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Monday, 15 July 2013

Ethel Lopez Free The IRP 6 – Their Story

I am an advocate with A Just Cause(AJC), an organization dedicated to 
the fight for justice by being a voice for the wrongfully convicted 
who cannot speak for themselves.  My job is to solicit partnership and alignment with other non-profit advocacy groups and seek media publicity, both nationally and 
internationally. Through AJC, I seek to gain government attention to 
the stories of those who have been wrongly convicted.

On a personal note, I have been friends with the gentlemen of the IRP6 
story, and their families, for the past 22 years.  As such, I can 
speak as an "expert witness" to their character, integrity, 
professionalism, moral and family values. I am not just an advocate; I 
am a warrior who will not stop until I have won the war! AJC believes 
that injustice never takes a day off, so neither will we; you stop 
fighting, then you die.

Ethel Lopez@LadyJustice523 (Twitter)
Email: elopez@a-justcause.com

Free The IRP 6 – Their Story

Free The IRP 6 – Their Story

The morning of February 9th, 2005 started like most days at IRP Solutions Corporation. Company staff began to show up for work. The day was a typical business day until unexpected guest showed up at the reception desk. IRP Solutions was being raided by federal agents for alleged wrongdoing. There were 21 federal agents at the front door of a business, that at the time, only had approximately 20 employees. A warrant was presented stating that IRP Solutions and its executives were accused of mail and wire fraud.

In 2009, the 2005 raid turned into a federal indictment of the company's executives (Gary Walker - CEO, David Banks - COO, Kendrick Barnes – CIO, Clinton Stewart – VP of Business Development, David Zirpolo – VP of Professional Services, and Demetrius Harper – CEO DKH Enterprises).  In 2011, the 2009 indictment turned into a federal trial and subsequent conviction for mail and wire fraud.

Taking a step back, let's look at the history behind the case.  In 2003, IRP Solutions was developing software for law enforcement.  The company began a major marketing push in late 2003 and began seeking staffing companies to assist in modifying the software.  The sell of its flagship software (Case Investigative Life Cycle - CILC (pronounced "silk")) to major law enforcement agencies like Department of Homeland Security and NYPD was not as fast as anticipated.  This delay resulted in the company not being able to immediately pay the staffing companies’ invoices.

In 2005, the IRP business debt was criminalized although the FBI office in Denver initially stated that it was a civil matter.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch pursued it as criminal based on the request of civilian attorney Greg Goldberg (formerly of the Denver U.S. Attorney's office).  The case was presented to two grand juries. The first grand jury convened in 2007 found no grounds to indict. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch presented the case to a second grand jury in 2009 in which he only called one witness and didn't present all of the details.  This time the grand jury handed down a 25-count indictment charging the IRP executives with defrauding staffing companies. 

Special Agent John Smith of the FBI helped criminalized the case, by conducting interviews and applying for a search warrant of IRP in 2005.  The search warrant resulted in IRP Solutions being raided under false pretenses.  In order to get a warrant, FBI Agent John Smith gave the impression to the judge that IRP was a front operation.  His warrant affidavit stated the IRP was “purportedly” developing software when he already knew that the business was legitimate. Retired federal agents worked at IRP as consultants and they previously communicated to the FBI that IRP was a legitimate business, developing real software, and marketing to real agencies.  In fact, at the time of the raid IRP was modifying its software to accommodate requests from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  IRP had provided DHS with an estimate for one component of the software which would have resulted in $100-million in revenue for IRP (with additional business to follow).  With this knowledge already in hand Agent Smith still obtained a warrant under the guise that IRP was not real.  Additionally, the warrant called for search and seizure of financial records.  The agents involved in the raid ignored the financial records and copied the contents of all the company's computers, and at the same time asking about the software that the company was developing.  So were they there for the financial records or the software (which was worth hundreds of millions of dollars (if not over a billion)).

Although the day of the raid started off as a normal business day at IRP Solutions, Feb. 9, 2005 would not be normal.  When John Smith and 21 other armed agents showed up at IRP, there was an air of disdain on the part of the agents toward IRP executives and employees.  IRP Solutions was a minority-owned (African American) business.  On the day of the raid only approximately 12 of 20 or so employees were in the building.  Of the employees on site, only one was White.  The FBI corralled all of the Black employees into the company break room with arm agents at the door; requiring an escort to even go to the restroom.  The White employee was allowed to walk around freely, unescorted.  One of the agents expressed his disdain openly by stating “...If a white women came here for a job, would she get hired...” (IRP actually had various races and nationalities who had worked for the company).  When the employees were allowed to leave the building, the FBI searched all of their personal belongings.  The White employee was not searched, but rather was given a business card by one of the agents and told that “...if he wanted to talk with them to give them a call...”.  The racism displayed during this FBI operation was blatant and demonstrated an abuse of power on the part of the agents.

From 2005 to 2011 a cloud of accusations would hoover over IRP Solutions which preventing the company from settling its debts.  When someone is blackballed in a particular profession it can have lasting effects.  But when you are blackballed by the government the effect is phenomenal.   Although the IRP6 had been raided, indicted, and were awaiting trial, the executives continued to try to do business.  They found that every time they were close to securing a revenue generating opportunity (which would have allowed the company to settle its debt), the federal prosecutor or someone from the FBI would take action to ensure that business was not conducted.  It was like a double-edged sword.  The prosecutor accuses innocent men of committing fraud, but then blackballs them and interferes with their ability to generate business, thus hedging the prosecution's percentage of winning the case.  The prosecution can then paint a picture to a jury that the men were not, could not, and had no intention of conducting legitimate business, and that they were never planning on paying their debtors. A classic example of this occurred in 2009 when IRP was prime and ready to do business with the city of Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General (and Philadelphia was ready to do business with IRP).  Records show that in January 2009, Lorelei Larson, Chief Investigator, Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General, contacted Banks via email stating, “All of OIG staff is very excited about this venture”.  Shortly thereafter Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch contacted Amy Kurland, Philadelphia OIG, and informed her that an indictment was coming.  IRP was informed directly that the business could not go forward as a result of the call they received.  These men had not been indicted yet, they had not stepped into the courtroom to be tried, and they had not been convicted of any crimes.  They were attempting to continue to do business so that they could settle their debts and have the cloud removed from over their business.  The indictment did come (which was strange in itself that the it was predicted although a grand jury was not impaneled at the time), but the business opportunity ceased as a result of one phone call from the Assistant U.S. Attorney. 

The IRP trail occurred in 2011.  The trial was slanted and biased against the IRP6.  Court appointed attorneys didn't develop a defense strategy; the attorneys only wanted to cut a deal (they were fired and the IRP6 represented themselves ProSe).  Actions that occurred leading to the conviction include Judge Arguello not allowing evidence that the business was legitimate; not allowing expert witness testimony (Read the Andrew Albarelle letter at www.freetheirp6.org); not allowing forensics evidence (read the Califorensics analysis at www.freetheirp6.org); violating 5th Amendment rights (the transcript to show that there was a violation is missing, and Court Reporter Darlene Martinez has not been compelled by the court to produce the missing transcripts); and violating the Speedy Trial Act.  The jury rendered a guilty verdict in Oct 2011.  Judge Arguello displayed a strong dislike for the IRP6 and immediately remanded them into custody following the verdict.  The judge stated that the men were a flight risk, therefore she would not grant bond.  Judge Arguello knew that the men were not a flight risk because they had no resources.  The government had successfully blackballed them in the job market effectively shutting down their ability to get jobs in the information technology field.  The government had previously blackballed the company in the technology industry, basically preventing them from being able to do business.  The IRP6 had virtually no source of income and there were certainly no money “stock piled” somewhere that the guys were living off of (as the government prosecutors would lead people to believe).  The IRP6 relied on the support of their church, friends and family to provide for their basic necessities while waiting on sentencing.  These gentlemen would spend 42 days in jail before being released on bond pending sentencing following filing a motion before the federal magistrate. 

Post-trial activities only add to the strange incidents surrounding this case.  Immediately following the verdict, in open court Judge Arguello thanked the jurors for their service and instructed them that they   were free to discuss the case.  A few moments later the judge met with the jurors in the jury room and the jurors were told not to speak to the media or to the defense about the case.  It was discovered over a year after the trial that jurors were actually afraid to talk about the case.  An investigator spoke to one juror ( John Higginbotham, III) who stated that Judge Arguello instructed the jurors that “...no one should be contacting them (the jurors) from the defense. And that if anyone did call them (the Jurors) to call the attorney (Prosecutor).”  Higginbotham went on to state that one week after they (the jurors) reached their verdict (Oct 2011), that someone called him wanting to talk about the case. He stated that he had called the Prosecutor and told him that he had been contacted. Soon after, someone from the FBI called him and told him that the next time someone called him to get as much information from them as possible and then to let him know and that he would “...take care of it.”  Higginbotham didn't know what the FBI agent meant by the comment, “..he would take care of it...”, but thought that it was strange that he would get a call from the FBI for a case that was over.  This type of activity makes you wonder about jury tampering.  In the IRP6 case it was/is a very real consideration.  If the jury was told one thing in the courtroom and something else behind closed doors in this one incident, what were they being told during the trial? 

The IRP 6 were sentenced in July 2012. Sentencing was harsh. Sentences for the IRP6 range from 7 to 11 years for allegedly committing non-violent “crimes”.  The IRP6 didn't have criminal records.  They were not a danger or risk to their community (in fact they were very active contributors in their community through various faith-based outreach programs).  They were not a flight risk.  In yet another show of dislike for the IRP6, Judge Arguello denied bond pending appeal citing that the men were a flight risk.  The gentlemen had already spent over six months on home confinement (once they were granted bond pending sentencing) and never once did they violate any of the conditions of their bond.  Additionally, their financial situation had not improved.  They still couldn't get jobs because they were still blackballed, and even more so now because their conviction was a matter of public record.  The men now sit in the Federal Prison Camp in Florence, Colorado while their case is waiting to be reviewed by the appellant The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Honorable Senior Judge Bobby R. Baldock, Judge Harris L. Hartz, and Judge Jerome A. Holmes).

The IRP case in a nutshell is a corporate debt collection case that got criminalized by an over-zealous FBI agent and Assistant U.S. Attorney.  The details around the case from it's inception all the way through to prosecution, conviction and sentencing is what sheds light on the overcriminalization and corrupt judicial process that can occur in the U.S. judicial system.  This is a classic case of the government going after a win at any cost.

Bottom line:  A group of smart businessmen started a business that was marketing an excellent software solution that would benefit all U.S. law enforcement agencies.  Their company's debt was criminalized and they were accused and convicted of fraud.  When one digs deeper into the case, it is clear that the men were conducting legitimate business, but they never got a chance to tell the whole story in court.  They are appealing the case and expect exoneration.

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