Democrats outraged after the FBI said it got more than 4,500 tips about Brett Kavanaugh – and referred the ‘relevant’ ones to the Trump White House

brett kavanaugh
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • The FBI said it received 4,500 tips in 2018 regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
  • The agency said they only interviewed ten people and that “relevant” tips were passed to Trump’s White House.
  • A group of Democratic senators accused the FBI of ignoring the tip line and are demanding more answers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A group of Democratic senators is asking for more answers after the Federal Bureau of Investigation shared details on its handling of a supplemental background investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee.

Jill Tyson, assistant director of the FBI, said in a letter on June 30 that the agency had received 4,500 tips regarding Kavanaugh and that it turned over “relevant tips” to the White House Counsel, which would have been Don McGahn at the time in 2018. Tyson also said only ten individuals were interviewed, despite thousands of tips.

Tyson’s letter was made public Thursday by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons, who said it was a response to a letter they sent in August 2019 asking for answers about the investigation.

“This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing,” Whitehouse said on Twitter Thursday, taking aim at FBI Director Chris Wray. He said it “confirms my suspicions that the ‘tip line’ was not real and that FBI tip line procedures were not followed.”

Read more: FBI director Chris Wray barely survived the Trump era. Now he’s working with Biden’s attorney general taking on domestic terrorism and probing Trump allies.

“Wray said they followed procedures, he meant the ‘procedure’ of doing whatever Trump White House Counsel told them to do. That’s misleading as hell,” he added.

A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment when reached by Insider. An email sent to the Supreme Court seeking comment on behalf of Kavanaugh did not receive a response.

According to the FBI’s letter, the FBI passed the tips to the White House because that was the entity that requested the supplemental background check on September 13, 2018. The request was prompted by sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh that surfaced around that time. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Tyson said the FBI had already conducted an initial background check that was completed in July 2018 and included interviews with 49 people.

Whitehouse and Coons were joined by Sens. Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, and Cory Booker in requesting more answers from the FBI.

“If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all,” they wrote, saying the agency’s letter confirmed “the FBI was politically constrained by the Trump White House.”

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Matt Gaetz tweeted that the FBI should be defunded, then deleted it. He’s still being probed by the bureau.

Matt Gaetz
Gaetz is still under FBI investigation.

  • Florida congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted that the FBI should be defunded, then deleted it after one minute.
  • A Gaetz spokesperson told Vice that the congressman had made and deleted a “jocular tweet.”
  • The FBI is currently investigating Gaetz to find out if he participated in sex trafficking.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Controversial Florida congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should be defunded, then deleted his tweet a minute later.

“If Democrats want to defund the police, they should start with the FBI,” wrote Gaetz on Wednesday.

The tweet was caught by nonprofit Propublica’s Politwoops, a platform that tracks deleted tweets from politicians.

A Gaetz spokesman told Vice that Gaetz “felt it appropriate to remove a jocular tweet taken from a speech some time ago.”

Calls to defund the police gained traction on social media following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Gaetz has been a vocal critic of the progressive movement, tweeting on June 11 last year that defunding the police made America a “Woketopia.”

The Florida congressman’s calls to defund the police come while he remains under FBI investigation. The agency is looking to find out whether or not he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and broke federal sex trafficking laws.

Most recently, Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty to six charges, including sex trafficking, wire fraud, identity theft, stalking, and conspiracy. Per his plea deal, Greenberg agreed to cooperate with prosecutors on related cases.

Gaetz has been linked to Greenberg, but the congressman vehemently denied the allegations against him and instead accused the Justice Department of attempted extortion. Gaetz has also attempted to deflect said accusations, saying in May that he was “being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors.”

While this ongoing FBI investigation around Gaetz continues, he has launched several salvos at the Bureau. On Newsmax, Gaetz alleged that the FBI had a role in “organizing and participating” in the January 6 Capitol riot.

Gaetz posted on June 17 as well that he was leading the charge from the GOP to “demand transparency on the FBI’s involvement during the January 6 riot.”

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Crippling attacks on US gas and meat suppliers expose the dangers of major companies’ reliance on patchwork cybersecurity

colonial pipeline
  • Recent ransomware attacks on key companies have wreaked havoc on US suppliers and consumers.
  • Cybersecurity experts say that while these firms may be large in scale, they’re not necessarily high-tech.
  • Large companies often have a mosaic of IT systems that can make them vulnerable to attack.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In his Senate testimony during a hearing last week on the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack, CEO Joseph Blount said hackers had penetrated a legacy system that was protected by a single password, rather than multi-factor authentication.

“It was a complicated password – I want to be clear on that – it was not a ‘Colonial123’-type password,” Blount said.

In normal operations, the company, which runs the nation’s largest oil and gas pipeline, uses a more robust authentication process to make remote access more difficult, he added. “We take cybersecurity very seriously.”

But Blount’s testimony also showed that Colonial relies on a variety of different countermeasures to defend its systems – systems that provide more than half the oil and gas consumed by the East Coast. Last month’s ransomware attack on Colonial forced a nearly-week long shutdown of its 5,500 miles of pipeline, causing a ripple effect of gasoline shortages and panic buying across parts of the East Coast.

Colonial is by no means alone. Meatpacking giant JBS was hit with a similar attack, and recently disclosed that it paid $11 million to the hackers. The New York subway system and a Massachusetts ferryboat operator have also recently been targeted.

Indeed, the FBI is now working with more than 90 ransomware victims across a range of critical infrastructure sectors, deputy director Paul M. Abbate said in a press conference on the partial recovery of Colonial’s $4 million ransom payment.

The Wall Street Journal reported that that ransomware incidents have tripled in the past year, according to FBI and reports from the private sector. The chief information security officer for pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, told a WSJ event that her company experiences around 15.5 billion cybersecurity incidents per day.

Experts told Insider that some companies reliance on patchwork cybersecurity systems means there are gaps for hackers to exploit, and that leaves key services and supply chains vulnerable to attack.

“These perpetrators are looking for places where there are sloppy cybersecurity practices,” said Mark Testoni, CEO of SAP’s national security arm, NS2. “Every company has a mosaic of systems, and they might come from a number of manufacturers.”

In other words, a company’s investment in state-of-the-art locks and cameras on its front door could be rendered ineffective if the windows aren’t well-secured too.

Doug Schmidt, a professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University, said the challenge can be especially pronounced when firms acquire or merge with others that continue to depend on legacy systems, like software for a key piece of equipment that will only run on Windows 95.

“A given system may be fairly secure, but when you start connecting it to other systems that it really wasn’t meant to work with, that leaves all kinds of opportunities for neglect, error, and surprise,” he said.

This can be even more problematic in lower-margin, highly consolidated industries like food and some utilities where companies might see cybersecurity more as an expense than an investment, especially for those that don’t perceive themselves to be a target.

“Imagine how it must just be like taking candy from a baby to go and hack these low-margin businesses that are building incrementally, and have very heterogeneous long tails of inadequate, unsecured, chaotic, error-filled legacy information systems,” Schmidt said.

For Testoni, episodes like the recent ransomware attacks underscore the need for a change of mindset among business leaders.

“The most important thing that every company needs to understand is every company is now a technology company,” he said. “They need to think like they’re a technology company, and they have to protect both their digital assets and their physical assets.”

Every incremental improvement helps reduce the overall risk, Testoni said, and will pay dividends later as the world only becomes more heavily networked.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco echoed that sentiment in her remarks on the Colonial ransom case, calling on corporate and community leaders to “invest the resources now.”

“Failure to do so could be the difference between being secure now – or a victim later,” she said.

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The man who got the FBI’s fake messaging app off the ground says pulling off one of the biggest police stings in history wasn’t the only goal

Operation Trojan Shield
The FBI partnered with law enforcement around the world to target suspected drug and gun traffickers with a fake messaging app.

  • Authorities arrested hundreds of suspected criminals after tricking them into using an FBI-controlled chat app.
  • The former prosecutor who oversaw the operation told Insider the sting warned criminals that encrypted technology can’t hide their wrongdoing.
  • He wouldn’t expand on whether extremist groups that organize over encrypted apps should heed the warning, too.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The arrests of more than 800 suspected drug and gun traffickers last week in one of the biggest police stings in history wasn’t the only goal of the FBI developing a fake encrypted chat app for criminals, according to the former prosecutor in charge of the operation.

The FBI partnered with law enforcement around the world to get 12,000 devices loaded with a fake encrypted messaging app into the hands of suspected criminals – and then read every word. Monitoring the FBI-controlled app, called ANOM, gave law enforcement an opportunity to learn the inner workings of transnational drug and firearms trafficking organizations.

Andrew Young, the former assistant US attorney who oversaw Operation Trojan Shield, told Insider a primary goal of the operation was to send a message to suspected criminals that encrypted technology will not protect them.

“Building the evidence on all these other people, and all the arrests and the seizures, and certainly the murders that were prevented was incredible,” Young said. “But one of the main goals was actually sort of that public relations goal: to show that the FBI is willing and able to do something like this, and that there’s no reason to think they aren’t doing it now or again.”

Young wouldn’t expand on whether domestic extremist groups that organize over encrypted apps, like the Boogaloo Bois and Proud Boys, whose members have been tied to the January 6 insurrection, should interpret Operation Trojan Shield as a sign the FBI could be monitoring their communications.

“That’s harder for me to say just because I’m not in their minds and I don’t know what they think, or what they intend to do, or what they should do to be better at what they’re trying to do,” Young said.

“I think what they should take from this is that law enforcement is not just going to sit back and say, ‘This isn’t a solvable problem so we just can’t do anything about it at all,'” he added. “There’s creative people and innovative people within the government and within law enforcement who are trying to solve these problems, and they’re going to continue to work at it regardless of whatever platform they have.”

Cocaine was shopped in tuna cans, Operation Trojan Shield
Drug traffickers hid cocaine in tuna cans while shipping it internationally, the FBI learned through Operation Trojan Shield.

How one of the biggest police stings in history got its start

Young was the Justice Department’s lead prosecutor on the ANOM case until August 2020, when he left to take a job at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg. He told Insider how what began as a investigation into a small-time gambling ring morphed into one of the biggest police stings in history.

“One of the best achievements of this entire operation was that it never got out,” Young said, given that more than a dozen nations participated.

The case got its start when investigators looking into the organizer of a gambling ring in 2015 realized the man was actually making most of his illegal proceeds from drug trafficking, according to Young. The man kept the gambling and drug businesses siloed, and used an encrypted communications device to be especially secretive when it came to the trafficking, he said.

That led the Justice Department to set its sights on Phantom Secure, a company they believed was creating encrypted devices and marketing them toward criminal enterprises that used them to freely share details about their operations. In 2018, Vincent Ramos, the chief executive of Phantom Secure, pleaded guilty to leading a criminal enterprise that facilitated the transnational importation and distribution of narcotics. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

At that time, Young’s team considered using the Phantom Secure technology for wiretaps, but he said it fell through.

“Then we were at the stage where you can just shut everything down and move on to something entirely different, or think, ‘Is there something left here to do?'” Young said. “That’s around the time we were presented with a device and the opportunity to have a covert operation. That was the early, early stage of the idea.”

After overcoming the logistical and bureaucratic obstacles to getting the operation off the ground both in the US and in Australia, Young’s team learned through the FBI-controlled app how criminal enterprises communicate and ship illegal drugs internationally – often times by hiding it in shipments of food items, like hollowed-out pineapples or tuna cans.

Information gleaned from the app had led to the arrests of more than 800 people in Australia and across Europe as of last week, according to the FBI and Europol. In addition to the drugs, law enforcement also seized 55 luxury vehicles and more than $48 million in various currencies as part of the operation, Europol said in its release.

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Tucker Carlson baselessly claims ‘FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol,’ his latest whitewashing of Jan. 6

Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson.
Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson.

  • Fox News’ most watched host now refers to the January 6 insurrection with air quotes.
  • In his latest segment whitewashing the riot, Carlson said the FBI was behind it.
  • Carlson’s entire baseless claim hinged on assuming the unindicted co-conspirators are feds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In his most severe rewriting of history on the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson baselessly claimed the riot was organized by the FBI.

“They were almost certainly working for the FBI, so FBI operatives were organizing the attack at the Capitol on January 6, according to government documents,” Carlson said without showing said documents.

Carlson, the most watched host on Fox News, was referring to the latest indictments handed out in the FBI’s investigation of the siege.

His claim relies solely on assuming that anyone listed anonymously as an “unindicted co-conspirator” must have been an FBI agent. Carlson went even further to claim the agents plotted the attack, implying it may not have happened without them.

Carlson also referred to a fringe conservative media post from Revolver News that contains a list of questions for FBI Director Christopher Wray, purportedly deducing a conclusion on an FBI setup when there is no evidence to support one.

“It turns out that this ‘white supremacist insurrection’ was – again, by the government’s own admission in these documents – organized by government agents,” Carlson said, raising the tone of his voice to convey that he was not serious in describing January 6 as a white supremacist insurrection.

He played a clip from Wray’s testimony on Capitol Hill where he said the FBI is focused on getting “better sources, better information, better analysis” from white supremacist groups to prevent another insurrection from happening.

Although Carlson kept referring to “government documents,” he did not show any on screen.

Fox News did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on whether any of the network’s journalists have been able to verify Carlson’s claim.

Rather than showing the indictments or background information on undercover sourcing in federal investigations, Carlson relied on the Revolver post and citing his usual “they,” a cabal of government and media elites looking to deceive his viewers.

“That’s a line, and the FBI has crossed it,” Carlson said before accusing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of playing a “victim” because the plot to kidnap her was “a farce” and “insulting” because it involved FBI informants and under cover agents.

“So if you’re wondering why they are always comparing January 6th to 9/11, there’s your answer,” Carlson said. “They’re using the same tactics.”

Carlson then called for the officer who shot unarmed rioter Ashli Babbitt to be arrested.

His guest was Darren Beattie, the author of the Revolver News post who described it as “the most important and the darkest investigative piece they’ve seen in years,” based on what people have told him, and that the late Babbitt deserves answers.

Beattie did not present any evidence to support his claims on air.

“After seeing all of this, you have to ask yourself, does the national security apparatus do anything but conspire against the American people?” Beattie said. “I’m led to conclude that we cannot have a democracy – everything in our politics will be fake and performative until we bring the national security sate, including the FBI, to heel.”

In court, Fox’s lawyers have argued that no “reasonable viewer” would ever take what Carlson says seriously.

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Suspected drug traffickers organized cocaine-stuffed shipments of tuna cans, pineapples, and bananas over a messaging app secretly run by the FBI

Cocaine was shopped in tuna cans, Operation Trojan Shield
Suspected drug traffickers hid cocaine in tuna cans while shipping it internationally, the FBI learned through Operation Trojan Shield.

  • The FBI and its partners duped international criminal organizations with a fake encrypted messaging app.
  • The FBI reviewed more than 20 million messages from suspected criminals using the app.
  • The messages show accused drug traffickers stuffing shipments of tuna cans, bananas, and pineapples with cocaine.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The FBI reviewed more than 20 million messages as part of an international sting operation announced Tuesday that duped suspected criminals into using an encrypted chat app controlled by the agency.

Agents learned through those conversations some of the more creative ways that overseas drug traffickers try to move product, which include stuffing drugs into boxes of bananas, hollowed-out pineapples, and tuna cans.

The FBI said informants provided suspected criminal organizations around the world with 12,000 devices equipped with the FBI-controlled messaging app, which is called ANOM. Operation Trojan Shield, as it’s called, gave law enforcement an opportunity to learn the inner workings of international drug and firearms trafficking organizations.

Court documents first reported by Motherboard’s Joseph Cox show just how closely law enforcement was able to monitor suspected criminals’ plans through an app they were made to believe was secure. The documents include examples of the “criminal conversations” the FBI reviewed.

The court documents quote two people identified by the usernames Ironman and Real G who used the ANOM app in May 2020 to discuss how they would transport drugs between Colombia and Hong Kong. Ironman told Real G that there was no corrupt official at the Hong Kong port to clear a shipment, and asked how the cocaine would be shipped.

In response, Real G sent a photo of packages of suspected cocaine and said it would be shipped in crates of bananas.

Banana shipment, Operation Trojan Shield
Cocaine is sometimes trafficked in banana shipments.

“They cover this with a layer of banana,” the user said, according to the court documents.

The court documents show that in October 2020, an organization arranged to transport cocaine from Ecuador to Belgium in a shipping container hidden among cans of tuna. US agents who worked in Brussels searched the container alongside local police and found 613 kilograms of cocaine inside, and an additional 1,523 kilos of the drug were found in a different container headed to Antwerp, according to the documents.

In April 2021, the FBI learned that a criminal organization was planning to ship cocaine from Ecuador to Spain using a container filled with refrigerated fish, according to the documents. Law enforcement from Spain searched the container when it arrived into the Port of Algeciras and found 1,401 kilos of cocaine.

A month later, the FBI and law enforcement in Spain intercepted a shipment to the same port and found 1,595 kilos of cocaine stuffed into hollowed-out pineapples, according to the documents.

pineapple. Operation Trojan Shield
Drug traffickers shipped cocaine in hallowed-out pineapples, the FBI said.

“The conversations detailed above are a small sample set pulled from more than 20 million messages that FBI reviewed of Anom’s criminal users,” FBI Special Agent Nicholas I. Cheviron wrote in a court document seeking a search warrant for Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. “From those messages, more than 450,000 photos have been sent detailing conversations on other encrypted platforms discussing criminal activity, cryptocurrency transactions, bulk cash smuggling, law enforcement corruption, and self-identification information.”

Those communications included alleged “plots to kill, mass drug trafficking and gun distribution,” Australian police said in an announcement Tuesday.

Information gleaned from the app ultimately led to the arrests of 800 people in Australia and across Europe, according to the FBI and Europol. In addition to the drugs, law enforcement also seized 55 luxury vehicles and more than $48 million in various currencies as part of the operation, Europol said in its release.

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The FBI recovered a huge chunk of the Colonial Pipeline ransom by secretly gaining access to Darkside’s bitcoin wallet password

The bitcoin logo is seen on a smartphone screen device in front of a computer screen that says "cancelled. "
The FBI managed to gain access to the “private key” of a bitcoin wallet that the hacking group Darkside used to collect its ransom payments.

The Department of Justice announced Monday that it had recovered a majority of the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline to hackers who shut down its operations last month and caused massive fuel shortages and price hikes.

The DOJ said that it had recovered $2.3 million worth of bitcoin out of the $4.4 million ransom that Colonial had paid to Darkside, the group behind the hack.

How did the government pull it off?

The FBI had what was effectively the password to a bitcoin wallet that Darkside had sent the ransom money to, allowing the FBI to simply seize the funds, according to the DOJ.

‘Following the money’

Despite cybercriminals’ increasingly sophisticated use of technology to commit crimes, the DOJ said it used a time-tested approach to recover Colonial’s ransom payment.

“Following the money remains one of the most basic, yet powerful tools we have,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in the DOJ’s press release.

Colonial was hacked by Darkside on May 7, and alerted the FBI that same day, according to the DOJ.

On May 8, with its operations knocked offline and amid an emerging gas crisis, Colonial opted to pay the ransom (much to the chagrin of government crimefighters who were simultaneously trying to shut down the hack).

Colonial told the FBI that Darkside had instructed it to send 75 bitcoin, worth about $4.3 million at the time, according to an affadavit from an FBI special agent involved in the investigation.

The FBI agent then used a blockchain explorer – software that lets users search a blockchain, like bitcoin, to determine the amount and destination of transactions – to figure out that Darkside had tried to launder the money through various bitcoin addresses (similar to bank accounts), according to the affadavit.

Eventually, through the blockchain explorer, the FBI agent was able to track 63.7 bitcoin to a single address that had received an influx of payments on May 27.

Fortunately for the FBI, according to the agent’s affadavit, the agency had the private key (effectively the password) for that very address.

Bitcoin addresses rely on a two-key encryption system to keep transactions secure: one public and one private. The public key is shared openly so anybody can send money to that address. But once the sender has encrypted their payment with the recipient’s public key, only the recipient’s private key can decrypt and gain access to that money.

That’s why private keys are meant to be closely held secrets, stored in a secure place. As of January, $140 billion in bitcoin – around 20% of existing bitcoin – were held in wallets where people had forgotten or lost their private keys.

In Darkside’s case, the FBI managed to gain access to its public key, and after getting a seizure warrant from a federal court, the agency used the key to access Darkside’s address and swipe 63.7 bitcoin, or around $2.3 million.

The FBI didn’t say how it had managed to obtain the key, but said it sent a warning to other potential ransomware hackers.

“Ransom payments are the fuel that propels the digital extortion engine, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the United States will use all available tools to make these attacks more costly and less profitable for criminal enterprises,” Monaco said in the release.

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The FBI reported nearly 4.7 million background checks for gun purchases in March, revealing a record number of firearms sales in the US

Walmart guns
  • Background checks for guns hit a record in March 2021, the FBI reported.
  • Close to 4.7 million background checks were conducted, a 77% increase compared to March 2019.
  • Experts told CNN, fear during the pandemic and social unrest is fueling a rise in gun ownership.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations reported close to 4.7 million background checks for new gun purchases in March, the largest on record since the FBI began tracking them 20 years ago, revealing a record number of firearms sales in the US.

The figure is a 77% increase compared to March 2019. The agency conducted over a million more background checks in March 2021 compared to March 2020, which also saw a record number of gun sales.

The New York Times previously reported in March 2020, a record number of Americans were buying guns due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“We attribute it mainly to the virus scare,” Larry Hyatt, who owns a gun store in North Carolina and saw a record number of sales at the time told the Times.

Hyatt told The Times he’s seen similar influxes of people buying guns in the past.

“People have a little lack of confidence that if something big and bad happens, that 911 might not work. We saw it with Katrina,” Hyatt said. “People haven’t forgotten that a disaster happened, and the government didn’t come.”

Months with the highest number of FBI background checks like March, June, July, and December show months where there was political or social unrest.

CNN reported there’s a record number of first-time gun buyers, like Robin Armstrong who told the outlet the current instability in the country made her want to buy firearms.

“We’ve also seen, in times of civil unrest, that we see people go out and say that they need to protect themselves,” Jack McDevitt, a criminology professor and the director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University told CNN. “So they’re going to buy guns to protect themselves.”

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A Venezuelan ring is accused of stealing over $800,000 worth of stimulus checks during the pandemic

US dollars
  • The Miami Herald reported a Venezuelan ring is accused of stealing over $800,000 in stimulus checks.
  • The FBI has been investigating the ring since January, which was also charged with identity theft.
  • Biden has not yet said if more stimulus checks are on the way amidst calls from Democrats urging him to do so.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Since the start of the pandemic, the government has distributed three rounds of stimulus checks to Americans in order to help prompt economic and financial recovery. But a ring of Venezuelans might have prevented hundreds of people from receiving those checks.

The Miami Herald reported on Wednesday that Venezuelans living in South Florida and Mexico have stolen over $800,000 in stimulus checks since the start of the pandemic, according to federal authorities. The feds have so far charged Jesus Felipe Linares Andrade for conspiring to steal government money, along with identity theft, and prosecutors in South Florida said Linares could have as many as four other “co-conspirators.”

Linares was arrested in May and pleaded not guilty after being caught in an undercover FBI operation in which he, and his conspirators, stole checks in South Florida and Mexico and created fake IDs to correspond with the names of actual US taxpayers.

According to the Herald, an FBI informant met with one of the conspirators in January to discuss cashing about 30 stimulus checks totaling to $36,000. Then, in April, Linares met with two FBI informants to make arrangements to pick up a package with 416 more stimulus checks worth about $249,000.

The meetings continued through April and eventually totaled to over $800,000 in stolen stimulus payments.

“During the meeting [in April], Linares placed an envelope in the vehicle containing over $150,000 in stolen U.S. Treasury checks and over 30 identification documents,” the affidavit wrote. “The identification documents consisted of copies of driver’s licenses, including Florida driver’s licenses. Some of the names on the driver’s license matched the names on the checks.”

Linares is being held without bond.

Although President Joe Biden has not yet announced whether more stimulus checks are en route, studies have shown that the benefits of stimulus checks are significant, with two more checks having the ability to lift an additional 12 million Americans out of poverty.

And a growing number of Democrats are pushing for recurring stimulus payments to sustain economic recovery from the pandemic.

“The pandemic has served as a stark reminder that families and workers need certainty in a crisis,” House Democrats wrote in a letter. “They deserve to know they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. They should not be at the mercy of constantly shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”

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Gun and ammunition sales are booming as firearm background checks surge, and the CEO of Vista Outdoor says millennials and women are leading the charge

GettyImages 1226350705
  • Gun and ammunition sales are skyrocketing as the US begins to reopen and pandemic restrictions ease.
  • In March, the FBI received more firearm background checks than any other month on record.
  • Vista Outdoor’s CEO said younger generations are helping drive a spike in ammunition sales.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gun and ammunition sales are surging as the country begins to reopen from the pandemic.

In 2020, the FBI processed a record 39.7 million firearm background checks – the most of any year since the agency started recording the data. This year, data indicates there could be another record set, with firearm background checks up over 30% from this time last year.

Vista Outdoor, a company that manufactures ammunition and outdoor sports and recreation equipment, told Fox Business that it has seen heightened interest in firearms and ammunition in recent months.

While the pandemic drove people outdoors, and even as restrictions on indoor gatherings are easing, people continue to express interest in outdoor activities like hunting. In March, the FBI received about 4.7 million firearm background checks – more than ever recorded in a single month.

New demographics have begun to express interest in firearms, Vista Outdoor CEO, Chris Metz, said. Vista Outdoor added 8 million new people to its hunting and shooting categories in 2021 – most of which have been younger generations, as well as women and people of color.

Meltz attributes the interest to a shift toward outdoor activities, especially hunting, in the wake of the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen these trends before. More millennials, more younger-generation people, more people of color, women are embracing hunter and field to table movements, filling their freezers with fresh meat, embracing safety and self-resiliency,” Metz told Fox Business. “It has created this structural shift in who is entering the market and using the product, which is really exciting for us.”

Earlier this month, Vista Outdoor reported that sales increased 40 percent in the company’s fourth quarter ending March 31 compared to the same quarter last year.

Overall, the pandemic seems to have given new life to recreational hunting. The Washington Post reported earlier in the year that states known for wildlife hunting, including Michigan and Nevada, saw a 67% and 30% hike, respectively, in registrations for new hunting licenses in 2020 as compared to 2019. Of the new hunters, women and younger generations make up the fastest growing groups, the publication reported.

Hunting licenses and rifles are not the only types of firearms seeing an uptick in interest. In the past four months, nearly 16 million people have initiated firearm background checks.

Firearm background checks are not required to receive a hunting license, but they are required for any gun purchase. The background checks are not a direct representation of the number of guns sold. The data includes checks related to concealed carry permits and suppressor sales, in addition to gun sales. However, they are considered a key indicator of sales in the US, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

In January alone, the number of people looking to become first time gun owners more than doubled from the previous January, according to the FBI data.

Historically, gun sales rise during presidential election years because of fears related to possible new gun regulations. Gun sales skyrocketed after President Obama’s election in 2008.

Experts told Insider’s Kate Taylor that the rise in gun sales in 2020 was driven by three major events: the coronavirus pandemic, protests following the death of George Floyd, and the presidential election.

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