A Florida man impersonated a Saudi prince for decades, cheating investors out of millions of dollars

saudi money

  • A Florida man impersonated a Saudi prince for decades, cheating investors of millions of dollars. 
  • Anthony Gignac, who had five aliases including Khaled Al-Saud, pleaded guilty to identity theft and fraud, after living a lavish lifestyle.
  • Gignac has pretended to be a Saudi royal for decades, and has reportedly been charged numerous times. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.

A Florida man who pretended to be a Saudi prince for decades has admitted to defrauding investors of millions of dollars.

Anthony Gignac, who went by the name Khaled Al-Saud, pleaded guilty to identity theft and fraud on Tuesday. According to the US attorney’s office, the faux-prince and one of his co-conspirators created a fraudulent investment company, Marden Williams International LLC, in June 2015, and approached investors with “exclusive business opportunities.”

One of the schemes was the pre-IPO of a real business in Saudi Arabia. A single investor gave Gignac approximately $5 million.

Gignac also developed an extravagant lifestyle to support his lies. The 47-year-old claimed he owned a residence on Fisher Island, an exclusive community off Miami Beach only accessible by ferry or helicopter. He had a sign on the front door which simply read “Sultan.”

He told people he had diplomatic immunity, and drove a Ferrari with fake diplomatic license plates. He was gifted expensive jewelry and paintings based on his purported Saudi lineage. 

fisher island

In March 2017, the phony royal attempted to purchase a multi-million dollar hotel in Miami, and stayed at the hotel using a credit card in the name of an actual member of the Saudi family.

Gignac also used several aliases for international travel. In November, he flew from London to New York City using a forged passport, before finally being apprehended by police.

Prince Khalid al Saud Saudi Prince Charles

When investigators searched Gignac’s home in Miami, they discovered fraudulent diplomatic security badges, unauthorized credit cards, financial documents of a real royal Saudi, rounds of ammunition, and thousands of dollars in US currency.

This isn’t the first time Gignac has been caught for impersonating a Saudi royal.

According to a 2008 profile by Ohio newspaper The Blade, Gignac assumed his Saudi identity at 17 and began scamming hotels, department stores, car dealerships, and credit card companies.

Court and prison documents reviewed by the Miami Herald reveal he was charged for similar crimes several times, the first time in 1991, then again in 1994, 1996, 2002, and 2006. His crime spree spanned California, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Florida, where he was most recently a resident. 

Gignac faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on fraud charges and is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

SEE ALSO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is making moves to bring a Hyperloop system to Riyadh

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The Feds just charged a 'blockchain evangelist' who raised $21 million while claiming to work with Disney and Apple

Titanium homepage

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the blockchain startup Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services (TBIS) and its president Michael Stollaire violated federal securities laws in a $21 million fundraiser. 
  • TBIS and Stollaire allegedly promoted fake business relationships with companies like Apple and Disney.
  • The SEC has also alleged that Stollaire used part of the ICO funds to pay off personal credit cards and bills on his condo in Hawaii.


The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged another blockchain startup with a fraudulent initial coin offering months after it raised $21 million from investors around the world. 

Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services (TBIS) raised its millions in the cryptocurrency fundraising technique known as an initial coin offering (ICO). The SEC alleges that this money was raised between November 2017 and January 2018 using fraudulent claims. 

“This ICO was based on a social media marketing blitz that allegedly deceived investors with purely fictional claims of business prospects,” said Robert A. Cohen, chief of the SEC’s Cyber Unit. 

The SEC’s complaint, filed on May 22 and unsealed on Tuesday, alleges that TBIS and its president Michael Stollaire made false statements and fabricated testimonials in order to gain investors trust.

During that time, Stollaire claimed to have business relationship with well-known companies such as PayPal, Apple, The Walt Disney Company and the Federal Reserve, according to the SEC. 

Stollaire allegedly used proceeded from the ICO to pay off personal credit cards and pay bills on a his condominium in Hawaii.

The SEC announced Tuesday that it obtained a court order to halt the Titanium ICO as well as an emergency asset freeze.

Charges against TBIS come as the government ramps up its efforts to regulate cryptocurrency and blockchain companies, while putting an end to fraud in the space.

In April, three founders behind the cryptocurrency credit card company Centra were charged and arrested on allegations of fraud after raising $32 million in an ICO. 

Stollaire could not immediately be reached for comment.

SEE ALSO: 9 star lawyers helping blockchain companies navigate the tricky waters of cryptocurrency regulation

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Why Revisit the Newton Death Penalty Story Today? — Blog #2 in Our 10-Part Series

© Hon. Lise Pearlman (ret.)

Last week I quoted from the author’s note to my 2016 book. This week I share some then-and-now observations in the book’s Introduction. As we go along, I will be highlighting key passages throughout the book, but not, I hope, provide too many spoilers:

American Justice on Trial revisits in light of current events People of California v. Huey P. Newton — the internationally watched 1968 murder case that put a black militant on trial for his life for the death of a white policeman accused of abuse. The trial put our nation’s justice system to the test and created the model for diversifying juries “of one’s peers” that many of us now take for granted as a constitutional guarantee. In the process, protesters orchestrated by the defense generated a media frenzy that launched the Black Panther Party as an international phenomenon. Using this trial as their platform, the Panthers took aim at entrenched racism in a democracy founded on the principle of equality. They put their sights on toppling white male monopoly power, and they convinced many followers to pay it forward. They also prompted an extraordinary backlash from those in power. The ramifications of this decades-old conflict continue to unfold today.

The year 2016 marks a half century since Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded, in Oakland, California, a small militant group that they named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Like Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project and other civil rights activist groups today, Panther members were predominantly in their late teens or early 20s when they took to the streets, challenging the nation’s criminal justice system and making bold accusations of abusive policing. Today almost everyone recognizes the image of Black Panthers in iconic black leather jackets and berets, their fists raised in defiant salutes. In 1967, that fledgling organization would likely have disappeared quickly if not for one riveting murder trial. Now — a half century later — is an especially good time to take a fresh look back, to reexamine what may very well be the most pivotal criminal trial of the 20th century and ponder what it tells us about the importance of diversity, if we want to improve some of the most glaring shortcomings in our beleaguered American justice system.

* * * * *

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Oregon

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Oregon

In the Introduction, I describe several widely publicized, racially-charged incidents in the past few years. One key incident began in January 2016 — the armed takeover of a federal salutewildlife refuge in Oregon by militant white ranchers who vowed to instigate a broader revolt against the United States government. The FBI’s cautiously measured response clearly reflected the race of the perpetrators. Notably, then presidential candidate Donald Trump refrained from calling the ongoing siege of federal land an act of terrorism while he repeatedly vowed to take harsh measures against any and all Islamic terrorists. What repercussions would there have been if the Oregon takeover of public lands had instead been perpetrated by a small band of Arab jihadists or by black militants? I was far from the only one who wondered about that.

Journalists immediately speculated that racism played a major role in political reaction to the Oregon standoff. (Dean Obeidallah, “Trump — ‘Call Oregon Siege Terrorism’” CNN, January 5, 2016; and Richard Prince, “What if the “Militants” Were Not White”, Jan. 27, 2016 , Maynard Institute).

Many Americans would never have expected, or tolerated, a similar restrained FBI response if the militants were not white. Reaching back half a century to compare the illegal armed seizure of public lands in Oregon to an infamous Black Panther protest in Sacramento in 1967, one commentator wrote: [Unlike] what’s happening in Oregon right now, [the Black Panthers] entered the state Capitol lawfully, lodged their complaints against a piece of racially motivated legislation and then left without incident. But for those who see racial double standards at play in Oregon, the scope and severity of the 1967 response — the way the Panthers’ demonstration brought about panicked headlines, a prolonged FBI sabotage effort and support for gun control from the NRA, of all groups — will serve as confirmation that race shapes the way the country reacts to protest. (Nick Wing, “Here’s How the Nation Responded When A Black Militia  Group Occupied a Government Building” The Huffington Post, January 6, 2016  (updated Jan. 9, 2016)  



What has changed in race relations since that tumultuous era? What hasn’t? Consider the radically differing reactions to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show. In October 1968 African-American Olympic track medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos shocked observers around the globe with an emphatic civil rights gesture during their awards ceremony — each raising a black gloved fist in a classic “Power to the People” salute. They were promptly banned from the Olympics for life.

In 2016, during halftime at Super Bowl 50, more than 110 million viewers witnessed megastar Beyoncé’s dance troupe perform a similar raised-fist tribute to the Black Panthers, whose own fiftieth anniversary year coincided with that of the Super Bowl. Just a day earlier Beyoncé released a new video, “Formation,” which paid homage to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Beyoncé’s polarizing halftime message triggered a barrage of negative tweets and blogs as well as calls from conservative politicians, talk show hosts and police to boycott her performances, all of them unlikely to diminish the entertainer’s enormous fan base.

The Super Bowl incident is just one illustration of hot-button race issues that have recently dominated the airwaves. In the last few years — unlike prior eras in American history — deaths of unarmed blacks at the hands of police have garnered as much news coverage as killings of officers. Technology advances are the primary reason race issues today take place in a particularly volatile context: the near-constant presence of smart phone cameras has turned millions of Americans into potential on-the-spot documentarians.

* * * * *

How will this play out? Chance footage filmed by passersby feeds suspicion that widespread mistreatment of minority suspects would be revealed if only there were more transparency. Unlike officers’ deaths, fatalities caused by the police have not systematically been tracked over the years. Going forward, that is already beginning to change. As we consider proposed solutions to the current divide between police and minority communities, what can we learn from how media-savvy activists drew an international audience to a murder trial that turned the tables and put the American justice system itself on trial nearly a half century ago? And how did it all start?

Justice on TrialliseThe timing of this blog could not be better. In mid-May, the Berkeley Film Foundation underscored the relevance of the 1968 Newton death penalty trial to America today at an event that featured the book’s companion documentary film project — the 2017 winner of the prestigious Al Bendich award for projects promoting civil rights. BFF was celebrating all the winners of its 2017 awards at the Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley (also the home of Fantasy Studios). It was doubly rewarding to hear BFF President Abby Ginzberg (pictured with me in photo above right) announce that my book had just been named a finalist for the Next Generation Book Awards for books on social change.  (That awards event will take place in late June in New Orleans.)

Tune in next week for Blog #3

Click below to read Lise Pearlman’s previous Blog post:

“American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton” – the untold story by Lise Pearlman

www.lisepearlman.com           www.Facebook.com/LPAuthorandSpeaker/

Producer, American Justice on Trial www.americanjusticeontrial.com

Click on the links below to select books by Lise Pearlman:

With Justice for Some: Politically Charged Criminal Trials in the Early 20th Century That Helped Shape Today’s America

The Sky’s the Limit People V. Newton, the Real Trial of the 20th Century?

CALL ME PHAEDRA: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender

American Justice On Trial: People v. Newton

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Father was playing Pokémon Go while the 'Spider-Man of Paris' rescued his 4-year-old who was dangling off a balcony

spiderman paris rescue

  • The father of the 4-year-old boy who was rescued while dangling from a balcony in Paris was playing Pokémon Go at the time, prosecutors say.
  • The game, which became immensely popular when it released in 2016, uses augmented-reality technology to make it appear as if Pokémon are in the real world.
  • The father of the boy faces two years in prison. 

The viral so-called Spider-Man rescue video, which shows a man rescuing a 4-year-old child dangling from a balcony outside an apartment in Paris over the weekend, led many viewers to ask: Where were the parents?

French prosecutors said the boy’s father left his young son at home to go shopping, but instead of coming right back, he decided to play Pokémon Go, the mobile game that achieved viral fame when it was released in 2016.

Meanwhile, his son was found dangling from the apartment’s balcony by a crowd of Parisian onlookers, prompting Mamoudou Gassama, an immigrant from Mali described by The Guardian as the “Spider-Man of Paris,” to scale the side of the building and rescue him.

The father faces two years in prison, while Gassama has been offered citizenship by President Emmanuel Macron.

Pokémon Go uses a phone’s camera to show Pokémon on screen, making it appear as if the creatures are appearing in the real world. The game was an instant hit and was downloaded over 500 million times before the end of the year, but critics said it caused people to stop paying attention to their surroundings, including while driving. It has since declined in popularity.

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8 women accuse Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment

morgan freeman

  • Eight women accused Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior in a CNN report published Thursday.
  • The accusers included Chloe Melas, a CNN reporter who cowrote Thursday’s report. She accused Freeman of subjecting her to inappropriate comments about her appearance at a press junket.
  • Altogether, CNN said it spoke with 16 people who “described a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Freeman” on film sets, in his work at his production company, Revelations Entertainment, and in media interviews.

Eight women have accused Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment.

In a report published Thursday, CNN said it spoke with 16 people in a “months-long reporting process” who “described a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Freeman” on the sets of several of his films, in his work at his production company, Revelations Entertainment, and in media interviews. Half of those people were women who said they had been subject to inappropriate behavior, while the rest said they had witnessed such behavior, according to CNN.

Freeman’s representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CNN before the story’s publication. Following the report, Freeman apologized in a statement to CNN, saying, “Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”

Three reporters, including CNN’s Chloe Melas, who cowrote the report on the allegations, accused Freeman of making inappropriate comments about their appearance at press junkets.

Melas said Freeman told her during a 2017 interview when she was six months pregnant, among other comments, that “you are ripe.”

Among the five other accusers, an unnamed production assistant who worked on the set of the 2017 movie “Going in Style” said she experienced several months of sexual harassment from Freeman on the film’s set, including unwanted touching and comments.

The woman said Freeman “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear.” She said Freeman stopped only when Alan Arkin, his costar on the film, “made a comment telling him to stop,” after which, she said, “Morgan got freaked out and didn’t know what to say.”

Read CNN’s full report here.

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A 25-year-old self-described 'swatter' has been charged with making a bomb threat that forced the FCC to evacuate during a net-neutrality vote

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

  • Tyler Raj Barriss, 25, has been indicted on charges of making hoax bomb threats to the Federal Communications Commission during the net-neutrality hearings and to the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • He was already charged with involuntary manslaughter and awaiting trial over a “swatting” incident in which a call to the police provoked a SWAT team response that led to a man’s death.

A man who was already awaiting trial over a “swatting” incident in which someone was killed has now been indicted on charges of making bomb threats to the FBI headquarters and to the Federal Communications Commission during the net-neutrality vote.

A federal grand jury charged Tyler Raj Barriss, 25, of Los Angeles, whose online alias is “SWAuTistic,” with two counts of making hoax bomb threats.

One of the threats targeted the FCC during the net-neutrality hearing on December 14, the Department of Justice said. The call resulted in the evacuation of the building and briefly delayed the vote.

Barriss is also accused of calling the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, a few days later, on December 22, and claiming there were bombs planted in the building. Both calls were determined to be hoaxes, and both charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Barriss was already detained on suspicion of making false emergency calls to the police in a method known as “swatting,” in which the police are given fake but concerning information about a specific target designed to provoke response from a SWAT team.

He is awaiting trial over an incident, also in December, in which the Department of Justice claims he “swatted” someone after an argument in an online game. When the police arrived at an address provided by a caller, they killed the man who answered the door, Andrew Finch, 28, from Wichita, Kansas. Barriss has been charged with involuntary manslaughter over Finch’s death.

Barriss has been charged with hoax bomb threats before, when he was accused of threatening a Glendale, California, news station. He claims to have “swatted” more than 100 schools and about 10 homes or residences.

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Harvey Weinstein will reportedly turn himself in and face sexual-assault charges in New York

harvey weinstein

  • Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to authorities on Friday, according to the New York Daily News.
  • The sexual-assault charges stem from an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the New York Police Department into allegations against Weinstein, the Daily News said.
  • Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing related to several allegations that have been reported. 

Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to authorities on Friday in relation to an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the New York Police Department into sexual-assault allegations against him, according to the New York Daily News.

The disgraced Hollywood producer will face a sexual-assault charge related to allegations from at least one accuser, Lucia Evans, according to the Daily News. Evans has accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex on him, and though the allegation is from 2004, the statute of limitations does not apply in this case, the newspaper reported.

Evans was one of the women who accused Weinstein of sexual assault in an October article in The New Yorker. A bombshell New York Times story that same month detailed three decades of sexual-harassment allegations by women in Hollywood against the producer. These two news stories — and dozens of follow-ups — led Weinstein to leave the business and his firm, The Weinstein Company.

Evans told The New Yorker that in 2004, when she was an aspiring actress and college student, she met Weinstein at the offices of Miramax (the company he ran before The Weinstein Company), where Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing related to Evans’ allegation and numerous others that have been reported.

An attorney for Weinstein, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment to Business Insider about Weinstein’s possible surrender to authorities.

SEE ALSO: 8 women accuse Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment

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“American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton” – the untold story by Lise Pearlman

LiseLise Pearlman is a retired California judge and award-winning author who appeared in Stanley Nelson’s 2015 film, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” as the country’s leading expert on the 1968 Huey Newton death penalty trial. You can find a description of her four critically-acclaimed history books and bio at www.lisepearlman.com. She is currently producing a nonprofit film project, “American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton.”  It is a companion work to the prize-winning book All Things Crime Blog has asked her to write about in an exclusive series of blogs. © Lise Pearlman

American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton – the untold story by Lise Pearlman

This year marks the 50th anniversary of People v. Newton, the internationally-followed death penalty trial of Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. 1968 was one of the most turbulent years in that century. Those of us college-aged at that time would agree with TIME magazine’s assertion — 1968 was “the year that shaped a generation.”  Before the shocking assassinations of Martin Luther King and Senator Bobby Kennedy, there was already substantial unrest over both the Vietnam War and the nation’s history of race bias.

Justice on TrialIt was in the context of abusive police practices stretching back two decades that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed in October 1966. By 1968, it spawned branches across the country — using the international attention drawn to the Newton death penalty trial as the Party’s launching pad. Even to this day the influence of the Panthers is felt, as reflected in the extraordinary popularity of Stanley Nelson’s 2015 film, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and the sell-out crowds who flocked to the extended run of the 2016-17 golden anniversary retrospective on the Black Panther Party at the Oakland Museum of California. The Panthers were the spiritual –and sometimes literal — grandparents of the current Black Lives Matter Movement.

HueyNewton seated on a wicker throne with a spear in one hand and rifle in the other has become a lasting icon symbolizing black militancy. (The photo is of a painting hanging in Oakland’s Merritt College Student Lounge dedicated to former students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale). Newton undoubtedly inspired the Oakland-based character Erik Killmonger in the 2018 blockbuster Marvel comic feature film “Black Panther” directed by Oaklander Ryan Coogler.

But my book focuses on the untold story of the Newton trial – its lasting impact on the system of justice, primarily in their demand for a true “jury of one’s peers” in criminal cases, and what it suggests regarding the critical role of diversity in further needed reforms to our justice system today.

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution promised criminal defendants a “jury of one’s peers” but never effectively delivered on that promise from the eighteenth century to 1968.  Instead, until the Newton trial it had been customary, particularly in death penalty cases, to seat white men exclusively, or with token participation by women and minorities. Nor were jurors questioned strongly about race bias. Newton and his lawyers changed all that. That one widely-watched trial would wind up revolutionizing the approach of defense counsel in seating criminal juries nationwide. It is a key reason — but not the only reason — I have argued that it should be recognized as “THE TRIAL OF THE 20th CENTURY.”  All the ground-breaking aspects of the 1968 Newton trial are included in my two books on the subject: The Sky’s the Limit: People v. Newton, The REAL Trial of the 20th Century? [Regent Press 2012] and American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton, [Regent Press 2016].

The 1968 murder trial of Huey Newton is now recognized as “a world-changing true story.” I am pleased to share that my book American Justice on Trial won a 2017 award for best book on Law and was named a finalist in Multiculturalism and U.S. History. Just this month, it was also named a finalist for the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the category of “Current Events/Social Change.”  So I want to share with you why this is such an important story to revisit now.

Let’s begin my weekly blog entries with the “Author’s Note” to the book when it was released in the fall of 2016. I believe my observations then remain acutely relevant today:

As I write this, the nation is still reeling from multiple shocks in July 2016. First, as the month began, came yet two more videotaped incidents of police shooting to death black arrestees after many other such widely-publicized incidents over the previous several years. The day after the Fourth of July holiday, disturbing footage went viral of Baton Rouge police outside a convenience store firing repeatedly at 37-year-old Alton Sterling while two white policemen already had Sterling pinned face down on the ground. A day later, a thousand miles away in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, the quick-thinking girl friend of Philando Castile used her cell phone to capture a local policeman still waving his gun outside Castile’s car window as Castile lay bleeding to death seated beside her following a traffic stop. This graphic image was followed within days by breaking news of a horrific sniper attack on Dallas policemen who were monitoring one of many Black Lives Matter protest rallies prompted by the deaths of Sterling and Castile. Then, on July 17, 2016 came another attack, this time on Baton Rouge police.

The carnage and proliferation of demonstrations and hostile reactions in the aftermath have drawn renewed national focus to fractured police-community relations in cities across country, the very issue that gave rise to the Black Panther Party a half century ago. Indeed, the day after video footage went viral of Castile dying from gunshot wounds following a traffic stop, AlterNet reporter Alexandra Rosenmann drew a direct comparison to the sensationalized 1968 murder trial of Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. Rosenmann titled her web article, “Gun Rights, Police Brutality and the Case of the Century: Philando Castile’s tragic case of police brutality pulls one of the most famous cases back into focus.”   (Alexandra Rosenmann, “Gun Rights, Police Brutality and the Case of the Century,” Alternet, July 7, https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/gun-rights-police-brutality-and-case-century-video.)

The two incidents did start out in similar ways. In the early morning of October 28, 1967, Oakland policeman John Frey stopped the car Newton was driving to write a ticket for an unpaid traffic fine. A shootout ensued that left Officer Frey dead and Newton and a back-up officer seriously wounded. Newton claimed to have been unarmed and the victim of an abusive arrest; no gun belonging to Newton was found. His death penalty trial the following summer drew international attention to whether any black man could get a fair trial in America.

Before the deadly July 2016 incidents occurred, interviewees for this book had already noted the remarkable relevance of the 1968 Newton case to current events. Among them is William “Bill” Patterson, a former President of the Oakland NAACP and the first black foreman of the Alameda County Grand Jury: “It does resonate today. A young man [Oscar Grant III] being killed in the BART station by BART police and how that played out. The Florida case . . . again another young man [Trayvon Martin] shot to death. These situations continue to emerge and if we are not careful, we will find history repeating itself.”

In the past several months, both champions and critics of the Black Lives Matter movement have drawn parallels to the split among Americans in the turbulent 1960s. The comparisons reached a point where President Obama felt compelled to reassure the world, on July 9, 2016, that most Americans are not as divided as we were fifty years ago: “When we start suggesting that somehow, there’s this enormous polarization and we’re back to the situation in the ’60s, that’s just not true. You’re not seeing riots, and you’re not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully. . . . We’ve got a foundation to build on . . .” (Kathleen Hennessey, “Obama asks Americans not to fear a return to a dark past,” Associated Press, July 10, 2016) [http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ad7321415b1d4e6a91d2f98e2f9ba81d/obama-take-questionsdallas-attack-race-relations.]

President Obama himself symbolizes the profound change in the fabric of our nation over the past half century. So, too, do black police chiefs like Dallas Police Chief David Brown. Chief Brown’s reaction to a black gunman ambushing randomly chosen white officers on the evening of July 7, 2016, captured the sentiments of most Americans: “We are heartbroken. There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred in our city. All I know is this must stop: this divisiveness between our police and our citizens.” (Greg Hanlon, “Police Chief David Brown on Dallas Ambush of Officers: ‘All I Know Is This Must Stop,’” People: True Crime, (quoting Dallas Police Chief David Brown. July 7, 2016). [people.com/crime/dallas-ambush-police-chief-david-brown-says-all-i-know-is-that-this-must-stop/]

This book scrutinizes the 1968 Newton trial and its context and poses the same questions President Obama and others have recently addressed: what has changed in this country in the last half century and what has not? How do we best move forward?

Lise Pearlman
Oakland, California
September 2016

Update May 2018: We can add several lethal police shooting incidents in the last twenty months to those I cited in 2016 and more violent protests and counter-protests. We are exhibiting far greater polarization as a nation than President Obama observed in 2016 and than I, or probably most of us, imagined could take hold just two years ago. The about-face in Washington by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions on Obama-era criminal justice policies and priorities clearly played a large role in ramping up the intensity of racial divides. Yet the two questions I asked then are equally relevant now. What has changed in this country in the last half century and what has not? How do we best move forward?

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A Chinese-Australian billionaire funded UN bribes investigated by the FBI, an Australian politician alleges

United Nations General Assembly

  • An Australian billionaire and political donor allegedly funded a $200,000 bribe to a former president of the UN General Assembly, according to an Australian MP.
  • The MP said he “confirmed” the identity of the alleged co-conspirator from US authorities.
  • $1.3 million in bribes were prepared for the UN president in hopes of helping Chinese business interests.
  • Billionaire Chau Chak Wing is an influential donor who has attracted attention in the past.

An Australian MP took an extraordinary step on Tuesday night when he claimed a mystery co-conspirator in an FBI bribery case is a Chinese born, Australian billionaire.

Andrew Hastie, the chair of Australia’s intelligence and security committee, identified political donor and philanthropist Chau Chak Wing as “co-conspirator 3 [CC-3]” who allegedly funded a $200,000 bribe to UN General Assembly president John Ashe in 2013.

Hastie met with US authorities last month where he said he “confirmed” the identity of CC-3, and then made the statement in parliament, a forum exempt from defamation laws, which Chau has used to sue multiple media outlets in the past.

“During discussions with US authorities I confirmed the long-suspected identity of CC-3. It is now my duty to inform the House and the Australian people that CC-3 is Dr Chau Chak Wing,” Hastie said.

“CC-3 is a Chinese-Australian citizen, he has also been a very significant donor to both of our major political parties. He has given more than $4 million since 2004, he has also donated $45 million to universities in Australia,” he said. [It is] the same man who conspired to bribe the UN president of the general assembly John Ashe.”

An FBI indictment previously referred to CC-3 as a Chinese real estate developer who requested Ashe’s attendance, in an official capacity, at a conference in China in return for a $200,000 payment. At that conference, Chauk and Ashe were photographed together, according to Hastie.

He added: “On November 4, 2013, John Ashe confirmed receipt of the $200,000 from China from one of CC-3’s companies.”

A number of defendants were convicted for supplying Ashe with $1.3 million in bribes, which he spent on Rolex watches, bespoke suits, BMW lease payments, and even a basketball court. The bribes were given in order to advance Chinese business interests. Ashe died before he got to trial.

“For reasons that are best undisclosed, the US government did not seek to charge CC-3 for his involvement in the bribery of John Ashe,” said Hastie, adding that Chau has consistently disputed similar allegations in the past.

Hastie also suggested a link between Chauk and China’s overseas influence arm, United Front. According to a government cable sent by a US consul general in China and described by Hastie, Chauk was allegedly the head of a business association that included the director of the United Front department and the association was “essentially a creature of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front program.”

According to research by China expert Anne-Marie Bradysome of United Front’s activities include “co-opting” members of the elite to promote Beijing’s interests and using business people with links to the Chinese Communist Party to orchestrate targeted political donations.

Chau previously told The Australian he didn’t have any connections with United Front.

“For clarity, I am not and have never been a member of the Chinese Communist Party, and I completely reject the suggestion I have acted in any way on behalf of, or under instruction from, that ­entity,” he said.

Chinese interference is gaining more attention in Australia

china military flag

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton warned that countries need to take China’s political interference “seriously.”

“What we’re seeing now is a desire by China to extend its influence and project its power. First throughout Asia — then, throughout the world,” Clinton said. “I would hope that Australia would stand up against efforts under the radar, as we say, to influence Australian politics and policy.”

Relations between Australia and China have significantly deteriorated since December last year when Canberra proposed broadening the definition of foreign interference, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull citing “disturbing reports about Chinese influence.”

“The central pillar of the government’s counter foreign interference strategy is sunlight,” said Hastie on Tuesday.

“In Australia it is clear that the Chinese Communist party is working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities, and also influence our political processes and public debates.”

SEE ALSO: An Australian state is ‘reviewing’ its relationship with a Chinese government-run education program over fears of covert foreign influence

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9 star lawyers helping blockchain companies navigate the tricky waters of cryptocurrency regulation (SQ)

Lindsay Lin

Considering bitcoin’s origins as a decentralized technology designed to disrupt the world banking system, it’s no surprise that the cryptocurrency community has a rather tepid relationship with financial regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Meanwhile, alleged cryptocurrency scams like Centra Tech — which the SEC believes raised $32 million in a fraudulent initial coin offering last fall — have done little to help the relationship from the regulator’s perspective.

Add this complicated background to the fact that the SEC is still developing its official policy on how to regulate cryptocurrencies, and you’ve got an incredibly vague and shaky legal environment from which to try to run a business.

Now, as companies big and small compete for a piece of the cryptocurrency pie, much of the ground work is being done by an invisible force in the C-suite: the general counsel — which is to say, cryptocurrency companies’ in-house lawyers.

Many of the lawyers on this list have spent their careers in finance law or in-house at other tech companies. One lawyer went in-house just one year after finishing her law degree, while another held senior-level roles across three different presidential administrations before finding his way into the world of bitcoin. 

Whatever their experience, these 9 lawyers are helping some of the biggest names in cryptocurrency navigate the shaky and ever-changing landscape of blockchain regulation and compliance. 

Here’s who you need to know.

SEE ALSO: This partner at Sequoia Capital thinks cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups have big potential — and he’s investing millions.

Brynly Llyr — Corporate Counsel at Ripple

Undergrad: Mills College
Law school: University of California, Berkeley 

Why you should know her: 
Llyr’s career has spanned both tech and finance, making her uniquely qualified to work in cryptocurrency.

“I joined Ripple in 2016 for the company’s technology and vision,” Llyr told Business Insider. “Improving the efficiencies with payments helps real people around the world – many of whom are either shut out of the banking system altogether or are subject to high fees and poor visibility into the payment system.”

Prior to joining Ripple, she was at PayPal and eBay for a combined total of five years and managed a range of issues from litigation to patents. Before that, she was at a law firm representing both corporate and individual clients in regulatory investigations, among other things. 

But one of Llyr’s most defining experiences may likely be one that happened before she had a law degree at all. Llyr spent seven years as a project manager and stock broker at Charles Schwab, which gives her unparalleled understanding of the financial systems that Ripple is trying to conquer.

Mike Lempres — Chief Legal and Risk Officer at Coinbase

Undergrad: Dartmouth College
Law school: University of California, Berkeley 

Why you should know him: 
Lempres’ career has spanned both public and private sectors, including time in senior government positions under three different presidential administrations.

He joined Coinbase in January from a similar role at another blockchain company, Bitnet Technologies. Before that, he was assistant general counsel at Silicon Valley Bank’s financial group.

“I first heard about cryptocurrencies from friends who were on it very early. Later I was working at a bank that focused on technology companies in the Bay Area, and a few crypto companies were looking for a bank,” Lempres told Business Insider. “The space was fascinating to me, and I began to believe it could change the world […] I still love the technology and the legal art in this space. No looking back!”

Lempres also has a less conventional item on his resume — mayor of Atherton, an affluent Silicon Valley town and the most expensive zip code in America, which is home to influential tech billionaires like former HPE CEO Meg Whitman and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt. He still sits on the Atherton city council. 

Marco Santori — President and Chief Legal Officer at Blockchain

Undergrad: University of California, Berkeley 
Law school: University of Notre Dame 

Why you should know him: 
Santori is likely the crypto lawyer with the most name recognition among his peers — and with good reason. In addition to practicing law, he has been a central figure on the foundation level, helping bring legal clarity to a developing field. 

Santori joined Blockchain from Cooley LLP, where he was head of the financial technology group. While he’s spent most of his career at law firms, Santori started building a name for himself in crypto around 2013, when he joined the Bitcoin Foundation as chairman of the regulatory affairs committee.

He even co-authored the authoritative white paper on Simple Agreements for Future Tokens (SAFT) — a new investment vehicle which has given venture capitalists and other investors a way to invest in blockchain startups outside of the traditional equity model. The SAFT model is used by top investors, like Sequoia Capital’s Matt Huang, today. 

Read more about how SAFT investments have reimagined venture capital. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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