From the daily archives: Thursday, July 7, 2011

Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBP) at JFK Airport intercept a 21 year old man attempting to smuggle over six pounds of cocaine in his luggage. The bag he was carrying contained four pairs of sneakers with narcotics concealed within the soles.

Cocaine hidden inside shoes
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection

On June 29th, CBP officers at JFK stopped Mr. Cristian Vasquez Martinez, who arrived on a flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for an enforcement exam. Mr. Martinez’s visa information indicated that he was a prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays. Further inspection revealed that he was released by the team deeming his visa invalid. Upon examination of Mr. Martinez’s luggage, CBP officers discovered four pairs of sneakers, which were unusually heavy. A more intrusive exam of the sneakers produced a white powdery substance that field-tested positive for cocaine.

“CBP officers in the New York area remain vigilant in their efforts to combat the illicit trade of narcotics,” stated Robert E. Perez, Director, Office of Field Operations, New York Field Office. “These highly skilled officers are committed to their mission of protecting our nation’s communities.”

The narcotics seized during this inspection carried a street value over $138,000.


The artifacts include these vases and range in age from 2,500 to 4,000 years old.

Terracotta plaques and other artifacts seized during a 2006 investigation were returned to the government of Iraq today in a Washington, D.C. ceremony that celebrated a successful law enforcement operation and the cultural significance of antiquities that are thousands of years old.

“These artifacts are truly invaluable,” said Ron Hosko, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division in our Washington Field Office. “The FBI is pleased to be able to return them to their rightful owner.”

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The artifacts—some small enough to be held in the palm of one’s hand—were seized during a public corruption investigation conducted by our International Contract Corruption Task Force, a multi-agency task force whose mission is to stop fraud and corruption related to U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere overseas.

The artifacts were illegally taken in 2004 by Department of Defense contractors who were traveling through the Babylon region of Iraq. Investigators learned that the contractors collected the items and used them as gifts and bribes or sold them to other contractors who then smuggled them into the United States. Two of the contractors were sentenced to prison for their roles in the fraud scheme.

“The FBI is committed to identifying and preventing corruption and contract fraud no matter where it takes place,” Hosko said during the ceremony at the Iraqi Cultural Center. “Working abroad does not entitle anyone to remove historic artifacts and treat them as mementos for illegal sale.”

Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Shakir Mahmood Sumaida’ie expressed his gratitude to the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which also returned items from a separate case. As Iraq works to “reconstruct our country and our heritage,” the ambassador said, “We are grateful for the cooperation from the American authorities.”

Agents on the FBI’s art crime team—who receive specialized training in art and cultural property investigations—were called in recently to help authenticate the artifacts and to facilitate their return to Iraq.

The items include two pottery dishes, four vases, an oil lamp, three small statues, and the seven terracotta relief plaques. They range in age from 2,500 to 4,000 years old—from the Old Babylonian period to the Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylon periods.

Experts believe the terracotta plaques were thought to provide magical protection against evil or sickness.

The terracotta plaques were made with clay and pressed into a mold that was then fired in an oven. Although it is not clear exactly how the plaques were used, experts believe they were thought to provide magical protection against evil or sickness. The plaques depict a warrior goddess, a woman with child, and two boxers, among other scenes, and could have been carried for personal devotion or displayed in temples or buried in foundations of buildings.

It was the looting of the Baghdad Museum in Iraq in 2003 that led to the formation of the FBI’s art crime team the following year. “We realized then that we needed a group of agents who were specially trained in the area of stolen and looted art,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages our art theft program. Since its inception, the art crime team has recovered more than 2,600 items valued at over $142 million.

Hosko added that the recovery of the antiquities during a case focused primarily on public corruption illustrates how the FBI’s intelligence-driven approach to investigations often leads to uncovering additional criminal activity.


Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District has a wonderful team of caregivers. To recognize the outstanding nurses during National Nurses Week this year, a peer-based selection by each nursing unit was employed. The selected outstanding clinical staff members, by department, were as follows:


Aracely Nelson, RN, BSN – Perinatal Service

Carmen Fitzsimmons, RN – Float Pool

Clara Miranda, RN, BSN, PHN – Case Management

D’Andre York, RN – NICU

Eric Aragon, LVN – Medical/Surgery Unit

Hui Su Felix, RN – ICU

From the left: Eric Aragon, LVN; Carmen Fitzsimmons, RN; Nita Bhakta, RN; Aracely Nelson, RN, BSN; D’Andre York, RN; and Jessica Ancheta, RN, BSN.


Jessica Ancheta, RN, BSN – Surgery

Nicole Castaneda, RN, BSN, PHN – ER

Nita Bhakta, RN – Definitive Observation Unit

Yolanda Smith, RN – Pediatrics


To celebrate the recognition, a dinner was held at Aspen in the Desert during Nurses Week.  Helina Hoyt, RN, MS, the RN/BSN Nursing Coordinator at San Diego State University, spoke to the awardees and the nursing leadership on the future of nursing. A proclamation by Brawley mayor Don Campbell recognizing Nurses Week was also read to the gathering.

“We are proud of our nursing team. These ten individuals are certainly deserving of the recognition,” stated John A. Coldsmith, RN, MSN, CRNI, Chief Nursing Office at Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District. Of the 700+ employees at Pioneers, over 300 of them are nurses.

“In my over ten years as a board member for PMHD, I have watched the expansion of our nursing team with pride. As the number of nurses has increased, their technical skills have improved. Leadership is certainly to be credited for this; however, the dedication of our nursing team, as well as of all our employees, to providing the best-quality healthcare in the valley is inherent to PMHD,” stated Marcus Tapia, President of the PMHD Board of Directors.


Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District continues to seek improvement in all areas of healthcare. Each year we target several specific areas and provide a focused analysis of the steps needed to improve patient outcomes. One of the areas targeted has been the treatment of sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s system-wide response to infection. The signs and symptoms of sepsis include fever, chills, reduced mental alertness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate in excess of 90 beats per minute in an adult, high or low white blood cell count ( part of the immune system that helps fight infection), low blood pressure, and altered kidney or liver function. Sepsis can progress to septic shock, where the systems of the body begin to shut down and the blood pressure drops dangerously low. The death rate from septic shock can be as high as 40 percent.

Sepsis is on the rise due to the increasing number of elderly or debilitated patients;  patients with underlying diseases such as cancer that require intensive treatment; the widespread use of antibiotics, which encourages the growth of drug-resistant micro-organisms; and technological advances in treatment that require invasive procedures.

In the United States, it is estimated that there are approximately 750,000 new sepsis cases each year, with at least 210,000 deaths.

In November 2009, the ER and ICU team at Pioneers Memorial Hospital undertook the challenge of decreasing by 25 percent the death rate from sepsis (a goal set by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign) and shortening the time spent in the hospital for patients with sepsis by two days. Using evidence-based-practice protocols recommended by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, and through extensive staff training and the purchase of special monitoring equipment, the team was able to exceed these goals.


By the first of the year 2011, the mortality (death) rate for severe sepsis and septic shock, combined (the two most severe forms of sepsis), dropped by 37 percent, and the time spent in the hospital for these most severe forms of sepsis, combined, dropped by more than three days.


These significant accomplishments were a direct result of the team effort led by Michael Krutzik, MD, FCCP; Eva La Pena, RN, CEN Nurse Educator; and Robyn Atadero, RN BSN, Critical Care Nursing Director.


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