Justice Department Cautions Business Community Against Violating Antitrust Laws in the Manufacturing, Distribution, and Sale of Public Health Products

The Department of Justice today announced its intention to hold accountable anyone who violates the antitrust laws of the United States in connection with the manufacturing, distribution, or sale of public health products such as face masks, respirators, and diagnostics.  The department’s announcement is part of a broader administration effort to ensure that federal, state, and local health authorities, the private healthcare sector, and the public at large are in the strongest possible position to respond to the outbreak of the respiratory disease named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people during this crucial time,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “I am committed to ensuring that the department’s resources are available to combat any wrongdoing and protect the public.”

Individuals or companies that fix prices or rig bids for personal health protection equipment such as sterile gloves and face masks could face criminal prosecution.  Competitors who agree to allocate among themselves consumers of public health products could also be prosecuted.  The department’s recently announced Procurement Collusion Strike Force will also be on high alert for collusive practices in the sale of such products to federal, state, and local agencies.

Anyone with information on price fixing, bid-rigging, market allocation schemes, or other anti-competitive conduct should call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

DOJ Charges Unprecedented Number of Elder Fraud Defendants Nationwide and Launches Hotline

Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale today announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.  This year, prosecutors charged more than 400 defendants, far surpassing the 260 defendants charged in cases as part of last year’s sweep.  In each case, offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors.  In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused alleged losses of over a billion dollars.

Attorney General Barr made the announcement at an event in Florida entitled “Keeping Seniors Safe,” which outlined his vision for protecting older Americans from financial harm.  The event focused special attention on the threat posed by foreign-based fraud schemes that victimize seniors in large numbers.  During the event, the Attorney General declared “Prevention and Disruption of Transnational Elder Fraud” to be an Agency Priority Goal, making it one of the Department’s four top priorities.

“Americans are fed up with the constant barrage of scams that maliciously target the elderly and other vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “This year, the Department of Justice prosecuted more than 400 defendants, whose schemes totaled more than a billion dollars.  I want to thank the men and women of the department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which coordinated this effort, and all those in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and Criminal Division who worked tirelessly to bring these cases.  The department is committed to stopping the full range of criminal activities that exploit America’s seniors.”

“The charges announced today demonstrate the great success of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to identify and stop those who are targeting our senior communities from overseas,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.  “We’re committed to continuing our efforts to keep our elderly citizens safe, whether they’re being targeted door-to-door, over the phone, or online.”

“Every day, American consumers, particularly older Americans, receive offers that sound just too good to be true,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.  “Some come through the mail; others by telephone or the Internet.  These offers have one objective – to rob you of your hard-earned money.  Fraud costs Americans millions of dollars each year.  The good news is most frauds can be prevented.  It’s one of the few crimes in which potential victims can just say “No!”  So hold on to your money and report scams to Postal Inspectors.”

This interactive map provides state by state information on the elder fraud cases and education and prevention community outreach efforts highlighted by today’s sweep announcement.  


Attorney General Barr also announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud.  The Hotline will be staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers.  Case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed.  When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.  The Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).


The Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force prosecuted more than one quarter of the defendants charged as part of the announced sweep.  Established in June 2019, the Strike Force is composed of the department’s Consumer Protection Branch and six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas), along with FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel.  Prosecutors in Strike Force districts brought cases against more than 140 sweep defendants.  FBI and the Postal Inspection Service served as lead agencies in the Strike Force and committed substantial investigative resources to pursuing elder fraud cases as part of Strike Force efforts.  The Strike Force has held dozens of meetings with industry, victim groups, and law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels to identify the most harmful schemes victimizing American seniors and to bolster preventive measures against further losses.  


U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in every federal district took part in the Elder Fraud Sweep announced today.  Many federal prosecuting offices filed cases against perpetrators and/or facilitators of elder fraud.  Others conducted outreach to law enforcement, community groups, seniors, or private industry.  Other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices demonstrated exceptional devotion to the cause of elder justice by both filing cases and conducting outreach.

For the second year, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners also took comprehensive action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud.  Generally, perpetrators use a “money mule” to transfer fraud proceeds from a victim to ringleaders of fraud schemes who often reside in other countries.  Some of these money mules act unwittingly, and intervention can effectively end their involvement in the fraud.  The FBI and the Postal Inspection Service took action against over 600 alleged money mules nationwide by conducting interviews, issuing warning letters, and bringing civil and criminal cases.  Agents and prosecutors in more than 85 federal district participated in this effort to halt the money flow from victim to fraudster.  These actions against money mules were in addition to the criminal and civil cases announced as part of this year’s elder fraud sweep.

In addition to announcing the sweep cases, Attorney General Barr and others at the Keeping Seniors Safe event also thanked department personnel — especially the Elder Justice Coordinators app​​ointed in each U.S. Attorney’s Office — for conducting dozens of outreach events across the nation to warn seniors of fraud schemes and to engage with industry representatives and state and local authorities on fraud-prevention measures.  These outreach efforts have helped to prevent seniors from falling prey to scams and have frustrated offenders’ efforts to obtain even more money from vulnerable elders.

The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Youth Seat Belt Enforcement Campaign Kicks Off Soon

Seat Belt Check!

Going somewhere? Make sure you’re buckled up and hold others accountable to buckle up as well. Every trip. Every time.

Law enforcement will be cracking down on unbelted drivers during this campaign March 15 – 31.

Under the Graduated Driver License Law, teens from age 15-18 are required to wear their seat belt and it’s a primary offense if they don’t, meaning they can be pulled over solely for not wearing their seat belt.

Based on the 2018 seat belt survey, teen use in Missouri is only 74 percent, much lower than state (87 percent) and national (91 percent) seat belt use.

Missouri has seven schools with a seat belt usage rate of 50 percent or less and 30 schools with a rate of 60 percent or less.


100 Percent of teen impaired drivers killed in 2017 were unbuckled.

688 Teens were killed or seriously injured in crashes in 2017.

42 Percent – The amount a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury.

70 Percent of teen vehicle occupant fatalities were unbuckled in 2017.

Three schools from the Missouri Coalition for Safety Central District were recently given awards for their exceptional participation in the “It Only Takes One campaign. Eugene High School and Calvary Lutheran High School had 100% Buckle Up participation from staff and students and Iberia High School had over 95% Buckled Up. Each school participated in Safety Belt checks unknown to those coming into the lots more than twice during the campaign. Each school received a Certificate of Completion, a $500 Safety Grant and a Banner to proudly hang in their gym.

Missouri High Court Weighs Life Sentences for Older Teens

Missouri Supreme Court​

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against mandatory life sentences for juveniles should also apply to older teenagers, a Missouri man imprisoned for killing his grandparents at age 19 argued to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

David Barnett, a suburban St. Louis man who now is 43, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the 1996 murders.

His public defender, Rosemary Percival, told Missouri Supreme Court judges during arguments that Barnett had poor impulse control because his brain was still developing at that time.

She said if a judge or jury was able to weigh his age, the “horrific” physical and sexual abuse he suffered as a child and other factors, they would give him a less harsh sentence.

“At the stroke of midnight on the defendant’s 18th birthday, life without parole becomes mandatory with no consideration of the defendant’s character or circumstances,” she told judges. “There’s no middle ground.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that teens should be treated differently to adult offenders at sentencing because they’re less mature, prone to manipulation and capable of change. The court found that all but the rare juvenile lifer whose crime reflects “permanent incorrigibility” should have a chance to argue for freedom one day.

Percival told Missouri Supreme Court judges that the same arguments apply to older teenagers.

“The understanding of adolescent development is that nothing magical happens on one’s 18th birthday,” said Josh Rovner, a senior advocacy associate at The Sentencing Project. “So there’s been a great deal of discussion about the proper response to 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds and even older.”

The Sentencing Project is a Washington-based nonprofit that opposes sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

Missouri is one of just five states — along with Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas — that begins adult court jurisdiction at age 17 rather than 18.

But Missouri and Michigan have enacted laws that will raise the adult court age to 18 starting in 2021. Missouri’s law is contingent on the Legislature appropriating money to provide the expanded juvenile services.

The issue of when teenagers and young adults should have a chance to argue for leniency based on their age could ultimately fall to Missouri lawmakers. Several Missouri Supreme Court judges on Wednesday questioned whether it’s their role to overturn mandatory life sentences for older teens, or if it’s up to the state Legislature to change the law.

Judge Laura Denvir Stith told Barnett’s attorney that she made sound arguments on changing the policy, but asked: “Is it unconstitutional, as opposed to a policy?”

An attorney for the state argued that it should be left to the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the age cutoff for mandatory sentences.

Judges did not indicate when they might rule.​​

By Summer Ballentine | Associated Press /News Tribune

Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.

Auditor Galloway Pursues Answers for Missourians about Offender Giveaways

Taxpayers and law enforcement deserve information on funding of Department of Corrections’ rewards program for offenders

State Auditor Nicole Galloway today said her office is demanding answers from the Missouri Department of Corrections on concerns related to the Missouri Offender Management Matrix. The program provides incentives to offenders who are on probation and parole.

Local law enforcement and taxpayers have expressed repeated concerns related to this program and how incentives such as gift cards, vouchers and passes to local attractions are being funded. Multiple media outlets have reported on the issue and the Department has failed to adequately answer these inquiries and explain details of this program.      

“As the state’s independent watchdog, I want answers to basic questions about this program’s funding sources and operations,” Auditor Galloway said. “Taxpayers and local law enforcement deserve to know about the cost of handing out these incentives to offenders. To date, the Department of Corrections has been unable or unwilling to be fully transparent with Missourians.”

The State Auditor’s Office is requesting information on the funding source of the program, the total numbers of incentives disbursed to date, the system for monitoring and tracking incentives, and the amount of taxpayer-funded staff time required for administering the program.  

Read the complete letter here.

Meth Labs Down in Missouri, Meth Smuggling is Up

A recent Associated Press report said although there has been a consistent decline in meth production in Missouri, the smuggling of the drug from Mexico has increased leaving federal and local agencies struggling to contain the movement. (File)

A recent Associated Press report said although there has been a consistent decline in meth production in Missouri, the smuggling of the drug from Mexico has increased leaving federal and local agencies struggling to contain the movement.

Sheriff Chris Heitman with the Maries County Sheriff’s Office said his office personally has seen the decrease in mid-Missouri m​​eth labs but an increase in drug trafficking.

“Thank God meth labs have went down because when I first started in Maries county, we had 19 meth labs and for a small rural county that s a lot of meth labs when we first took over and that was back in 2009,” Heitman said. “We didn’t have any meth labs last year. We need more officers on the street to help intercept a lot of that drug trafficking that’s going on now.”

As sheriff of a rural county, Heitman said there are challenges that come with needing more manpower to tackle new issues.

“Rural counties you know, we don’t have the funding that these larger counties have,” Heitman said. “Every time we have another task to take on, that’s less time we get to focus on our victim crimes, which is our top priority.”

Heitman attributes The decrease in meth labs to productive changed made by law enforcement and elected officials.

“I contribute that a lot to lawmakers changing the Sudafed law and things of that nature that made it hard for cooks to get the products they need to manufacture,” Heitman said.

Though the decrease in locally produced meth is making it more difficult for criminals to get their hands on the deadly drug, the trafficking from South America, and mainly Mexico, has federal and local law enforcement working overtime.

“It is a lot harder for them now,” Heitman said. “There’s no question law enforcement is taking a great stance in reducing the amount of drug trafficking going on.”

According to the Associated Press, Thursday the DEA announced a methamphetamine crackdown called Operation Crystal Shield, which will focus on eight “transportation hubs” where high levels of Mexican meth are being seized. The St. Louis Division, which covers all of Missouri and Kansas as well as southern Illinois, is the northernmost of the eight targeted areas.
​By Gladys Bautista​ | KRCG​

Missouri Racks up $32 Million in County Jail Bills

The state owes Missouri counties more than $32 million for housing and transporting inmates who end up going to state prison. Missouri’s tab has been a problem for years, but the amount has grown in recent years by a significant amount. In October 2017, Missourinet reported the state was about six months behind in paying its county jail bills with an overall $19 million dollar deficit.

The shortfall stems from Missouri being the only state in the country that repays counties for part of the daily local jail cost – about $22 – to house prisoners who eventually head to state prison. The average daily local jail cost in Missouri is around $50.

The state House Subcommittee on County Prison Per Diem Reimbursement is trying to find ways to shrink the overall cost the state is piling on. The solutions vary among state elected officials as to how to reduce the financial gap.

During a hearing today, Representative Don Mayhew, R-Crocker, says the state needs to pay its bills.

“I don’t know how we got in this position in the first place, but now we’ve got to get ourselves out of it.”

Several county officials attended to speak about the matter. A couple of them said their counties could not get away with falling behind on their bills and neither should the state.

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill says the state owes his county is about $1 million.

“Boone County is dependent upon sales tax for almost 70% of its total revenue,” says Atwill. “For the last five years, that has not increased but our population has increased in that same five-year period by 10,000 residents. We’re in a budgetary squeeze and this is a big part of it. So, we need your help.”

Atwill says Boone County relies on the state tremendously to fill this void.

“The buck doesn’t stop here in Boone County,” says Atwill. “We’re at ground level. We’re the earthworms of government and a lot of things roll downhill to us that we just have to deal with and this is one of them. It wouldn’t be so bad if this were the only thing that we were dealing with.”

Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker says the state owes his county about $400,000.

“We are just underway completing a $35 million jail expansion in Franklin,” he says. “We have a jail with capacity right now – a maximum of 130 that we’ve stuffed 217 in it in a given day.”

Calloway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungerman says the state owes his county about $328,000 from at least the past year.

“Right now, the fear is we’re going to lose it all. We can’t lose it all,” he says. “We’re willing to sit down and talk about the situation and try to figure some things out, but to say that it’s gone is not the correct answer because it’s going to cause many jails to shut down probably.”

Jungerman says the daily cost increases if his jail is short staffed and overtime is needed. Rising utility, meals and healthcare costs also jack up the price. Jungerman says the rising costs are felt by other Missouri jails, not just his.

“We’re booking about 2,800 people a year through our lovely hotel,” he says. “There are many counties across the state in the last few years that have run bond issues because of jail issues. I can’t speak for all those counties, but they passed. But I’ll speak for Callaway County. The general public, the voters of our counties, still believe that criminals need to be in a jail.”

The Department of Corrections gets a set amount of money each quarter to dole out to counties. When the money is out, counties must wait until the next quarter for the chance at getting what they are owed.

Alisa Nelson | Missourinet  

Bond Rules Get Testy Hearing in Missouri House

Even lawmakers who support the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent overhaul of its pretrial release rules appeared disturbed by how those rules have been implemented.

The House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 18 took testimony on a bill that would rescind the rule changes the court put in place on July 1. A parade of law enforcement officials in support of the bill told the committee the new rules have caused failure-to-appear warrants to soar and allowed defendants accused of serious but non-violent crimes to be released almost immediately without having to post bond.

Clark County Sheriff Shawn Webster, one of five county sheriffs who spoke, said a man arrested at a house a block from a middle school was “home 25 minutes later” despite having a felony record, several weapons and a bag of crystal meth.

“He didn’t have to bond out,” Webster said. “That’s nuts.”

Both Republican and Democratic members of the committee seemed aghast at the testimony. But while some members favored throwing out the rules, others said local judges appear to be misreading them.

“I agree with you, as I think that everyone on this panel does — that is nuts,” said Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis and an attorney, in response to the Clark County sheriff. But, she added: “This is an issue about educating judges.”

The new rules require judges to impose the “least restrictive condition or combination of conditions” needed to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court and protect public safety. In his state of the judiciary speech in 2019, then-Chief Justice Zel M. Fischer said the rule changes would “ensure those accused of crime are fairly treated according to the law, and not their pocket books.”

But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis and a former O’Fallon police officer, took issue both with the substance of the court’s rules and the way they were put in place.

“We did not get an opportunity to have this discussion because it was effectively legislated by the Supreme Court through their rulemaking process,” he said at the hearing.

Hill had vowed to file the bill last year in the wake of a shooting at a Kansas City, Kansas, bar that killed four people and injured five others. One of the suspects had several pending felony charges in Missouri, but a Jackson County circuit judge had allowed him to remain free prior to trial without having to post bond.

“I’m for criminal reform. However, we’ve gone too far — or the court has gone too far,” Hill said. Earlier this session, Hill sent a letter signed by 80 legislators urging the Supreme Court to undo the rule changes.

Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said decisions on bond should be left with local judges.

“We advocate for leaving bail and conditions of release a level playing field, with no presumptions for or against,” he said.

Several of the sheriffs said that if defendants are released after they are arrested without having to post a cash bond, there are no bond agents to ensure the defendants’ appearance in court when their cases are tried. Scott Lewis, sheriff of St. Charles County, said he’s seen a 30 percent increase in failure-to-appear warrants since July.

“There’s no incentive to show up to court,” he said. “We’re spending our manpower and our transportation costs driving around the state and driving around the United States bringing these people back to St. Charles County.”

Wayne Winn, the sheriff in Scotland County, said that, under the court’s current rules, even a man who set fire to a house and then trashed the jail during booking was released on a signature bond.

“Everything he could get ahold of he destroyed. He was out the next day because it did not meet [the definition of] a violent crime,” Winn said.

Mitten, however, pointed to language in the rule that allows judges to consider the defendant’s “character and mental condition,” which she argued should have given the judge plenty of latitude to keep such a defendant in jail.

No judges testified. But Patricia Churchill, a registered lobbyist for the Supreme Court, said judges still are able to set a cash bond if they find the situation warrants it.

“This is not meant to limit in any way the discretion of the judges,” she said, citing a letter from the task force that crafted the rules. Churchill didn’t take a position on the bill itself.

Several groups spoke in favor of keeping the new rules in place. In written testimony, the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said the court’s rules “are by no means perfect.”

“However, it seems imprudent to haphazardly line through them rather than engage in a constructive process to address specific concerns and adjust the rules to more adequately meet Missouri’s needs,” the organization said. MACDL’s statement notes that bill would undo not only “the heart of the rules changes” concerning the financial status of the defendant but also seemingly useful and noncontroversial items, such as a provision that allows hearings to be conducted by teleconference.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri urged lawmakers to retain the requirement that a defendant’s initial court appearance occur within 48 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays. Reverting to the old rule’s standard of “as soon as practicable” could leave defendants in jailed for “weeks,” said Monica Del Villar, a lobbyist for the ACLU.

But Rep. Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty, an attorney who otherwise defended the new rules, pressed D​​el Villar for evidence of such a scenario, which he said was “not realistic.”

“Missouri judges aren’t holding people for several weeks without a bond hearing,” he said.

The bill is HB 1937.

By: Scott Lauck | Missouri Lawyers Media​  https://molawyersmedia.com/  

Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Canceling Bail Rules

Missouri lawmakers are maneuvering to potentially cancel bail rules that have been in place for less than a year.

The rules were established by the Missouri Supreme Court, but not endorsed by the legislative or executive branch.

“One of the ranking Democrats was trying to take the position that the rules were fine and the judges could do, you know, everything else they thought they could do before,” Jeff Clayton, the director of the American Bail Coalition, said. “And there were six uniformed elected sheriffs that came and said, ‘No, that just isn’t the case.’”

Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, filed legislation to end bail rules put into place less than a year ago.

The Missouri House Judiciary Committee hosted a hearing on Tuesday in which proponents and opponents of canceling the rules testified.

Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett was not one of the sheriffs who testified, but he told News-Press NOW that he’s noticed a change since the rules were put in place last July.

“A lot of offenders we’ve seen don’t show up to court on the court date,” Puett said. “So we’ve seen a huge increase in failure to appears, so they are not showing up for court.”

The rules require local judges to consider non-monetary release conditions for defendants before considering financial ones.

Clayton has advocated for lawmakers to amend the law so that low dollar “nuisance” bonds are removed. He argues bonds set by judges should either be substantial enough to guarantee defendants’ appearances in court or defendants should be released on their own recognizance.

According to Clayton, a vote on the bill to cancel the rules is expected within a few weeks.

The measure does not require the governor’s signature. The Missouri Constitution allows the legislature to cancel Supreme Court rules with a majority vote in both houses.

By Matt Hoffmann | News Press Now newspressnow.com

Missouri Sheriffs Frustrated with ‘Catch and Release’ Policy

Sheriffs in Northeast Missouri are speaking out about an issue they’re calling a major issue for law abiding citizens in the state.

They said probation and parole is getting out of control, allowing criminals to keep offending.

“He was given a suspended execution of sentence and was put on probation,” said Ralls County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ronald Haught.

Deputy Haught said Jeramie Charlton could’ve spent 10 years behind bars for burglary and tampering with a vehicle.

Instead, he got 5 years probation.

Deputy Haught said that probation allowed Charlton to offend again.

On Tuesday, he was involved in a car chase that started in a New London, Missouri Casey’s parking lot.

Haught said the chase damaged multiple police cruisers and a citizen’s vehicle, putting at least 8 lives at stake.

He said it’s a recurring problem.

“We will arrest somebody, in cases of the past where they would have a fairly significant bond or we would be able to put them in jail and hold them for the public safety aspect of it, now we bring them in, we fingerprint them, and we release them,” said Deputy Haught.

The Missouri Sheriff’s Association President, Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, said this isn’t just an issue in Northeast Missouri, but state-wide.

“What we’re seeing is what we believe is a real risk to public safety, there are horror story after horror story throughout the state of these offenders who are released,” said Sheriff Parrish.

He said because of things like the Justice Reinvestment Act, criminals can often spend only a few months for years of sentences.

Sheriff Parrish said just this week, he met with lawmakers in Jefferson City to ask for changes.

“We would like to see the local judges, local prosecutors, have more say in the amount of time that these folks are serving,” said Sheriff Parrish.

WGEM News has reached out to state and local probation and parole offices multiple times this week, they did not respond at news time.

By Frank Healy | WGEM News