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Monday, July 23, 2007

More shennanigans at Justice

McClatchy News gets another scoop in the politicization of the Department of Just Us:

WASHINGTON — Two years into a fraud investigation, veteran federal prosecutor David Maguire told colleagues he'd uncovered one of the biggest cases of his career.

Maguire described crimes "far worse" than those of Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant that collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal. Among those in his sights: executives from a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment empire overseen by billionaire Warren Buffett.

In May 2006, he felt strongly enough about his case that he prepared a draft indictment accusing executives from a Virginia insurer, Reciprocal of America, of concocting a series of secret deals to hide its losses from regulators. Although he didn't name anyone from Berkshire Hathaway's subsidiary, he described the company as a participant in the scheme.

But Maguire never brought those charges.

Months after preparing the draft, he was removed as the lead prosecutor on the case and reassigned.

His replacement, a prosecutor who hadn't been involved in the case until then, soon announced that the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, General Reinsurance, wouldn't be indicted. By April of this year, the entire investigation, which the Justice Department once hailed as one of the largest insurance-fraud cases in the history of Virginia, had fizzled.

Former employees and policyholders of the Richmond-based insurer were astounded. Why had the Justice Department spent upward of $2 million to investigate the case only to decline to prosecute? Maguire and his team of investigators had secured two related guilty pleas, interviewed dozens of witnesses and gathered 7,000 boxes of documents.

... Tom Gober, a certified fraud examiner who worked on the case, thought investigators had gathered plenty of evidence.

Gober, a government-contracted investigator, concluded that the Justice Department had buckled under pressure from defense lawyers. Shortly before Maguire was removed, his supervisors were urging him to drop the case against General Reinsurance, Gober said.

Gober's suspicions were fanned by allegations of politicization in the Justice Department after nine U.S. attorneys were fired.

He took his complaints to the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates Justice Department misconduct.

"It just stinks," he said. "You don't come in out of nowhere and in no time kill three years of sophisticated effort."

...Internal documents that McClatchy Newspapers obtained show that Justice Department lawyers in Washington had become locked in an intense debate with Maguire over the case until he was removed from it.



Look, you can't interfere with the course of business in the United States. Whatever big business does, it must be right. Gee, if it were wrong the free market would stop it, wouldn't it? So, of course, it can't be wrong.

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