Morning Security Brief: Alleged Bombers Planned More Attacks, Court Reverses Fraud Convictions, and More
Authorities suspect that the alleged Boston bombers had more attacks planned, a federal appeals court reverses a fraud conviction based on the “honest services” theory, and the fertilizer facility in West, Texas, was storing ammonium nitrate.
► More details about the plans of the alleged Boston bombers emerged yesterday, according to an article in The New York Times. Authorities cited in the article explained that the amount of explosives and firepower recovered from the car the brothers briefly hijacked indicated that more attacks were planned. Law enforcement found at least five pipe bombs and four firearms in the car. The suspects told the owner of the car that they planned to travel to New York City. The article notes that U.S. officials are “increasingly certain” that the two suspected acted on their own.
► A federal appeals court has reversed the fraud convictions of Albert Robles, a city treasurer, and George Garrido, a local businessman, who had been convicted of colluding to award city contracts to particular companies. The court based the reversal on the decision in U.S. v. Skilling , in which an Enron executive was acquitted of fraud based on the faulty application of the “honest services” theory. In 2010, prosecutors had convicted Skilling under a portion of the mail-fraud statute that makes it illegal to deprive someone of “honest services.” The honest services law was meant to tackle fraud cases in which no party suffered a loss. The idea behind the law was that certain actions, such as a government official colluding to give a contract to a favored constituent, for example, are still illegal even if the government receives fair terms on that service. However, the law does not set out exactly what sort of actions are illegal under the honest services theory. In appealing his conviction under the honest services theory, Skilling argued that he could not be convicted under the statute because it does not clearly state that his actions are illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Skilling, ruling that because most cases under the honest services doctrine involved bribes and kickbacks, the Court determined that the law applies only to bribes and kickbacks. Thus, ruled the Court, Skilling’s conviction on that count must be thrown out. In the current case, U.S. v. Garrido, the court found that it was unclear whether the schemes that the court found to be hatched by Robles and Garrido involved bribery or kickbacks.
► NBC News is reporting that the fertilizer facility that exploded in West, Texas, was storing 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, the same substance used in the attack on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It is unclear whether the ammonium nitrate was the cause of the initial fire. The company that owns the facility failed to disclose the substance as required by the Department of Homeland Security. The company has been cited for safety violations by state and federal regulators over the past several years.