Money Laundering, Mafia and Drug Cartel Accusations in Arizona’s Cattle Theft Scandal ⋆ Politicrossing
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Money Laundering, Mafia and Drug Cartel Accusations in Arizona’s Cattle Theft Scandal

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The cattle ranching industry in Arizona is being torn apart due to corruption and crime. It has split longtime cowboys against each other. Much of it comes down to cattle rustling that has been allowed to thrive, with close to 3,000 heads of cattle stolen from at least 32 owners over the past few years. There may also be money laundering connected to the Mafia and Mexican drug cartels.   

 

The corruption became so bad the Arizona Department of Agriculture tasked an investigator to look into it a few years ago. He gave the results of his investigation, known as “Operation Cow Posse,” to Judicial Watch in 2019 as the scandal escalated. Cattle ranchers told him the scandal went all the way to the Arizona Legislature. They claimed that a powerful lobbyist helped launder millions of dollars from Pinnacle West, the parent company of electric company Arizona Public Service, through cattle growers’ bank accounts. People working at the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association said they found files going back to 2006 showing the bank transfers. 

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The investigator believes Pinnacle West wanted to pay off powerful people in the water industry, so they laundered the money through ACGA and its related entity, the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association, in order not to show the money coming directly from them. The investigator found over $10 million he says was laundered this way, and believes there were more incidents in the past. 

 

So far, little has been done, in part due to fear that the Mafia and Mexican drug cartels are involved, and in part due to corruption in government and law enforcement. 

 

But things may be changing, due to an email that Jacquelyn Hughes, the executive director of ACGA, sent to numerous people recently questioning the strange transfer of over $10 million. She said it was unusual that “ACGA, from 2016-2018 was taking in and spending anywhere from $60,000 – $100,000 per month. When you consider that ACGA’s primary source of revenue is membership dues and that our dues range from $75.00 – $450.00 per month, it is unclear both how ACGA came into this type of money and how it was spent. Even when considering annual convention revenue, the numbers do not add up.” 

 

The scandal has resulted in multiple ongoing lawsuits, with ACGA in the middle of it. Under the leadership of Jay Whetton, who was elected president in 2018, the organization’s structure changed in order to give regular members the ability to vote on leadership. This was done in response to accusations that the ACGA was run like a fraternity by country club cowboys who had ties to the Mafia and Mexican drug cartels. The change caused a deep division in the organization, with the old guard splitting off and forming their own group. The new executive committee forged ahead, and last August, held a meeting to discuss how the Mafia and Mexican drug cartels launder money in the cattle industry. 

Some of the cattle ranchers accused Emmett Sturgill, who was at the time first vice president of the ACGA and allegedly part of the old guard, of posting information from Operation Cow Posse, which included the names of 56 suspected cow thieves, on the internet in early November. At the same time, Sturgill accused them right back of posting the information and filed lawsuits against them. 

The ADA lost interest in the case, which some cattle ranchers believe was due to corruption, and so the investigator continued on his own, unpaid, for Judicial Watch. Sturgill and his allies attempted to retake control of the ACGA in early November but failed. The old guard objected to the investigation, complaining that it was not done by law enforcement. But the new leadership defended the investigation, saying the government and law enforcement were not doing anything about it. 

The Cattle Growers’ association in Mojave County resigned its affiliation with the ACGA in disgust at the continuous scandals, and prohibited Sturgil, who lives in the county, from being a member. 

 

The ADA issued a statement a few days ago defending its poor record on investigating cattle rustling, dismissing media reports by saying official reports of thefts weren’t filed.  Some of the old guard claim the accusations of cow theft are made up, because certain ranchers want to discredit the government from inspecting cattle and move to a system of private inspectors like they have in Mexico, where corruption is rampant. 

 

But if this was true, then why did well-known Arizona cowboy Milo DeWitt, who lost over 400 head of cattle to theft, ask for assistance from the FBI, county sheriff, brand board and brand inspectors (who are under the ADA), the ADA’s top investigator, Judicial Watch, and meet with investigators several times? Or what about attorney and judge Tom Kelly in Yavapai County, who lost over 100 cows with calves, and complained to two brand inspectors? It sounds like the ADA is mincing words. 

One cowboy characterized the problem this way, “Cattle growers in Arizona have no legitimate advocates in the state legislature because the industry is split down the middle; some people siding with the old guard, many of whom are corrupt, and some with the new guard, but the truth is most ranchers don’t really know the whole true story.” 

After months of infighting and dealing with lawsuits, the immediate-past president and the first vice president, who was in line to be the next president, resigned their positions and also their membership. The ACGA will be holding its annual election of leaders in a few days. The future of the organization does not look hopeful. One longtime cattle rancher says the situation is impossible to fix, the FBI needs to step in and arrest the bad people. The longtime previous executive director of ACGA, Patrick Bray, a relative of the powerful lobbyist, had access to the bank accounts. Perhaps he can explain what went on with the money.

 

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Rachel Alexander is a conservative political writer and pundit. She is the editor of Intellectual Conservative and a recovering attorney. She was ranked by Right Wing News as one of the 50 Best Conservative Columnists from 2011-2019.



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Education

Make Universities Accountable for Predatory Student Loan Abuse

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The Biden administration is still talking about delivering on the President’s promise to relieve student loan debt for many Americans. There is continuing discussion on how much debt should be forgiven, how to pay for it, and whether it is fair to all those who have diligently and painfully worked to already pay off their own student loans. After all, if you’re going to eliminate student debt to buy votes, why just limit it to student debt?

Unfortunately for Biden, according to numerous sources including National Review, the executive branch has no generalized power to forgive any amount of student debt. Even Nancy Pelosi confirmed simply that “the president can’t do it. That’s not even a discussion.” The Department of Education came to the same verdict, determining that the executive branch “does not have the statutory authority to cancel, compromise, discharge, or forgive, on a blanket or mass basis, principal balances of student loans, and/or to materially modify the repayment amounts or terms thereof.”

Of course, even if he had the authority, forgiving student debt doesn’t make the debt go away. Reality has a way of breaking into such “freeloading” dreams. It’s pay me now, or somebody else pay me later. But why should some future taxpayer pay off anyone else’s student debt?

Whatever happened to wise warnings of “student beware.” When you get an education and agree to pay the tuition, you ought to realize that you must at some point pay for that education. You signed on the bottom line. Face your real-world responsibilities. Hopefully, you picked a degree major that will ensure a career capable of paying off your loans. Students clearly have some responsibility, but what about the universities that took advantage of the money coming from those loans?

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After all, there is ample evidence that student tuitions exploded far faster than inflation when government funds became readily available for student loans. Complaints of excessive tuition increases by students trapped in their programs tended to be met with a less than caring response—pound sand!

Since 2008, the tuition cost or a four-year college degree has increased nearly 25%. In that same period, student debt has doubled, increasing by 107%. 2015 study found that a dollar of subsidized student loans results in a published tuition increase of 58 cents at a typical university, An NBER paper suggests that changes to federal student loans are more than sufficient to explain tuition increases at private nonprofit colleges. And a 2014 study found that for-profit colleges eligible for federal student aid charged tuition 78% higher than that of similar but aid-ineligible institutions.

In short, there is no doubt that tuition was rising faster than the inflation level. Evidence has been clear for decades. In 1987, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett argued that “increases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges and universities to raise their tuition, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase.”

Bennett pointed out in 1987 that federal student aid had risen 57 percent since 1980, while inflation had been 26 percent. A 2020 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office brought the numbers up to date: “Between 1995 and 2017, the balance of outstanding federal student loan debt increased more than sevenfold, from $187 billion to $1.4 trillion (in 2017 dollars).” What is the lesson? The more federal aid to students is available colleges raise tuition more. Salaries rise and bureaucracies expand. There are more courses, more dorms, dining halls, lavish recreational centers, and more money for endowments.

Far too many students find that once they begin their education, their schools raise the tuition at such a high rate that their debt explodes. The university builds their endowment, and the “trapped” student is compelled to finish what they started at a cost they did not expect to have to pay. In such a situation, should not the university be responsible for any increased cost above the increase in cost of living during the same time? It’s time for universities to take responsibility for their share of student debt.

The universities that benefited from these loans should have a part in footing the bill. That means universities that raked in millions to inflate endowments should be holding the bag for those who can’t afford to pay their loans. With universities holding hundreds of billions of dollars in tax-free endowments, any government program to relieve student debt should be completely dependent on taxing those university endowments.

It’s time to counter the Democrats’ vote-buying scheme by making lasting changes to the student loan process. That means putting universities on the hook for their predatory behavior. That will go much further than a temporary payoff that does nothing to solve what is causing the problem.

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Tucker: Why are they so angry?

There’s no Constitutional requirement to have respect for anybody in the US government. In fact, in a free country you are encouraged to disagree. You are a citizen, you have that inherent right. But, no more.

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Tucker gives an extended list of several people who were arrested or had their homes raided, without explanation, for no crime. Highlights include:

“Why have a political debate when you can just arrest people who disagree with you? And that has happened, far below the media radar since the day Joe Biden was elected, and tonight we want to show you … a litany, a list of Americans who have been arrested, detained by federal law enforcement on the orders of the Biden administration, not because they committed recognizable crimes but because they disagreed with the political aims of the Biden administration.”

“Ooh, Trumps a fascist, remember that? Did Trump’s DOJ raid the homes of a lot of journalists who embarrassed his children? No, you don’t remember that, because it didn’t happen. But Joe Biden’s justice department has done that, and then they kept going.”

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“We don’t arrest people for ignoring congressional subpoenas, especially when they cite executive privilege, a principal that has a long history in American history, so no, we’ve never done that, but we can do it now because it was ‘an insurrection’, an insurrection that wasn’t armed, wasn’t planned, it didn’t actually insurrect anything, but it was still an insurrection. Now you’re beginning to see why it’s been so important from the very first day for the media to describe what happened on January 6 not as a riot, but as an insurrection, because if it’s an insurrection, they can violate your civil rights.”

“So, a decade ago the Obama administration was caught sending automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels and Congress wanted to know more about this. Eric Holder, then the attorney general, had a key role in this, ‘operation fast and furious’, you may remember it. So, they subpoena’d him, and he ignored the subpoena, and the media applauded, he was taking a noble position. But when Steve Bannon or Peter Navarro tried to do something like that, they went to jail. Again, we had this exact same thing happen in public ten years ago. A federal judge ruled that Holder’s privilege claim was not legitimate, and he was still never arrested, but the rules have changed. Why is that?”

“There’s no Constitutional requirement to have respect for anybody in the US government. In fact, in a free country you are encouraged to disagree. You are a citizen, you have that inherent right. But, no more. The media think you should be sent to jail if you show disrespect, and so of course, with no media to push back against unconstitutional overreach, the justice department kept going.”

Watch the video below and feel free to exercise your right to free speech in the comments.

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