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News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

SparkCognition, one of the world’s fastest growing AI companies, is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. David Asher to its executive team. Asher joins as Executive Vice President of Strategy. He brings extensive experience in the financial world, both as a hedge fund strategist and as the architect of financial intelligence and operational programs for the US government. With a unique background in both security and securities, Asher helped pioneer the use of big data, machine learning, and network analysis in pursuit of some of the biggest counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, and counter threat finance programs and initiatives in US history. Based on his experience in government, Asher believes artificial intelligence, specifically that developed by SparkCognition, has the power to counter critical threats, fight crime, and make the world safer. Asher is also helping expand SparkCognition AI into the commercial financial sector. Over the last twenty years, Asher has worked for and advised some of the biggest and most successful asset managers and global hedge funds. He has helped spearhead recent client engagements at SparkCognition, applying patented artificial intelligence to quantitative trading, strategy identification, and research, while also leading the development of proprietary AI capabilities to automate and bring down the costs of compliance, sanctions screening, and anti-money laundering processes, which have become huge costs incurrences for financial institutions. SparkCognition CEO, Amir Husain said, “I have known David for years, followed his work, and been in awe of the things he has made happen, or prevented from happening. He lives at the interaction of finance and intelligence and knows how to harness technology to support both. I am extremely pleased that David is now a part of the SparkCognition team.” Amir continued, “This makes us stronger in our efforts to apply our artificial intelligence solutions for cyber security, to help protect the financial industry, and to help industrial businesses decrease downtime, grow profits, and augment the talents of their most experienced employees.” Dr. Asher has earned a reputation as a global expert on counter threat finance priorities, such as the identification and pursuit of illicit financing and facilitation schemes, money laundering, and trafficking. For more than twenty years, Asher has been an advisor to US government Departments and agencies, including SOCOM, CENTCOM, DEA, CIA, and the Departments of Defense, Treasury, State, and Justice. He has advised such organizations, and others, on finance issues and international finance overall, especially in Asia, and the Middle East. Prior to joining SparkCognition, Asher was managing partner at Vital Financial, advising two of the world’s premier hedge funds on Asia, Middle East energy, and global macro strategy. He continues to serve as Chairman of Sayari Analytics, focused on the AML/CFT space for financial institutions. Asher is also an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS, http://www.cnas.org) and a board member of the Center for Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (http://defenddemocracy.org/about-fdd/team-overview/csif-advisor/). Asher graduated from Cornell University, studied at the London School of Economics, and received his doctorate in International Relations from the University of Oxford. He spent two years as a postgraduate researcher at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. “The AI revolution will transform finance and security markets in a profound way,” said Asher. “SparkCognition is figuring out how to use AI to fight crime and to make the world safer. I’m proud to be part of this incredible team. Artificial intelligence, decision-making, and information assessment at machine scale will change everything. From delivering cognitive anti-money laundering systems and intelligent financial surveillance systems, to hyper-innovative financial market trading capabilities, SparkCognition is building what no human strategist could discern, let alone process – true human intelligence at machine scale.” SparkCognition has established itself as an artificial intelligence technology leader with event prediction for business-critical solutions in place for customers in energy, oil and gas, manufacturing, and finance, including the London Stock Exchange Group. About SparkCognition SparkCognition is a global leader in cognitive computing analytics. A highly awarded company recognized for cutting-edge technology, SparkCognition develops AI-Powered cyber-physical software for the safety, security, and reliability of IT, OT, and the IIoT. The company’s technology is capable of harnessing real time sensor data and learning from it continuously, allowing for more accurate risk mitigation and prevention policies to intervene and avert disasters. In less than three years since launching its solution, the company has acquired dozens of major clients, including multiple Fortune 100 and Fortune 1,000 organizations. For more information on the company, its technology and team, please visit http://www.sparkcognition.com.


WOBURN, Mass., Feb. 22, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Aphios® Corporation today announced that it is spinning-off Aphios® Pharma to develop FDA-approved, cannabis-based drugs for treating highly unmet Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders such as opioid addiction, epilepsy including childhood epilepsy and multiple sclerosis that are only partially and anecdotally addressed by medical marijuana.  Opioid addiction has grown to epidemic proportions.  Current statistics indicate that heroin overdoses have more than tripled over the last four years.  Between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide with an estimated 2.1 million people in the US reporting substance abuse disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers with an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin.  Apart from the enormous burdens on the individuals, families and communities, the US economic burden is significant amounting to an estimated $78 billion annually.  All current FDA approved opioid addiction drugs including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are themselves opioids, and have formulation, delivery and treatment challenges.  Dr. Trevor P. Castor, President and CEO, Aphios® Pharma points out that “Fortunately, medical marijuana and its non-psychotropic component, cannabidiol (CBD) also impact opioid receptors and have been shown, both scientifically and anecdotally, to be potential anti-addiction therapeutics for the growing opioid epidemic.” However, there is insufficient rigorous clinical evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids for opioid addiction and other significant CNS disorders, and a lack of availability of pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids to conduct rigorous clinical trials.  These studies must also be conducted in the strict regulatory environments of both the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  According to Dr. Castor, “We will resolve these issues by manufacturing cannabinoids using proprietary and patented supercritical carbon dioxide and co-solvent extraction and chromatographic purification technologies following current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) of the US FDA.  We will accomplish these activities in a DEA Schedule I facility following cGMP guidelines of the US FDA to establish rigorous clinical evidence of drug safety and efficacy.” From a drug development perspective, cannabinoids are very hydrophobic (poorly water soluble) making their formulation difficult and bioavailability poor.  Cannabinoids are also very sensitive to oxygen and unstable, leading to inconsistencies in therapeutic performance.  Dr. Castor explains that “Aphios® Pharma will resolve these issues by nanoencapsulating cannabinoids in biodegradable polymer nanospheres using proprietary and patented supercritical fluid technologies to significantly improve cannabinoids stability as well as bioavailability and therapeutic efficacy.” Aphios® Corporation is a clinical stage biotechnology company developing green enabling technology platforms to improve drug discovery, manufacturing, nanotechnology drug delivery and pathogenic safety and, enhanced therapeutic products to improve quality-of-life and treat chronic diseases. Research related to this press release is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R44DA038932.  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: globenewswire.com

MALVERN, Pa., March 02, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Recro Pharma, Inc. (NASDAQ:REPH), a revenue generating specialty pharmaceutical company focused on products for hospital and ambulatory care settings, currently developing non-opioid products for the treatment of serious acute pain, today announced that Gerri Henwood, the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will present at the following upcoming investor conferences: Live and archived webcasts of the presentations will be available on the Presentations page of the company’s website at http://recropharma.com. Recro Pharma is a revenue generating specialty pharmaceutical company focused on products for hospital and other acute care settings that is currently developing non-opioid products for the treatment of serious acute pain. Recro Pharma is currently developing IV meloxicam, a proprietary, long-acting preferential COX-2 inhibitor for treatment of acute post-operative pain, which has completed four successful Phase II clinical trials in post-operative pain conditions and two pivotal Phase III efficacy trials and today has reported completion of enrollment in its remaining Phase III study. An additional development candidate, Dex-IN, a proprietary intranasal formulation of dexmedetomidine, is being pursued for the treatment of peri-procedural pain, and has had a past successful Phase II trial in Bunionectomy. As Recro Pharma’s product candidates are not in the opioid class of drugs, the Company believes would avoid many of the side effects associated with commonly prescribed opioid therapeutics, such as addiction, constipation and respiratory distress, while maintaining analgesic effect. Recro Pharma also owns and operates a 97,000 square foot, DEA-licensed facility that manufactures five commercial products and receives manufacturing revenues and royalties associated with the sales of these products. Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for the Company, including statements about the Company’s strategy, future operations, clinical development plans and other statements containing the words "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "upcoming," "plan," "target", "intend," "expect" and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including: results and timing of the clinical trials of injectable meloxicam; unfavorable new clinical data and additional analyses of existing clinical data; the ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval of injectable meloxicam, and the labeling under any such approval; regulatory developments in the United States and foreign countries; the Company’s ability to raise future financing for continued development and payment of milestones; the Company’s ability to pay its debt; the performance of third-party suppliers and manufacturers; the Company’s ability to obtain, maintain and successfully enforce adequate patent and other intellectual property protection; the successful commercialization of injectable meloxicam and other factors discussed in the Risk Factors set forth in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and in other filings the Company makes with the SEC from time to time. In addition, the forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the Company’s views only as of the date of this press release. Important factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated or implied by forward-looking statements, and as such we anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we specifically disclaim any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release.


News Article | February 27, 2017
Site: globenewswire.com

MALVERN, Pa., Feb. 27, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Recro Pharma, Inc. (Nasdaq:REPH), a revenue generating specialty pharmaceutical company focused on products for hospital and other acute care settings, currently developing non-opioid products for the treatment of serious acute pain, today announced completion of enrollment for its double-blind Phase III safety study evaluating the safety and tolerability of intravenous (IV) meloxicam (N1539) following major surgery.  In this multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, over 700 patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to receive a postoperative regimen of IV meloxicam (30mg bolus injection) or placebo in a 3:1 ratio, once every 24 hours for up to 7 doses following a variety of major elective surgical procedures, including total hip and knee replacements, hernia repair, and spinal, colorectal, and other major surgeries. “This is an important milestone in the clinical development of IV meloxicam, and marks the completion of enrollment in the third Phase III trial in Recro’s lead development program,” said Gerri Henwood, Recro Pharma’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to plan to file a New Drug Application (NDA) filing in the summer of 2017.” Meloxicam is a long-acting, preferential COX-2 inhibitor that possesses analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activities, which are believed to be related to the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX) and subsequent reduction in prostaglandin biosynthesis. IV meloxicam was designed using NanoCrystal® platform, a technology that enables enhanced bioavailability of poorly water-soluble drug compounds. Recro Pharma is a revenue generating specialty pharmaceutical company focused on products for hospital and other acute care settings that is currently developing non-opioid products for the treatment of serious acute pain. Recro Pharma is currently developing IV meloxicam, a proprietary, long-acting preferential COX-2 inhibitor for treatment of acute post-operative pain, which has completed four successful Phase II clinical trials in post-operative pain conditions and two pivotal Phase III efficacy trials and today has reported completion of enrollment in its remaining Phase III study. An additional development candidate, Dex-IN, a proprietary intranasal formulation of dexmedetomidine, is being pursued for the treatment of peri-procedural pain, and has had a past successful Phase II trial in Bunionectomy. As Recro Pharma’s product candidates are not in the opioid class of drugs, the Company believes would avoid many of the side effects associated with commonly prescribed opioid therapeutics, such as addiction, constipation and respiratory distress, while maintaining analgesic effect. Recro Pharma also owns and operates a 97,000 square foot, DEA-licensed facility that manufactures five commercial products and receives manufacturing revenues and royalties associated with the sales of these products. Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for the Company, including statements about the Company’s strategy, future operations, clinical development plans and other statements containing the words "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "upcoming," "plan," "target", "intend," "expect" and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including: results and timing of the clinical trials of injectable meloxicam; unfavorable new clinical data and additional analyses of existing clinical data; the ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval of injectable meloxicam, and the labeling under any such approval; regulatory developments in the United States and foreign countries; the Company’s ability to raise future financing for continued development and payment of milestones; the Company’s ability to pay its debt; the performance of third-party suppliers and manufacturers; the Company’s ability to obtain, maintain and successfully enforce adequate patent and other intellectual property protection; the successful commercialization of injectable meloxicam and other factors discussed in the Risk Factors set forth in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and in other filings the Company makes with the SEC from time to time. In addition, the forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the Company’s views only as of the date of this press release. Important factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated or implied by forward-looking statements, and as such we anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we specifically disclaim any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

In this photo released by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, and taken on Oct. 21, 2016, a sample of carfentanil is being analyzed at the DEA’s Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Va. China is adding the deadly elephant tranquilizer carfentanil and three related synthetic opioids to its list of controlled substances effective March 1, China's National Narcotics Control Commission said Thursday. (Russell Baer/U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration via AP) SHANGHAI (AP) — So deadly it's considered a terrorist threat, carfentanil has been legal in China— until now. Beijing is banning carfentanil and three similar drugs as of March 1, China's Ministry of Public Security said Thursday, closing a major regulatory loophole in the fight to end America's opioid epidemic. "It shows China's attitude as a responsible big country," Yu Haibin, the director of the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee, told the Associated Press. "It will be a strong deterrent." He added that China is actively considering other substances for sanction, including U-47700, an opioid marketed as an alternative to banned fentanyls. China said the March 1 ban will also apply to carfentanil's less-potent cousins furanyl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl and valeryl fentanyl. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called China's move a potential "game-changer" that is likely to have a big impact in the U.S., where opioid demand has driven the proliferation of a new class of deadly drugs made by nimble chemists to stay one step ahead of new rules like this one. After China controlled 116 synthetic drugs in October 2015, seizures in the United States of compounds on that list plunged. "It's a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States," said Russell Baer, a DEA special agent in Washington. "We're persuaded it will have a definite impact." Legally used as an anesthetic for elephants and other large animals, carfentanil burst into the North American drug supply last summer, causing hundreds of unsuspecting drug users to overdose. The DEA confirmed more than 400 seizures of carfentanil across eight U.S. states from July through October. So lethal an amount smaller than a poppy seed can kill a person, carfentanil was researched for years as a chemical weapon and used by Russian forces to subdue Chechen separatists at a Moscow theater in 2002. New data from DEA laboratories suggests the supply of furanyl fentanyl is now surging. DEA labs identified 44 samples of furanyl fentanyl in the last three months of 2016, up three-fold from the prior quarter. Though Beijing has said U.S. assertions that China is the top source of fentanyls lack evidence, the two countries have deepened cooperation as the U.S. opioid epidemic intensifies. Beijing already regulates fentanyl and 18 related compounds, even though they are not widely abused domestically. Since 2016, China has arrested dozens of synthetic drug exporters, destroyed eight illegal labs and seized around 2 tons of new psychoactive substances, according to the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee. But the battle against rapidly evolving synthetic drugs is complicated by the deeply global nature of the narcotics trade and the deeply national nature of law enforcement. Some online drug vendors host their websites on servers abroad to thwart police. All benefit by submerging their illicit packages in the vast tides of legitimate commerce shipped or sent by courier from China. One example of the kind of global coordination needed to take down synthetic drug barons is the case of Zhang Lei, whom the U.S. Treasury Department designated a drug kingpin in 2014. China shared 4,221 clues with 58 countries and areas in the hunt for Zhang, Chinese drug control authorities said Thursday. Zhang was sentenced to 14 years in Chinese prison last year, according to one of his lawyers, Fan Renzhong. In October, the AP identified 12 Chinese companies willing to export carfentanil around the world for a few thousand dollars a kilogram (2.2. pounds), no questions asked. That same month China began evaluating whether to ban carfentanil and the three other drugs. Usually, the process can take nine months. This time, it took just four. Good international cooperation and effective early warning systems to track the emergence of novel drugs helped speed the process, Chinese drug control officials said Thursday. China's action is "a hopeful sign of political and strategic law enforcement cooperation," said Jeremy Douglas, a regional representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Bangkok. "But having legislation is a first step. The law will need to be enforced effectively." Offers for carfentanil from Chinese vendors were scarce Thursday, but the AP quickly secured five offers to export furanyl fentanyl to the United States. Some vendors also pushed U-47700. "One news I just got is that the carfentanil and furanyl fentanyl etc opioid analogs will be controlled in China on March 1 effective," one vendor called Ete wrote in an email. "So if you need them pls make it before that day. After that day it will be unavailable." The vendor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AP. Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report from Shanghai.


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Law enforcement agents, for better or worse, will use whatever data they can get their hands on. In 2013, the FBI shut down TorMail, a privacy-focused email service hosted on the so-called dark web. Shortly after, the bureau started rummaging through the seized data for other criminal, albeit unrelated, investigations. It turns out, the Drug Enforcement Administration is using TorMail data too. According to court records unearthed by Motherboard, the DEA successfully requested the contents of a TorMail user's inbox for a dark web drug trade investigation. The DEA did obtain a warrant and the FBI provided the data. While not malicious, the move highlights that digital evidence obtained by one part of the US government may be shared with other agencies too. In other words, the agency that collects the data may not always be the one that actually uses it. "I believe that users of Tor Mail e-mail accounts may disclose identifying details such as names, addresses, phone numbers, billing or subscriber information, travel records or confirmations, other open Internet online account names such as e-mail, social networking or website registration accounts, or other information that may assist law enforcement in identifying the actual users of the TARGET ACCOUNT," reads a December 2015 affidavit written by Jared Gabbay, a DEA task force agent. Specifically, Gabbay was investigating a drug dealer on AlphaBay, one of the largest dark web marketplaces. "Canadasunshine" is a vendor who sold various illegal substances, including ketamine, alprazolam—more commonly known as Xanax—and synthetic cannabis. Canadasunshine had been operating for years, it seems, and Gabbay dug up the vendor's previous profile on the original Silk Road. Included in the dealer's page was the email address canadasunshine@tormail.org. Judging by Canadasunshine's private messages on the Silk Road, which Gabbay analysed, the vendor had used their TorMail address to communicate with customers away from the marketplace. Naturally, this is where searching Canadasunshine's TorMail account comes in. But Gabbay can't just go and search through all of the seized data himself; instead, a team consisting of FBI personnel or contractors who are not part of the investigation would retrieve the data related to Canadasunshine and pass it over, according to the affidavit. "Only Tor Mail e-mail server data pertaining to TARGET ACCOUNT will be accessed by the administrative team and provided to the investigative team," Gabbay writes. Gabbay requested all emails associated with the account, attachments, and some pieces of metadata such as the date an email was sent. Although a judge granted Gabbay's request, and the search warrant was returned as executed a week later, it's not clear how useful this information was for any investigation into Canadasunshine: the DEA does not appear to have announced an arrest of the vendor, at least under that pseudonym. According to records on AlphaBay, the last time a customer left feedback for Canadasunshine was in September 2016. Canadasunshine was last active on the site in December, and did not respond to a request for comment. "Anyone seen or heard from him?" one user on the DarkNetMarkets sub-Reddit wrote a few months ago.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: hosted2.ap.org

(AP) — China is adding the deadly elephant tranquilizer carfentanil and three related synthetic opioids to its list of controlled substances effective March 1, China's National Narcotics Control Commission said Thursday. The move closes a major loophole in the global regulation of a substance so lethal it has been used as a chemical weapon and described as a terrorist threat. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called China's action a potential "game-changer" that is likely to reduce supply of key chemicals driving a surge of overdoses and deaths among unsuspecting drug users in North America. After China controlled 116 synthetic drugs in October 2015, seizures in the United States of compounds on that list plunged. "It's a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States," said Russell Baer, a DEA special agent in Washington. "We're persuaded it will have a definite impact." China has emerged as an important source country for opioids like carfentanil, which burst into public view last summer when it appeared in the North American drug supply. Dealers cut fentanyls into heroin and other drugs to boost profit margins. Beijing has taken a precedent-setting approach to regulation, even controlling chemicals, like fentanyls, that are not widely abused domestically. Chinese drug enforcement authorities have described the synthetic drug threat as a "world-wide problem" and urged "all countries to strengthen the control of new psychoactive substances and work on decreasing demand." Beijing already regulates fentanyl and 18 related compounds. China said it is also placing carfentanil's less-potent cousins furanyl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl and valeryl fentanyl under control. All are prevalent in the U.S. drug supply, Baer said. The DEA confirmed more than 400 seizures of carfentanil across eight U.S. states from July through October. Ohio was hardest hit. In October, The Associated Press identified 12 Chinese companies that offered to export carfentanil around the world for a few thousand dollars a kilogram (2.2. pounds), no questions asked. That same month China began evaluating whether to add carfentanil and the three other fentanyls to its list of controlled substances. Usually, the process can take nine months. This time, it took just four. Both the DEA and U.S. State Department have pressed China to make carfentanil a controlled substance. Though Beijing has said U.S. assertions that China is the top source of fentanyls lack evidence, the two countries have been deepening cooperation as the U.S. opioid epidemic intensifies. U.S. opioid demand is driving the proliferation of a new class of deadly synthetic drugs, made by nimble chemists to stay one step ahead of new rules like this one. As soon as one substance is banned, others proliferate. After Beijing tightened its focus on fentanyls late last year, the AP documented how Chinese vendors began to actively market alternative opioids , like U-47700. "We don't think their scheduling actions will end with just these four," Baer said. Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report from Shanghai.


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Restek has expanded its selection of cannabinoid-related reference standards by adding cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). This 1,000 ppm standard is DEA-exempted, so there’s no need to purchase costly neat materials or to make your own standards, and it is prepared in acetonitrile, which helps maintain stability by preventing methylation of the carboxylic acid group on the molecule. Paired with Restek’s THC standards, it is efficient for the analysis of both neutrals and acids in cannabis products by LC and is a must for accurate quantification in medical cannabis potency testing and strain ID. Restek Corp. www.restek.com, 814-353-1300


News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, right, speaks at a news conference in Baltimore, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, to announce that seven Baltimore police officers who worked on a firearms crime task force are facing charges of stealing money, property and narcotics from people over two years. Standing alongside Rosenstein is Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) BALTIMORE (AP) — The Latest on seven Baltimore police officers charged with racketeering conspiracy (all times local): U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says his office has quietly dropped five criminal cases brought by Baltimore police officers charged with a racketeering conspiracy. The officers are charged with robbery, extortion and overtime fraud, and are accused of stealing money and drugs from victims, some of whom had not committed crimes. Rosenstein said he was unable to notify the state's attorney's office of the federal investigation until Wednesday. But he says he's confident that local prosecutors will now review more cases involving the arrested officers. Seven Baltimore police officers who worked together on a firearms crime task force are charged with stealing money, property and narcotics from people over two years. According to a news release Wednesday from the U.S. attorney's office, the officers were on the police department's Gun Trace Task Force in 2015 and 2016. However, five of the seven are accused of committing some of the crimes earlier in 2015, before they joined the task force. Four of the officers worked together on another police unit before joining the task force. They're accused of stealing money in amounts ranging from $200 to $200,000. The officers have been indicted, arrested and suspended without pay. Seven Baltimore police officers are charged with operating a racketeering conspiracy in which they allegedly stole and extorted money from people. One of the officers is also charged with dealing drugs. In a news release Wednesday announcing the indictments and arrests of the officers, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says the case "is not about aggressive policing, it is about a criminal conspiracy." The police department says the officers are suspended without pay. In the news release, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis says the officers' crimes "erode trust with our community." He says that "reform isn't always a pretty thing to watch unfold," but vowed it would continue "in our journey toward a police department our city deserves." Federal prosecutors say seven Baltimore police officers have been arrested on charges of racketeering, including allegedly robbing people, filing false affidavits and making fake claims for overtime. A news release Wednesday morning from the U.S. attorney's office says one officer also is charged with drug distribution. Police spokesman T.J. Smith says the officers are suspended without pay. The U.S. attorney, the FBI, the DEA and Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis plan to discuss the charges at a late-morning news conference.


News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017 file photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks in Washington. Federal authorities are stepping up investigations at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers due to a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions or unauthorized drug use by VA employees since 2009, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities are stepping up investigations at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers due to a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions or unauthorized drug use by VA employees since 2009, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff at federal hospitals — the vast majority within the VA system — siphoned away controlled substances for their own use or street sales, or drugs intended for patients simply disappeared. Aggravating the problem is that some VA hospitals have been lax in tracking drug supplies. Congressional auditors said spot checks found four VA hospitals skipped monthly inspections of drug stocks or missed other requirements. Investigators said that signals problems for VA's entire network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics, coming after auditor warnings about lax oversight dating back to at least 2009. "Drug theft is an area of concern," Jeffrey Hughes, the VA's acting assistant inspector general for investigations, told AP. He said the monthly inspections could help the VA uncover potential discrepancies and root out crime. Both the inspector general's office and the Drug Enforcement Administration said they have increased scrutiny of drug thefts from the VA, with the DEA reporting more criminal investigations. It's not clear if the problem is worse at the VA than at private facilities, where medical experts and law enforcement officials say drug theft is also increasingly common in a time of widespread opioid abuse in the U.S. But the VA gets special scrutiny from lawmakers and the public, given Americans' esteem for ex-servicemembers served by the agency and because of past problems at the VA, especially a 2014 wait-time scandal in which some patients died. "Those VA employees who are entrusted with serving our nation's wounded, ill and injured veterans must be held to a higher standard," said Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars. The drug thefts will be among the challenges facing newly confirmed VA Secretary David Shulkin, who served as the department's undersecretary of health while the drug problem was growing. At his confirmation hearing this month, Shulkin said he was proud that the VA identified the opioid addiction problem before others did and "recognized it as a crisis and began to take action." Still, the VA acknowledges it has had problems keeping up with monthly inspections and said it was taking steps to improve training. It also said it was requiring hospitals to comply with inspection procedures and develop plans for improvement. It did not respond to AP requests made three weeks ago to provide a list of VA facilities where drugs had been reported missing or disciplinary action was taken, saying it was still compiling the information. Reported incidents of drug losses or theft at federal hospitals jumped from 272 in 2009 to 2,926 in 2015, before dipping to 2,457 last year, according to DEA data obtained by AP. "Federal hospitals" include the VA's more than 1,100 facilities as well as seven correctional hospitals and roughly 20 hospitals serving Indian tribes. The inspector general's office estimates there are nearly 100 open criminal probes involving theft or loss of VA controlled substances. Three VA employees were charged this month with conspiring to steal prescription medications including opioids at the Little Rock, Arkansas, VA hospital. The inspector general's office says a pharmacy technician used his VA access to a medical supplier's web portal to order and divert 4,000 oxycodone pills, 3,300 hydrocodone pills and other drugs at a cost to the VA of $77,700 and a street value of $160,000. Christopher Thyer, the U.S. attorney overseeing the case, said the employees were abusing their position to steal from taxpayers and "poison the communities we live in with dangerous drugs." The drug thefts from VA also raise the possibility that patients will be denied medication they need or that they will be treated by drug-impaired staff. In one case, a former VA employee in Baltimore pleaded guilty on charges that he injected himself with fentanyl intended for patients heading into surgery, then refilled the syringes with saline solution. Patients received solution tainted with the Hepatitis C virus carried by the employee. Dr. Dale Klein, a VA pain management specialist, said some of his patients suspected they weren't getting the drugs they needed, including one patient with an amputated leg who had to do without morphine because a VA pharmacy said it did not have enough in supply. Klein, who is part of a whistleblowers network called VA Truth Tellers, ran a VA pain clinic from 2015 to 2016 and has filed a retaliation claim against VA, saying the VA restricted his work after he voiced complaints. The VA has said it was looking into the claims. Klein described several of VA's inventory lists as inconsistent or a "slapdash rush job." That concern was underscored by the findings from the Government Accountability Office, released last week, that drug stockpiles were not always being regularly inspected. Klein's attorney, Natalie Khawam, says she's heard similar complaints from other clients at their VA hospitals. The GAO review, covering January 2015 to February 2016, found the most missed inspections at VA's hospital in Washington, D.C., according to a government official familiar with confidential parts of the audit. Monthly checks were missed there more than 40 percent of the time, mostly in critical patient care areas, such as the operating room and intensive care units. That adds to the risk of veterans not receiving their full medications. The Washington hospital also missed inspections of the facility's pharmacy for three straight months, violating VA policy, according to the official, who insisted on anonymity to reveal findings that weren't public. In the last year, the hospital had at least five incidents of controlled substances that were "lost" or otherwise unaccounted for, according to the DEA. Other problems were found in VA hospitals in Seattle, Milwaukee and Memphis, Tennessee. Milwaukee had the fewest, which the GAO attributed to a special coordinator put in place to ensure inspection compliance. Responding to the findings, the House Veterans Affairs Committee planned a hearing on the inspection issue. Its chairman, Rep. Phil Roe, a physician, said failing to follow protocol is serious and "should not be tolerated within VA." For more news videos visit Yahoo View, available now on iOS and Android.

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