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FBI Upgrades Animal Cruelty To A Felony

Posted by: James Lautner, Senior Cats Editor on April 7, 2015 in Editors Choice, News 10885402_1027032530656996_5962253481430927823_n

A report from WMC Action 5 FBI Raises Animal Cruelty to Top Tier Crime reports on how animal cruelty has been raised to a crime against society at the same level as arson, burglary and kidnapping.

A Huffington Post article more fully explains the implications of this:

Young people who torture and kill animals are prone to violence against people later in life if it goes unchecked, studies have shown. A new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help root out those pet abusers before their behavior worsens and give a boost to prosecutions, an animal welfare group says.

For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse under the label “other” along with a variety of lesser crimes, making cruelty hard to find, hard to count and hard to track. The bureau announced this month that it would make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category — the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.

“It will help get better sentences, sway juries and make for better plea bargains,” said Madeline Bernstein, president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and a former New York prosecutor.

The category also will help identify young offenders, and a defendant might realize “if he gets help now, he won’t turn into Jeffrey Dahmer,” she said.

Law enforcement agencies will have to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse, the FBI said in statement. The bureau didn’t answer questions beyond a short statement.

Unfortunately, it will be January 2016 before this vital data on animal cruelty will even start to be collected – apparently it takes that long to put all the necessary systems in place.

This change of status is clearly a step in the right direction in the battle against animal cruelty. It seems to us that legislators still have much work to do in order to make a real difference.

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http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/april/public-corruption-in-indian-country/public-corruption-in-indian-country

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Home • News • Stories • 2015 • April • Public Corruption in Indian Country

Public Corruption
FBI Agent Helps Protect His Native American Community

04/07/15

When Special Agent Jeff Youngblood helped convict a corrupt public official from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma last year who was demanding bribes and kickbacks from contractors bidding on tribal construction projects, he felt more satisfaction than usual bringing a criminal to justice. That’s because Youngblood is Native American and a member of the Choctaw tribe.

“My dad was born and raised in this area, and Oklahoma is where I was born and raised,” said Youngblood, who is assigned to the FBI’s Oklahoma City Division and works in the southeastern part of the state that is home to the Choctaw Nation.

“There aren’t many Native Americans who are special agents,” he said, “and I have yet to meet any that are working in Indian Country and are enrolled members of the tribe where they work. I think mine is a unique situation.”

It’s a situation Youngblood embraces. The Durant Resident Agency, where he is stationed with one other agent, has responsibility for a six-county area that covers much of the Choctaw Nation. With a large casino resort complex in Durant—located only an hour’s drive from Dallas, Texas—the tribe is a major economic driver in the region, and many residents depend on it for their livelihood.

When Youngblood received a tip regarding improprieties by the executive director of construction for the tribe, he began to investigate. He soon discovered that Jason Merida was running a classic “pay to play” system, shaking down contractors for cash, trips, vehicles, guns, and other items in return for lucrative construction projects.

“If he didn’t get what he wanted, you weren’t going to get the job,” Youngblood said. Some of the contractors who paid bribes to win contracts then padded their invoices, Youngblood noted, “which cost the tribe additional money.”

Merida was indicted in February 2014 and charged with conspiracy to commit theft or bribery from programs receiving federal funds, theft by an employee or officer of a tribal government receiving federal funds, money laundering, and tax fraud.

Testimony at trial in November 2014 revealed that Merida and others submitted and approved false invoices from subcontractors, allowing Merida to steal more than $500,000 in funds from the Choctaw Nation. He was found guilty on a variety of theft charges and is currently awaiting sentencing.

“Through interviews, analysis of bank records, and other investigative techniques, we were able to identify a lot of assets that were fraudulently given to Merida,” Youngblood said. “There was an excessive waste of the tribe’s money because of a few people’s greed.” And as the investigation went on, Youngblood realized that he, too, was a victim.

“I understood what all that money could have been used for—maybe to help with my children’s education or the educational needs of other members’ children or many other worthy tribal causes,” he said. “So much good could have been done with that money.”

He added that “a lot of honest companies got squeezed out” because they didn’t pay to play, “and those companies’ employees have families that live here in Southeastern Oklahoma, and they were robbed of an opportunity to have gainful employment because of these individuals.”

Youngblood believes this investigation should send a message—“not only here in the Choctaw Nation but for all the tribes in the region: If you’re going to do work for the Indians, it better be honest and done fairly. If not, we will find you and we will prosecute you.”

Resources:
– Press release
– More on the FBI’s role in Indian Country