Tag Archives: stealing

Texas Agriculture commissioner consultant accused of stealing $55K from people wanting hemp licenses

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A consultant for Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is accused of stealing $ 55,000 from people who thought the consultant would help them get hemp licenses, according to an arrest affidavit.

Todd Malcom Smith, 59, faces a theft charge and bonded out of jail as of Friday. On Sunday, Austin attorneys Sam Bassett and Perry Minton released a statement on behalf of their client.

“Todd never violated any laws and did not steal anything from anyone,” said the statement in part.

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In June 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill allowing Texas farmers to grow industrial hemp under a program regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The department worked to create rules for the program, had them approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and opened its online licensing and permit application in March 2020.

An affidavit said witnesses from two different businesses came forward saying they paid Smith during the time the rules were being developed, under the impression it would go toward a survey of Texans about hemp. At least one person said they were told the survey was required to get a license.

Multiple people said they never saw the survey, according to the affidavit. In both business cases, witnesses said they reached out to get their money back.

In one case, someone interested in getting involved in the hemp industry said he had been told by a man working with Smith that there would only be a limited number of licenses and that he could pay “cash, with some of the money going toward campaign contributions, in order to receive a ‘guaranteed’ hemp license.”

There is no limit to the number of licenses available, according to a FAQ on the Texas Industrial Hemp Program website.

The affidavit concluded, “Todd Smith created by words and his conduct, a false impression of fact that affected the judgment of others in the transactions to obtain a hemp license and/or conduct a survey that was never attempted.”

“Immediately after Todd was arrested this past Thursday, he sat down with law enforcement for several hours and fully cooperated by answering all of their questions,” said the statement from Smith’s attorneys. “With absolutely nothing to hide, he did so without requesting that a lawyer be present on his behalf.”

The Texas Rangers are investigating this case on behalf of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and are working with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. In a statement, DPS said the offices will “be keeping the community updated as more information becomes available.”

Read the full statement from Smith’s attorney’s below:

“We have been hired by lobbyist and political consultant Todd Smith regarding his recent arrest. Immediately after Todd was arrested this past Thursday, he sat down with law enforcement for several hours and fully cooperated by answering all of their questions. With absolutely nothing to hide, he did so without requesting that a lawyer be present on his behalf.

Todd is presently one of the most effective and successful Capitol lobbyists working on behalf of
Texas companies and individuals. He is paid by these companies and individuals to bring their concerns and interests to elected officials in order to help shape legislation, public policy and a host of other issues. Todd was paid and performed these very duties for a number of clients interested in obtaining hemp licenses. Todd never guaranteed anyone a particular outcome of any kind.

Todd never violated any laws and did not steal anything from anyone. Todd looks forward to
continuing his cooperation with law enforcement and the district attorney to clear his name.”

Author: Kate Winkle
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Former White House Adviser Is Charged With Stealing From Charter School Network

Author: Azi Paybarah
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

According to the network’s website, “Seth Andrew founded Democracy Prep in 2005 to ensure that every single student will work hard, go to college, and change the world!” The phrase “Change the world!” is on the back of the yellow baseball cap that Mr. Andrew made part of his signature look.

The network’s first school opened in Harlem in 2006. It eventually expanded to 23 schools, in the Bronx; Camden, N.J.; San Antonio; and Las Vegas. Of the network’s 7,000 students, nearly all are students of color and 85 percent qualify for free lunch, according to the network’s website.

Under an agreement with the New York State Board of Regents, the charter network was required to “maintain an ‘escrow account’ that may be accessed only if the school dissolves,” prosecutors said. Mr. Andrew was a signatory to those accounts and had access to them, they said. The money in the accounts totaled a little more than $ 218,000.

Propelled by the network’s success, Mr. Andrew landed a job in 2013 in the United States Department of Education and later became a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House under President Barack Obama. In the administration, Mr. Andrew helped promote and improve STEM education, a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While there, Mr. Andrew was still paid by the charter network, according to prosecutors. In November 2016, he left the administration, and by the following January he had formally severed ties with the charter network.

Two years later, Mr. Andrew began tapping into those escrow accounts, prosecutors said. On March 28, 2019, Mr. Andrew walked into a bank and closed two escrow accounts and walked out with two checks totaling more than $ 142,000, they said.

Later that day Mr. Andrew took one of those checks to open a new account at a different bank, prosecutors said. He told the second bank, which prosecutors did not identify, that he was a “key executive with control of” the charter network. Days later, Mr. Andrew used an A.T.M. to deposit the second check into that account, prosecutors said.

Hellish new WhatsApp attack is stealing credit card details from your friends and family

A new breed of Android malware has been discovered hiding in the Google Play Store – and it’s designed to sabotage your WhatsApp chats. Security researchers at Check Point uncovered the dangerous new malware, which spreads itself by sending malicious links to your WhatsApp contacts – from family members to close friends and group chats. Anyone who taps on the link sent from your WhatsApp account will be taken to a fake Netflix site designed to steal login details for your Netflix account or credit card details.
The malware was unearthed inside an app called FlixOnline, which promises unlimited TV show and movie streaming. When discovered by the Check Point team, FlixOnline was available as a free download from the Google Play Store, which is the preinstalled app repository found on almost all Android smartphones and tablets (except the most recent handsets from Huawei, which uses the App Gallery instead).

FlixOnline uses Netflix’s iconic “N” logo as well as artwork from Stranger Things and other Netflix exclusive shows to try to tempt Android smartphone and tablet owners into downloading the app.

Android users unfortunate enough to download FlixOnline will be asked to grant a dizzying number of permissions. This is pretty standard for all third-party Android apps downloaded from the Play Store, so might not raise any alarm bells. However, the permissions requested by FlixOnline are specifically to enable this malware-laced app to continue spreading using your WhatsApp conversations.

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Anyone who grants the permissions allows the application to reply to all incoming text messages in WhatsApp with a link to a fraudulent Netflix site. To tempt people into clicking, the message alongside the link promises two months of free Netflix because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. An example of the sort of message sent with the dangerous link reads: “2 Months of Netflix Premium Free at no cost For REASON OF QUARANTINE (CORONA VIRUS) Get 2 Months of Netflix Premium Free anywhere in the world for 60 days. Get it now HERE”

If the person clicks on the link they will either be asked to sign-in with their existing Netflix login (allowing the hackers to steal their email address and password combo – potentially unlocking dozens more of their online accounts) or, if they don’t already have an account, create a new one. If they decide to create a Netflix account when prompted, the hackers will steal their credit or debit card information. Either way, it’s really bad.

With the FlixOnline malware replying to every incoming messages, individual conversations and group chats could be quickly filled with these malicious links… especially if you’re not paying attention.

Security experts from Check Point have already reported the dangerous malware to Google, which has stripped the app from the Play Store. That’s great news as it means nobody else can download the app. However, Google doesn’t remove the apps already installed on Android devices across the world.

So, if you’ve recently downloaded the app, you’ll need to remove its permissions and delete it from your device immediately.

Since the malware seems to have been pretty effective, Check Point researchers believe that FlixOnline will set a trend that numerous apps will copy. That means anyone downloading from the Google Play Store will need to be more cautious than ever before. Check Point recommends users only download apps from trusted developers, always keep their devices running the latest operating system updates, and use a security solution to watch out for malware.

Aviran Hazum, Manager of Mobile Intelligence at Check Point Software said: “The malware’s technique is new and innovative, aiming to hijack users’ WhatsApp account by capturing notifications, along with the ability to take predefined actions, like ‘dismiss’ or ‘reply’ via the Notification Manager. The fact that the malware was able to be disguised so easily and ultimately bypass Play Store’s protections raises some serious red flags. Although we stopped one campaign using this malware, the malware may return hidden in a different app.

“The Play Store’s protections can only go so far, so mobile users need a mobile security solution. Luckily, we detected the malware early, and we quickly disclosed it to Google – who also acted quickly. Users should be wary of download links or attachments that they receive via WhatsApp or other messaging apps, even when they appear to come from trusted contacts or messaging groups. If you think you’re a victim, we recommend immediately removing the application from devices, and changing all passwords.”

Over the course of two months, the FlixOnline app was downloaded approximately 500 times. As well as keeping Google in the loop, Check Point shared its research findings with WhatsApp, though there is no vulnerability on WhatsApp’s end. Instead, the malware uses the ability to reply to text messages from the notification shade.