN – Discuss with your family the disasters that can happen where you live.  Establish responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team.  Designate alternates in case someone is absent.
Choose two places to meet after a disaster:  One place should be outside of your home, in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire. Another place should be outside of your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood.
Each responsible adult in your household should learn how and when to turn off utilities such as electricity, water and gas.  Ask your local fire department to show you how to use a fire extinguisher.
Inform everyone in the household where emergency supplies are kept.  Make copies of the information for someone to carry with them.  Keep the information updated.
Run home evacuation drills twice a year.  Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes in case main roads are impassable or gridlocked.
BE INFORMED – Know what may happen and how you can help.  Learn what disasters or emergencies may occur where you live, work and play.  These events can vary from those affecting only you and your family, like a home fire or medical emergency, to those affecting your entire community, like an earthquake or flood.
To learn more about being prepared for a disaster, visit www.preparesandiego.org.

 

By Luke Phillips

Calexico High School students showed their giving nature Tuesday and were able to break a record while they were at it.

125 students showed up to give blood at a blood drive hosted by the American Red Cross at Calexico High School. Red Cross workers collected 99 units of blood in two mobile blood drive stations. One bus collected 59 units, which was a record for high school blood drives, and the other collected 40 units, which was a record for that bus.

Carina Kagan, account manager for the Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Valley Chapter, was on hand to sign students up for the drive and praised their eagerness to help.

“We’ve just had a huge outpouring of first-time donors,” Kagan said. “The kids here are awesome. I don’t think we’re going to have enough blood bags. I think we’re going to run out.”

At least 25 students were turned away due to lack of blood bags, but Kagan was able to sign them up for the next drive, planned for May 13. Calexico students hope to break the record for high school donations in the region set by Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach by collecting more than 200 units of blood at the May 13 drive.

Calexico High School student Laura Rioseco said she was a little nervous about getting poked with a needle, but was still more than willing to help.

“I know that if I needed that blood someone would give it to me,” Rioseco said. “I think if you do something good, something good will happen to you.”

Junior Erika DeAnda was also happy to give to those in need.

“Other people need it more than I do,” DeAnda said. “Other people could die, and I have all this blood.”

According to an email sent out by Kagan, the blood donated by Calexico High School students is enough to save 297 lives.

“They didn’t have to run into a burning building or dive into a pit of sharks to be heroes either,” Kagan said.

Calexico High School teacher Frank Noriega, who helped to organize the blood drive, says that CHS students are always big contributors to any good cause.

“The kids here are just so awesome,” he said. “They are very used to this idea of giving back.”

 

By Luke Phillips

When it comes to trash, the city of Holtville is keeping it’s options open.

The Holtville City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to prepare a request for proposals and solicit bids for the city’s waste hauling services instead of renegotiating exclusively with Allied Waste, the city‘s current provider. Council member Bianca Padilla cast the one dissenting vote.

“My goal is to maintain the level of service that we have now,” Padilla said. “To maintain the level of service, but to lower the price. I do believe we will get rates comparable to what we’re seeing in other cities if we try to renegotiate. If we go with another company, we really don’t know what we’re getting until we get it. And being that it is a very long contract, I don’t feel the need to experiment at this point.”

Council member David Bradshaw, who has been an outspoken supporter of putting the contract out for bids, says he’s seen enough information.

“I think it’s the fair thing to do with public funds,” Bradshaw said. “I don’t think we need any more committees or any more information. I think we should go out to request for proposals.”

Council member Richard Layton, who up until now has supported negotiating exclusively with Allied, told the council that he had a change of heart.

“As of the last meeting we had, I was ready to renegotiate with Allied. Since then I’ve met with several people that were representatives of CR&R and Palo Verde Disposal. I’ve learned a lot in just a couple of weeks. It’s been a tough decision. I’ve spent a lot of time on it, and I think at this time I would support going out for bids.”

Council member Jerry Brittsan also changed his mind at the last minute.

“Last week I tried to get the council to go ahead and renegotiate with Allied,” Brittsan said, “and since that time I’ve been made aware of a terrific disparity in the residential services cost. So at this time, I would agree with Mr. Bradshaw and Mr. Layton that we need to go out to bid.”

It was unclear what disparity Brittsan was referring to.

Mayor Colleen Ludwig said that she has been approached by several residents about the costs of trash service in Holtville.

“I feel like we need to be more transparent and try to listen to the people,” Ludwig said. “I would like to see our franchise increased, but our rates lowered. That may sound like that can not be done, but I believe that can be done in some ways. I feel like at this time we should go out to bid and see what other companies have to offer to the residents as well. We need to reduce our rates for residents.”

Holtville resident Richard Bringle addressed the council to praise Allied Waste and all the free services that he says they provide to the community.

“I think in today’s economy we need to make the very best decision that we can for each and every person that lives in this city, including myself and my family,” Bringle said. “There’s a lot of pluses to Allied Waste. You don’t get anything for free anymore.”

Holtville City Manager Laura Fischer asked the council to form a committee to handle the details of the trash contract negotiations. Council members Padilla and Brittsan volunteered for the committee and, together with city staff, will be preparing the request for proposals for trash service in Holtville.

“It’s public money and we should go out to bid if anyone else is interested, and there at least two other groups that are interested,” Bradshaw said. “So I would think it’s the right thing to do.”

 
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