From the daily archives: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WASHINGTON – In just three years’ time, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative has supported nearly $500 million in Patriot Express loans to small businesses owned and operated by veterans, reservists and their spouses.
Patriot Express Loans, which can be used to start or expand a small business, increased over the past two years due in part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which raised loan guarantees to 90 percent, and temporarily eliminated fees for borrowers on all SBA loans. To date more than 6,000 loans have been made.
Patriot Express was launched June 28, 2007, to expand upon the nearly $1 billion in loans SBA guarantees annually for veteran-owned businesses. SBA also offers counseling assistance and procurement support each year to more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard.
“America’s veterans have the leadership skills and experience to become successful entrepreneurs and small business owners,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said.“As we celebrate Independence Day, we renew our commitment to more than 26 million veterans and service members across the country, including the thousands returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Patriot Express initiative, in conjunction with other SBA programs, puts more capital and more tools in the hands of veterans as they grow their businesses and create the jobs America needs.”
Patriot Express is a streamlined loan product based on the agency’s highly successful SBA Express Program, but with an enhanced guaranty and interest rate.Patriot Express loans are offered by SBA’s network of participating lenders nationwide and features one of SBA’s fastest turnaround times for loan approvals.Patriot Express loans are available for up to $500,000.
The Patriot Express loan can be used for most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases.Local SBA district offices can provide lists of Patriot Express lenders in their areas.Details on the initiative can be found at
Patriot Express is available to military community members including veterans, service-disabled veterans, active-duty service members participating in the military’s Transition Assistance Program, Reservists and National Guard members, current spouses of any of the above, and the widowed spouse of a service member or veteran who died during service, or of a service-connected disability. The average loan amount is almost $82,000.Nearly 15 percent of those loans have gone to military spouses.After a loan application is approved by a commercial lender, it is submitted to SBA for approval. Most applications are approved by SBA within 24 hours.
Additionally, SBA has entered an agreement with six major universities to expand and deliver entrepreneurship training for service-disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a program called Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV). For more information go to
SBA also offers business counseling through veterans’ business development officers in district offices in every state and territory to provide access to SBA’s range of programs and services. SBA recently expanded the Veterans Business Outreach Centers to 16 locations. They can be located at
In addition to district offices, SBA’s resource partners SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business, an expanded Small Business Development Center program for veterans, and Women’s Business Centers, provide local and online assistance with: writing a business plan, financing options to start or grow your business, managing the business, expanding the business and selling goods and services to the government. The agency, along with other federal agencies, recently entered a joint agreement to help Native American/Alaska Native Veteran-owned businesses with an entrepreneurship education program at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
For those who are already small business owners and who expect call-up, the SBA and its resource partners can help with preparing their businesses before deployment, managing their businesses, selling goods and services to the government, obtaining other SBA financing and financial assistance, and obtaining loans for economic injury – Military Reserve Economic Injury Disaster Loans (MREIDL). Loans of up to $2 million are available for small businesses sustaining economic injury because an owner or essential employee has been called to active duty as a military reservist.
The SBA and its Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) provides comprehensive assistance, outreach and support to veterans.Each year SBA helps more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans and reservists.To learn more about additional opportunities for veterans available through the SBA, please visit the website at


LOS ANGELES—A resident of Vancouver, British Columbia was sentenced today to 108 months in federal prison for operating a fraudulent lottery scheme that targeted dozens of elderly Americans victims who lost at least $600,000.

Henry Anekwu, 43, received the nine-year sentence from United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered the defendant to pay $510,840 in restitution to his victims.

During today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Walter noted that Anekwu showed no remorse for his victims, who suffered “devastating consequences” as a result of Anekwu’s fraudulent conduct.

Anekwu was convicted in April of 10 counts of mail fraud committed through telemarketing and six counts of wire fraud committed through telemarketing. Anekwu ran the lottery scheme out of two Canadian companies he owned, Platinum Award, Inc. and Capital Award, Inc. The evidence presented at his trial showed that Anekwu, from 1998 through 2003, employed telemarketers who contacted potential victims in the United States to falsely inform them they had won a lottery. Victims were advised that they were required to pay taxes or fees prior to collecting the lottery winnings. Victims wrote checks to the fraudulent lottery companies in amounts ranging from $475 to $60,000. “If a victim sent money, [Anekwu] or the telemarketers he employed would call the victim back over and over again, demanding more and more money, even encouraging the victims to borrow money and/or mortgage their homes,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing brief filed with the court. None of the 79 identified victims ever received any lottery winnings, and several victims lost their homes as a result of this scheme.

At today’s hearing, Judge Walter said it was “painful” to listen to the trial testimony of victims, who were both financially and emotionally devastated by Anekwu’s crimes.

Two years after he was indicted by a federal grand jury, Anekwu was arrested in Canada in 2005 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Anekwu was extradited to the United States in December 2009 after the Supreme Court of Canada rejected his appeal of his extradition.

This case was investigated by the RCMP Project Emptor Task Force in Surrey, British Columbia. Members of the task force include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – “E” Division Commercial Crime Section, the Canadian Competition Bureau, and the Consumer Protection BC (formerly the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority).


Andrade, Calif. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers performing southbound inspections at the Andrade, Calif. border crossing stopped a driver with two machine guns strapped to the engine of his pickup from entering Mexico with the weapons and 680 rounds of ammunition.

CBP officers discover two machine guns fastened to the engine of a pickup truck with zip ties.

At about 10:30 a.m., July 10, CBP officers inspecting vehicles leaving the United States, heading into Mexico, stopped a 20-year-old male U.S. citizen driving a white Ford F-150 pickup truck.

A CBP officer referred the car and driver for a more intensive inspection after noticing the driver displaying signs of nervousness.

CBP officers popped the pickup’s hood, and discovered two machine guns and two green ammunition containers strapped to the vehicle’s engine with plastic zip ties. Upon further investigation, officers also discovered ammunition hidden on top of the spare tire, underneath the pickup truck’s bed.

In total, CBP officers found: an MG42 7.92 universal machine gun, a SA43 7.62 X54R MM machine gun, 680 rounds of ammunition, including 280 7.62 caliber rounds, 100 8mm caliber rounds, 100 22LR caliber rounds, and 200.233 caliber rounds, and two boxes of machine gun ammunition links, used to fashion an automated belt for the machine gun ammunition.

CBP seized the vehicle, weapons, and ammunition, and turned custody of the driver over to agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force. The driver will face criminal charges.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.


Yuma, Ariz. – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Yuma Sector seized a cache of marijuana valued at more than $800,000 after a vehicle illegally entered the U.S. east of San Luis, Ariz. Saturday.

Border Patrol agents assigned to the Yuma Station detected the illegal entry of a 1991 GMC Yukon sport utility vehicle shortly before 5 a.m. about 30 miles east of San Luis, Ariz. The SUV entered the U.S. through a Normandy style barrier that had been cut and moved.

Agents reported the occupants abandoned the vehicle at Avenue 2E and the U.S./Mexico border and fled back into Mexico on foot to avoid arrest.

The vehicle contained 53 bundles of marijuana weighing 1,117 pounds. The street value of the marijuana is estimated at $885,800.

The SUV was seized by the Border Patrol and the bundles of marijuana were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

To report suspicious activity, contact the Yuma Sector Border Patrol’s toll free telephone number at 1-866-999-8727.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.


By Phil Mestomack
[Where will Phil wind up on his culinary trip through the best steaks in the Imperial Valley?  Read on…]
There are typically five different classifications for cooking a steak depending on the doneness desired.
Rare, or mostly pink but not raw, is ideally around 130°F and is preferred by most gourmets as the taste of the meat has not been cooked out.
Medium rare, which is slightly pink with more of a crust development from the grill/broiler, may be found at 140°F.
Medium cooked meat is had at 150°F and has a warm, but pink center
Medium well is cooked up to 160°F and still retains a bit of tenderness and pinkness
“Well done” is cooked beyond 160°F and is considered “toast” by steak lovers.
There is a sixth doneness level called “Blue” or “Extra rare” that is cooked below 130°F.  However, this level of doneness is not recommended by the USDA
The USDA recommends that meat be cooked to at least 145°F in order to prevent foodborne illnesses from beef, lamb, veal, roasts and fish.
This week’s restaurant:  Aspen in the Desert, opened in 2004, serves as the main dining establishment for visitors to the nearby Brawley Inn.  Recently, the restaurant opened a lounge and convention area in the same building.
The restaurant has always been a gathering location for local and visiting dignitaries to Brawley due to the close location to the Brawley Inn and being one of the few locations capable of hosting a large gathering.
Like Brownie’s Diner, Aspen in the Desert does not specialize in steaks, but has a varied menu, including American, Italian and other favorites.  The restaurant is also known for their breakfasts.
The meal:  One 16 oz “Certified Angus Beef” rib eye with choice of soup or salad and the choice of baked potato, garlic mashed potatoes or rice pilaf and a vegetable medley.
When the rib eye arrived at the table, it was comparable to steakhouses in major cities, with a deep brown color and nice grill marks on the flesh.

Unfortunately, whether due to a malfunction of the grill or some other reason, the rib eye was served closer to room temperature.  While the steak was a perfect medium rare, the lack of temperature did not help with taste or texture.
Seasoning was also an issue as the restaurant’s house blend was undetectable and extra salt and pepper was needed for flavor.
Additionally, the salad was of a comparable size to the other restaurants.  However, the size of the salad plate lent to the perception of a smaller portion and was a little disorientating.
The extras, including the baked potato and the veggie medley, were piping hot and quite tasty.
Price:  $22.95.
Aspen in the Desert is open Sunday through Thursday from 7 am to 9 pm and on Friday and Saturday from 7 am to 9:30 pm.  The restaurant is located at 595 West Main Street and you may call (760) 344-4468 or visit for more information

Who won the overall restaurant survey

This year, the restaurant survey was based on steaks and steakhouses and while not the most prolific of restaurant types in the Valley, there were enough to warrant a full survey.
Below are the winners of this year’s Best overall steak in the Valley survey:
Best overall steak:  Town Pump.
The Westmorland restaurant continues a long established tradition of excellence.  The steak was the second least expensive of the four tasted, yet had everything an out-of-town gourmet would expect from a steakhouse.
Second overall:  China Palace Steakhouse.
It should be no surprise that the second best steak in the Imperial Valley would be from another steakhouse.  The China Palace’s rib eye only missed out on top prize because of the lack of the deep brown color and the lack of salt on the steak itself.

Best Value:  Brownie’s Diner.
An $11.99 rib eye can’t be beat.  While the soup or salad was a little extra, the steak itself wasn’t too bad for the price.  And even at the regular price of $15.99, the Brownie’s steak was the least expensive of all tasted and very good for not being a full steakhouse.
Best side dishes:  Aspen of the Desert
While the steak itself left much to be desired, Aspen’s side dishes were the tastiest and most varied of all the restaurants surveyed.
The salad, for instance, contained mushrooms and other vegetables and wasn’t mostly lettuce.
The baked potato was the warmest of all the potatoes and the vegetable medley was a pleasant surprise.
This ends this year’s restaurant survey.  See you next year!

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