Insider Signal - 2021.08

Laundering stolen funds through an adult website, spy for China embedded in CIA and FBI, selling discarded military equipment, youth director accused of sexually abusing teens, and other summaries.

Accountant Stole $13 Million, Laundered Funds Through Adult Website

Ralph Puglisi, 59, an accountant at the University Medical Service Association, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Southern Florida, pleaded guilty to stealing almost $13 million and laundering most of it through his stepson's fiancée’s adult website, mygirlfund.com. Puglisi, of Palm Harbor, Florida, allegedly arranged for the fiancée to keep 40 percent of the funds spent on the site and return 60 percent to him.

Analysis Highlights

  • Puglisi made the illicit charges on two company credit cards while working as an accounting manager for UMSA.

  • Puglisi had 22,000 interactions with the adult website, including 2,800 visits to his stepson's fiancée’s profile over two years.

  • As a result of the ongoing fraud, UMSA's internal auditor was fired, as was Puglisi's supervisor.

  • No one detected Puglisi’s actions until leaders at USF Health questioned rising costs.

Deeper Analysis

  • A deeper investigation revealed Puglisi used two Vanilla Visa gift cards, one for $8.9million and another for $2.5million, to launder the money.

  • The scheme, which lasted six years, succeeded because Puglisi had exclusive control of UMSA's credit card programs.

  • A report prepared by consulting firm Protiviti found that Puglisi had sole authority to create new credit card accounts, adjust spending limits, control card access, and close accounts.

  • In his plea agreement, Puglisi admitted that he concealed credit card charges that actually paid for personal rent payments, home renovations, travel, and other expenses.

  • Puglisi made false journal entries indicating that the illicit charges were valid business expenses.

  • According to the Tampa Bay Times, UMSA lacked antifraud protocols.

  • Annual audits failed to detect the scheme.

  • UMSA says it has since stiffened antifraud controls, including upgrading financial reporting systems.

Sources & Additional Information


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CIA Officers Arrested On Suspicion of Leaking Information to China

The FBI arrested Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, for allegedly conspiring with a relative who also was a former CIA officer to leak Top Secret classified information to Chinese intelligence officials. A naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong, Ma worked for the CIA from 1982 to 1989, after which he moved to Shanghai. He moved to Hawaii in 2001, where he got a job as a contract linguist at the FBI's Honolulu Field Office, translating classified Chinese documents. That position gave him the opportunity to provide valuable information to Chinese authorities.

Analysis Highlights

  • According to court documents, beginning with a meeting in Hong Kong in March 2001 and lasting a decade, Ma and his relative conspired with each other and Chinese intelligence officials to convey classified national defense information.

  • At the Hong Kong meeting, Ma and his colleague provided information to the foreign intelligence service about the CIA’s personnel, operations, and methods of concealing communications.

  • Part of the Hong meeting was caught on video, including a scene where Ma receives $50,000 in cash in exchange for intelligence.

  • Over the following six years, Ma regularly copied, photographed, and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as “SECRET.”

  • Ma provided documents and images to his Chinese handlers during his trips to that country.

  • Ma would return from China with thousands of dollars in cash and expensive gifts, such as golf clubs.

Sources & Additional Information


National Guardsman Conspired With Contractor to Sell Military Equipment

U.S. National Guardsman Brandon Schulte, 43, of Jefferson City, Missouri, has been charged with conspiring to steal and sell military uniforms and equipment owned by the U.S. military. Codefendants include Jody (“Joe”) Stambaugh, 50, of Nashville, Illinois, and Gary Stambaugh, 77, of Fayetteville, Illinois, who were co-owners of a scrap metal company, Stambaugh Enterprises. Stambaugh Enterprises had contracted to with the DoD to recycle scrap from facilities in Illinois and Missouri. The Stambaughs allegedly stole and sold military uniforms, tactical robots, night vision sights, high frequency radios, and other functional military equipment.

Analysis Highlights

  • According to the federal indictment, the Stambaughs were required to destroy all military property they removed from military facilities. However, they allegedly retained certain items for their own use or sold them to others, such as LED video screens, a high frequency radio, night vision sights, an antenna system, flight helmets, and an infrared thermal imager.

  • For his part, Schulte allegedly provided the Stambaughs with thousands of pounds of uniforms and other military equipment.

Sources & Additional Information


Jewish Youth Director Allegedly Sexually Abused Teens

According to lawsuits filed by four John Does, the former divisional director of Nassau County's (New York) United Synagogue Youth, Ed Ward, sexually abused teens in his care for years. Eight other victims have made similar allegations against Ward. The USY is alleged to have allowed Ward to continue working with youth even after it became aware of the allegations in 2017. One of the suits claims Ward sexually abused the plaintiff repeatedly from 1999 to 2004 in the plaintiff's home, Ward's home, summer camps, classes, meetings, religious spaces, offices, and elsewhere.

Analysis Highlights

  • Youth were drawn to Ward in classes, camps, and activities because he made Judaism seem "cool".

  • Ward allegedly spoke in detail with youth about masturbation, porn, and sex.

  • Stories circulated of Ward masturbating with some of the children he oversaw.

  • Ward allegedly "groomed" his victims, slowly increasing his sexual improprieties so as to normalize them.

  • Only later did the children realize what Ward was doing was wrong.

Sources & Additional Information


More Insider Threat Stories

German Red Cross Nurse Substituted Saline for Covid Vaccine

An unidentified Red Cross nurse in Friesland (northern Germany) is suspected of giving thousands of people an injection of saline solution instead of a Covid vaccine. Approximately 8,600 recipients who received injections in early spring 2021 are thought to have been affected. The nurse had communicated skepticism about vaccines on social media, according to police. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/11/nurse-in-germany-suspected-of-replacing-covid-vaccines-with-saline-solution

New Jersey Postal Worker Swipes Letters Containing Credit Cards

Kyle Williams, a 36-year-old U.S. Postal Service employee in West Caldwell, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to stealing envelopes containing credit cards, including pandemic relief credit cards, on behalf of three accomplices. The accomplices made more than $100,000 worth of illicit purchases in New Jersey between July 2019 and October 2020. Stolen cards included gift, debit, and prepaid cards issued by American Express, Visa, Vanilla, Mastercard, Netspend, Amazon, Dunkin, Greendot, CWC, and Walmart. Source: https://www.nj.com/news/2021/08/ex-postal-worker-admits-role-in-covid-relief-debit-card-credit-card-theft-scheme.html

Air Force Analyst Sentenced for Leaking Drone Documents

Former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale, 33, received a sentence of 45 months in prison after pleading guilty to leaking government documents about the U.S. military’s drone program. Hale told a federal judge he felt it, “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.” Besides documents related to how the government chooses its drone targets --and collateral damage that has occurred-- Hale was linked to the release of a secret rulebook showing how the government places people on watchlists. Source: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/07/27/air-force-leaker-drone-secrets-45-months-prison-500814

Bookkeeper Drains Plumbing Business of $1M

Rose Horne received a 36 month prison sentence on charges of mail fraud and money laundering. Horne served as a bookkeeper for a family plumbing business in Fort Collins, Colorado for 27 years. From at least October 2005 through June 2011, Horne embezzled over $1 million from her employer. She wrote approximately 170 unauthorized checks to herself from the company's payroll bank account, either forging signatures or presenting checks to the authorized signatories claiming they were for business expenses. She also acquired a personal credit card from Chase Bank, directing checks made payable to the company's Chase credit card account to her own account. Horne hid the thefts by writing “void” on check stubs, writing the name of vendors on check stubs, and by obscuring portions of her employer’s bank statements that included copies of the checks. Source: https://www.fox21news.com/news/fort-collins-bookkeeper-sentenced-to-36-months-in-prison/

Bank Employees Defraud Namibian Retirees

Maria Ahab and Cornelia Ambuga, employees at Windhoek Bank in Namibia, worked together to defraud 64 account holders, mostly government retirees, of up to N$2.8 million in a year. Bank employees allegedly obtained client information, including account numbers and card numbers, and shared them with an outside fraud artist, Ndawedapopeendjebo Mangululenge Hamupolo. They used the information to log into the bank's mobile app and transfer funds to themselves. On some occasions, bank employees took advantage of vulnerable account holders by getting them to reveal their passwords. Source: https://investigations.namibian.com.na/bank-officials-rob-pensioners-blind/

Bank Manager Conceals Theft By Setting Safe on Fire

Patty Lynn Mavrakis, 63, a former branch manager at Valley 1st Community Federal Union in Pennsylvania, was indicted for stealing $340,000 and setting the bank safe on fire to conceal the crime. Mavrakis is also charged with filing an insurance claim for the $340,000. Source: https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/08/14/former-credit-union-branch-manager-indicted-on-theft-arson-charges/

Glasgow College Staffer Steals 334 Computing Devices

Former administrative assistant Afsha Rana, 34, was sentenced by a court in Glasgow, Scotland, to a prison term of 27 months for defrauding the City of Glasgow College by ordering IT equipment and selling it for her own benefit. Of the 334 computing devices, worth £500,000, that Rana acquired, she sold 176 for £255,200 in payment. Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-58282328

'Good Morning America' Producer Sued for Sexual Assault of Staffer

Kirstyn Crawford, a producer on 'Good Morning America,' has sued the former senior executive producer, Michael Corn, and ABC in New York state court. Crawford claims Corn sexually assaulted her during a 2015 business trip to Los Angeles. She adds ABC knew or should have known about the harassment but failed to act for years. ABC News said it would independently investigate the allegations. The suit also accuses Corn of assaulting a former ABC News producer, Jill McClain, on two occasions in 2010 and 2011. Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2021/08/26/gma-michael-corn-abc-sexual-assault-lawsuit-kirstyn-crawford/5599149001/

Pharmacist Charged with Hawking Covid Vaccination Cards on eBay

Tangtang Zhao, 34, Chicago pharmacist, has been indicted for stealing 125 COVID-19 vaccination cards from his workplace and selling them on eBay for about $10 each. Zhao allegedly sold the cards to 11 different buyers from late March to early April 2021. Zhao faces 12 counts of theft of government property. Source: https://nypost.com/2021/08/17/pharmacist-allegedly-sold-125-covid-vaccination-cards-on-ebay/

Two Women Killed by Coworker at Indiana Auto Plant

Gary C. Ferrell II, 26, a day shift worker at the NHK Seating of America factory in Frankfort, Indiana, has been arrested for shooting and killing two colleagues, a woman and her granddaughter, in the parking lot outside the facility. The victims were Promise Mays, 21, and her grandmother, Pamela Sled, 62, who were arriving for their evening shifts. Ferrell and the two women knew each other, but the motive for the killings is not known. Source: https://apnews.com/article/indiana-f3aba1d087ab37a27414b673052590ba


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