NC man hides in machine to rob business

Lenoir NC Jan 31 2014 Investigators have charged a man and a woman from Lenoir in connection with the theft of merchandise from a business.

Daniel Lee Price, 26, and Amanda Marie King, 25, were arrested recently and charged in the larceny of items from Q Express on Abington Road in Lenoir.

The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office alleges that Price and King entered the store shortly before the end of the business day Dec. 16, and that King hid in the drink cooler until the store closed.

Afterward, deputies say, King emerged from hiding and took money from the store before escaping. Investigators said surveillance video from the store led them to the suspects.

King was charged with breaking out of a dwelling, larceny after breaking and entering, conspiracy to commit breaking and entering, and conspiracy to commit felony larceny.

Price was charged with conspiracy to commit breaking and entering, and conspiracy to commit larceny.

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Man Pleads Guilty To Transporting 16-Year-Old Girl

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A northern California man pleaded guilty today to transporting a minor female from San Jose, Calif., to Las Vegas, Nev., to work as a prostitute during May 2013, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Andrew West, 27, of Hayward, Calif., who was indicted on May 29, 2013, pleaded guilty to one count of transportation of a minor for prostitution, and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30, 2014, by U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan. West faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and will have to register as a sex offender.

“We must use maximum resources to prevent our children and youth from becoming victims to sex trafficking,” said United States Attorney Bogden. “The kids who fall victim to pimps are typically physically and emotional abused and scarred for life, and we will work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure that these child exploiters who bring kids across state lines for prostitution purposes are prosecuted.”

According to the plea agreement, in early 2013, a 16-year-old female began working as a prostitute for West in Stockton and San Jose, Calif. On May 3, 2013, West, the 16-year-old girl, and others traveled in several vehicles from San Jose to Las Vegas. The 16-year-old traveled in West’s Lexus automobile, but West told the girl that he could not ride in the vehicle with her until after they arrived in Nevada, because if he were arrested he would get into more trouble for crossing state lines with her because of her age. They arrived in Las Vegas the next day, and West, the 16-year-old girl, and another male checked into a motel on the Boulder Highway. West told the girl to make money (by committing sex acts) to pay for the room. The girl walked the Boulder Highway in search of dates, and solicited separate dates with four men who she took back to the motel room. The girl earned a total of $260, part of which was provided to West after each date. The girl was arrested on May 4, 2013, when she attempted to solicit a date from an undercover Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer in the motel parking lot.

The case was investigated the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, as part of the Innocence Lost Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nicholas D. Dickinson and Phillip N. Smith, Jr.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal
Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about PSC, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.

Las Vegas Woman Sentenced To 57 Months In Prison

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A woman who pleaded guilty to stealing over $400,000 from the unemployment system, public housing authority, and Social Security Administration, was sentenced today to 57 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $477,466 in restitution, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Teresa Ann Towns, 50, who pleaded guilty in October 2013 to three counts of theft of government money, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George. Towns was indicted and arrested in June 2013, and has been in custody since that time.

“Stealing from government benefits programs is a serious crime with serious consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “Besides protecting our citizens from terrorist threats, white collar fraud is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice, and considerable resources are being utilized to investigate and prosecute this type of crime.”

Between 2005 and 2013, Towns, who also uses the aliases C. or T. Moorehead, C. or S. Grayson, and V. Johnson, established multiple business entities in Nevada and submitted false wage reports for fictitious employees to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, which is the state agency responsible for distributing unemployment benefits that are partially funded by the federal government. Unemployment benefits were then disbursed on debit cards in the names of the fictitious employees and sent to addresses accessible to Towns. Towns used the debit cards to obtain cash from ATM machines and to convert the funds to her own use and the use of others. The loss to the federal and state unemployment system was approximately $322,682.

In March 2001, Towns fraudulently obtained a public housing unit from the Southern Nevada Housing Authority using a false identity and other fraudulent information. The Housing Authority is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 2005 to 2013, Towns failed to report her income on annual re-certifications which would have made her ineligible for the housing benefits. In May 2007, Towns also fraudulently obtained Section 8 Housing from the Southern Nevada Housing Authority using false income and household composition information. Towns failed to report in the original application and in annual re-certifications that she already had a public housing unit and was receiving unemployment income, and that she had an unauthorized adult and minor residing in the housing for several years. The loss to the Southern Nevada Housing Authority because of the fraud was approximately $114,000.

In October 2009, Towns applied for and fraudulently received child insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration. Towns falsely represented that the child lived with her in Las Vegas, and that she would use the benefits for the child or would place them into savings for the child. Between 2009 and 2012, Towns fraudulently obtained approximately $40,656 in child insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration.

In 1991, Towns was convicted in California of grand theft for using multiple aliases to obtain welfare benefits and was sentenced to two years in prison.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Gregory Damm.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.
For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

TSA Found Some Dangerous — And Creepy — Things In 2013

Washington DC Jan 28 2014 On Friday, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released its Blog Year In Review for 2013.

The annual review is a veritable gold mine of the bizarre things people have tried to bring on airplanes in the United States over the past year.

Some of this stuff has to be seen to be believed.

First off, the TSA found 1,813 firearms in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints last year. That’s about five a day, and represents a 16.5 percent increase from the year before.

Of those 1,813 guns found in 2013, 81 percent were loaded. The most guns were found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with Dallas/Fort Worth International coming in second place.

Other items found in travelers’ carry-on bags in 2013 included 562 stun guns, black powder, inert demolition explosives, smoke grenades, flashbang grenades and flare guns.

Airport officers with TSA also found some interesting items in travelers’ checked bags, including a World War II-era bazooka (luckily it wasn’t a functioning weapon) and this rather realistic-looking suicide vest, which ended up being fake and belonging to an explosives instructor.

In a checked bag at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, officers found one of the strangest things of the year: human skull remains. The bone fragments were found in some clay pots in checked baggage, whose owners said they had “no idea” the skull pieces were in there.

Lastly, TSA agents found lots of walking canes with concealed swords inside them.

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Texas parents sue teenagers for cyberbullying of daughter

Houston TX Jan 27 2014 In response to cruel cyberbullying that has left their 16-year-old daughter feeling humiliated and unable to sleep, a pair of fed-up parents are striking back at the offending classmates in a unique and public way: They’re suing all seven of the teens for libel and all of their parents for negligence.

“We’re being super aggressive about it, because this behavior really needs to stop,” Tej Paranjpe, the Houston-based attorney for parents Reymundo Esquivel and Shellie Tingle-Esquivel, tells Yahoo Shine. “It’s really an issue of principle.”

Although the Esquivels’ daughter (who is not being named to protect her privacy) has been getting bullied in person by several fellow students at Klein High School in Klein, Texas, for about a year now, the situation came to a head in recent weeks, according to her mother. That’s when the girl’s photo appeared, along with those of many others (some of whom were topless), on a student-made Instagram page called “2014 Klein Hoes,” which had picked up almost 900 followers during the several weeks it was live.

On Instagram, her daughter’s photo in particular, Tingle-Esquivel tells Yahoo Shine, became the target of many “vulgarities” and “explicit sexual comments,” which left the teen “crying and really upset — almost hysterical.” She adds that the whole experience “has affected [her daughter] tremendously,” but she also notes that she’s “really impressed and proud” that the girl had the gumption to tell her parents in the first place.

The situation has inspired Tingle-Esquivel to act on behalf of her daughter, as well as the other girls on the Instagram page, which was “really defaming the character of these kids.” She retained Paranjpe, who quickly got the page taken down with restraining orders against each of the seven students involved in its making. And now they’re preparing to file the lawsuits, for the sole purpose of stopping all cyberbullying activity and “raising public awareness,” Tingle-Esquivel says. “It’s to let kids know that this is not acceptable.” If they do pursue monetary damages, she adds, any funds will be donated to an antibullying organization.

The approach is certainly an unusual one, according to Dr. Justin Patchin, criminal justice professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the national Cyberbullying Research Center. “What’s more common is parents suing the school for failing to respond appropriately,” he tells Yahoo Shine. That happened last year in Tennessee, when a family sued its school district for $1.1 million for not doing enough to protect its eighth-grade son from cyberbullying, which included a death threat.

Though Klein High School administrators have been “very supportive” about their complaints, Tingle-Esquivel says, the school has not gone far enough. School officials moved several of the offending students out of her daughter’s classes and into others, for example, but, she says they didn’t bother to get the Instagram page taken down despite having known about it.

Klein High School principal Larry Whitehead did not respond to requests for comment from Yahoo Shine.

Lawsuits that go after cyberbullies, Patchin notes, are rare because it can be challenging to prove and put a price tag on the harm that ensues from the harassment. They can also be expensive. So instead, he suggests, “parents should work with schools to minimize the damage. The targets usually know who’s behind it, and the teens often think it’s just a joke — they don’t realize the harm that they’re causing.” Patchin also stresses the importance of schools’ creating environments that value compassion and respect in an effort to prevent the cyberbullying in the first place.

As for the expense involved in the Texas lawsuit, Tingle-Esquivel says, she’s more concerned about potentially saving the life of a student who may feel suicidal over cyberbullying. “Can you put a price tag on someone’s life?” she asks. “No, you cannot.”

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Former Bank Supervisor Charged with Embezzling $316,324

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that today in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, a criminal information has been filed against Shelly Ann Kocher, 42, Lehighton, Pennsylvania, for embezzling approximately $316,324 from customer accounts while she worked as a customer service supervisor at Jim Thorpe National Bank in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. A plea agreement was also filed indicating that Kocher intends to plead guilty to the charge when she appears in federal court for her arraignment.

According to U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, Kocher was employed by Jim Thorpe National Bank from 1999 until May 2013. Kocher allegedly embezzled the funds by making unauthorized withdrawals from customers’ CD and savings accounts between April 2010 and April 2013. Upon discovery of the activity, the bank reimbursed the victims for their losses.

If convicted, Kocher faces up to 30 years’ imprisonment, $1 million in fines, and mandatory restitution.

The case was investigated by the Scranton Resident Agency of the FBI and is assigned to Senior Litigation Counsel Bruce Brandler.

Indictments and criminal informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute is 30 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances, and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public, and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational, and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

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NYC Cops to Keep Close Eye on Super Bowl Fans

When Super Bowl fans fill the streets of New York City next week, police will be watching them closely — in person, in the air and on closed-circuit monitors.

The New York Police Department has quietly installed about 200 temporary surveillance cameras in midtown Manhattan to help spot trouble along “Super Bowl Boulevard,” a 13-block street fair on Broadway that’s expected to draw large crowds during the windup to the game. Banners promoting the fair compete on the same lampposts with decidedly less festive signs reading, “NYPD Security Camera in Area.”

The heavy surveillance is one facet of a vast security effort by scores of law enforcement agencies that spent the past two years devising their own version of a zone defense to protect Super Bowl events that are all over the map.

Manhattan and Brooklyn will be the scene of dozens of pre-game gatherings, while across the Hudson River, Newark will stage Media Day, Jersey City will host the Seahawks and Broncos at hotels there before the kickoff on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

At a recent security briefing at the stadium, police chiefs and other officials said success will be measured in part by how well authorities conceal all the concern over potential threats.

The officials “realize this is the Super Bowl of football, not security,” said Jeffrey Miller, the NFL’s head of security. “That’s why all of us have been working very hard to make sure we take care of the logistical and security concerns so the fans can come and relax and enjoy what they see on the field.”

As a precaution, the officials have mostly declined to give specific details of the security plans. They’ve also refused to forecast the costs.

But at the briefing, the head of the New Jersey State Police revealed that up to 700 troopers would be assigned to patrols in and around the stadium. The NFL has committed another 3,000 private security officers to bolster security there as well.

In Manhattan, the NYPD will draw on its experience securing the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, the New York City Marathon, the U.N. General Assembly and other high-profile events. The department also has studied bombings and other attacks, both domestic and foreign, to fine tune its approach to guarding against potential terror threats.

“We’re accustomed to large events and we’re prepared to respond to anything that presents itself,” said Chief James Waters, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau.

Waters described how NYPD officials met with their counterparts in Boston following the bombing at last year’s Boston Marathon to assess the risk of future attacks in similar settings. The NYPD responded by blanketing the finish line area of the city’s own marathon with security cameras — an approach that will be duplicated along Super Bowl Boulevard.

“We took a close look at what happened in Boston,” Waters said. “Unfortunately, this is the world we live in, so we learned from events around the world.”

The temporary cameras for the Super Bowl festivities will supplement a system of thousands of permanent cameras covering midtown and Wall Street that the NYPD monitors from a command center in lower Manhattan. The department has pioneered analytical software that allows it to program the cameras to detect suspicious activity, such as a bag or other objects left in one place for a long time.

The NYPD also will take lower-tech measures similar to those taken for New Year’s Eve, when hundreds of extra uniformed and plainclothes officers in Midtown and elsewhere will mix with the crowd.

Hazmat and bomb squads will be on standby. Others officers will patrol with bomb-sniffing dogs. Still more will watch from rooftops and from police helicopters.

The NYPD has advised hotels welcoming guests for the Super Bowl to remind their staffs to be on the lookout for anyone loitering in lobbies or guest floors. They also have recommended being suspicious of guests booking unusually long stays — a possible sign someone may be using a room as a staging area for conducting extensive surveillance or storing weapons.

FBI analysts will monitor the latest counterrorism intelligence the week of the game to watch for threats. There also have been reports that another federal agency, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, used helicopters with radiation detecting technology to fly over parts of New York City and New Jersey and map naturally occurring radiation sources as a baseline to measure against possible dirty bomb or other rogue activity.

Jeffrey Strauss, a former New Yorker and San Diego restaurateur who’s staying in the city and attending the Super Bowl, said he’s thankful for the security. But he’s more worried about the commute to the Meadowlands and the weather than any possible mayhem.

“I won’t go to game in fear,” Strauss said. “I think I’ll have a better chance of freezing to death than getting killed by a terrorist.”

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Gun bill to be re-introduced without campus-carry

ATLANTA – Legislation that would have relaxed some gun restrictions is being rewritten without the controversial provisions allowing Georgians 21 years and older with concealed-weapons permits to exercise that right on college campuses.

Rep. Alan Powell, chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, told reporters Thursday the campus-carry provision was the major sticking point in a bill that deals with multiple aspects of Georgia’s gun laws. Versions of it passed the House and Senate last year, but it ultimately stalled in the final moments of the 2013 legislative session over negotiations about the differences.

This year, legislative leaders had set the first week of the session as a deadline for the House to pass the bill. Powell said he had proposed a compromise designed to address the concerns of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, which voted unanimously at its January meeting to oppose any concealed weapons on campus.

The compromise would have allowed the presidents of each college or university to decide the matter. But a letter Tuesday from the legislative counsel that provides legal advice to the General Assembly warned such an opt-out option would be unconstitutional.

“By specifically delegating authority to the presidents of public colleges and universities, and thus the Board of Regents, the bill purports to give the executive branch authority over classifying activity that would constitute a criminal offense,” wrote Assistant Legislative Counsel Julius Tolbert.

“This appears to be the exact scenario found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Georgia in ‘Sunderberg.’”

The 1975 Sunderberg case voided a law that attempted to let the State Board of Pharmacy define which specific drugs are illegal. As a result, almost yearly, the Legislature votes to update the state’s list of illicit drugs.

The main thrust of the new version of the bill will be to limit firearms access to people who have mental illness, such as someone who was found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. It’s a response to calls for greater restrictions on guns following Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in late 2012 in which the alleged gunman was a mental patient.

“Those are exactly the people you don’t want having a gun,” said Powell, R-Hartwell.

He admitted some ardent gun-rights advocates would oppose that provision as well.

On the other hand, among the most conservative legislators, removing the campus-carry guarantee will also be unpopular.

“When government can’t defend the people, the people have to defend themselves. We don’t want to make students sitting ducks,” Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said last week.

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Four Sentenced for Trafficking Identities of Puerto Rican U.S. Citizens

Four individuals were sentenced this week for their respective roles in trafficking the identities and corresponding identity documents of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico made the announcement. The sentencings took place in front of U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí in the District of Puerto Rico.

Domingo Pablo Gutierrez, 52, a Guatemalan national formerly of Albertville, Ala., was sentenced today to serve 30 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Gutierrez agreed to forfeit $40,000 in proceeds and to be removed from the United States after the completion of his sentence. On Aug. 22, 2013, Gutierrez pleaded guilty in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce J. McGiverin of the District of Puerto Rico to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling for financial gain.

On Jan. 21, 2014, Moises Lara-Ceballos, 38, a Mexican national formerly of Seymour, Ind., was sentenced to serve 54 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Lara-Ceballos agreed to forfeit $422,793 in proceeds and to be removed from the United States after the completion of his sentence. On Sept. 20, 2013, Lara-Ceballos pleaded guilty in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcos E. López to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of illegal reentry after deportation.

Juan Quero-Mendez, 28, a Mexican national formerly of Lilburn, Ga., was also sentenced on Jan. 21, 2014, to serve 36 months in prison and three years of supervised release. The court ordered the defendant to forfeit $17,180 in proceeds and to be removed from the United States after the completion of his sentence. On Sept. 20, 2013, Quero-Mendez pleaded guilty in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille L. Vélez-Rive of the District of Puerto Rico to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling for financial gain.

Adonis Ramirez-Segura, 54, a Dominican national and a legal permanent resident of Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced on Jan. 21, 2014, to serve 22 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. On Sept. 20, 2013, Ramirez-Segura pleaded guilty in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille L. Vélez-Rive to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of Social Security fraud.

The four defendants were charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on March 22, 2012. To date, 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme. All 49 arrested defendants have pleaded guilty and 36 defendants have been sentenced.

Court documents allege that individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States allegedly solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The superseding indictment alleges that these identity brokers in the United States ordered the identity documents from the document suppliers in Savarona on behalf of their customers by making coded telephone calls. The conspirators are charged with using text messages, money transfer services, and express, priority or regular U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

Court documents allege that some of the conspirators assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation. Their customers generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.

According to court documents, various identity brokers were operating in Rockford, DeKalb and Aurora, Ill.; Seymour, Columbus and Indianapolis, Ind.; Hartford, Conn.; Clewiston, Fla.; Lilburn and Norcross, Ga.; Salisbury, Md.; Columbus and Fairfield, Ohio; Dorchester, Lawrence, Salem and Worcester, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nebraska City, Neb.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Burlington and Hickory, N.C.; Hazelton and Philadelphia, Pa.; Houston; Abingdon and Albertville, Ala.; and Providence, R.I.

According to court documents, Quero-Mendez was an identity broker who operated in Lilburn, Ga.; Ramirez-Segura was an identity broker who operated in Columbus, Ohio; Lara-Ceballos was an identity broker who operated in Seymour, Ind.; and Gutierrez was an identity broker who operated in Albertville, Ala.

The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally coordinated investigation led by the ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE-HSI) Chicago Office and USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices in Chicago, in coordination with the ICE-HSI San Juan Office and the DSS Resident Office in Puerto Rico. The Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin, Ill., Police Department; Seymour, Ind., Police Department; and Indiana State Police provided substantial assistance. The ICE-HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) as well as various ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country provided invaluable support.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James S. Yoon, Hope S. Olds, Courtney B. Schaefer and Christina Giffin of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the assistance of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana, District of Connecticut, District of Massachusetts, District of Nebraska, Middle District of North Carolina, Southern District of Ohio, Middle District of Pennsylvania, District of Rhode Island, Southern District of Texas and Western District of Virginia provided substantial assistance.

Potential victims and the public may obtain information about the case at: www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/beltrerj.html . Anyone who believes their identity may have been compromised in relation to this investigation may contact the ICE toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) and its online tip form at www.ice.gov/tipline . Anyone who may have information about particular crimes in this case should also report them to the ICE tip line or website.

Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on various government websites including the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft . Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/pubs/ID_theft/idtheft.html ; www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html ; www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/identity_theft ; and www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html .
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Alabama woman linked to thefts from gravesites in 3 states

FLORENCE, Alabama Jan 21 2014- The garden of Brandie Grimes Emerson’s Muscle Shoals home was filled with quaint knickknacks – stone cherubs and bunnies, Auburn and Alabama collectibles, silk flowers and wind chimes.

Inside the home she shares with her husband on Sunset Valley Road, floral arrangements and lanterns decorated tables and countertops.

According to Florence Police Det. Brad Holmes, Emerson, 39, placed the items in her yard and around her home, then took photos so she could sell them from her Facebook page and through two online auction sites. “That’s how she displayed them for sale,” Holmes said.

Following Emerson’s arrest Thursday on a felony charge of stealing items from the grave of a 21-year-old wreck victim in a Florence cemetery, authorities wondered: Did all the items Emerson placed for sale come from area cemeteries?

As of Friday morning, Holmes and investigators were able to connect numerous items to 21 victims in three states and they are still sifting through photos of the 250 items Emerson has sold since September.

In addition to connecting Emerson to items stolen from the grave of Brandy Nicole Murphy, who was a senior at the University of Alabama when she was killed in a car wreck in Atlanta in 2006, Holmes said stolen items were identified by 12 victims in Lauderdale County, six in Colbert County, two from the Corinth, Miss., area, and one from Lincoln County, Tenn. However, cemetery thefts also have been reported in Lawrence and Limestone counties and Holmes said he is hoping to connect some of the items to those thefts and close those cases.

Emerson was charged with felony theft of property and taken to Lauderdale County Detention Center. Additional charges are likely, Holmes said. Emerson was arrested after police received tips from residents linking her to the crimes. Emerson’s husband, who lives in the home, has not been charged, Holmes said.

“Investigators traveled to Grimes-Emerson’s house (Thursday) morning and recovered a number of the items stolen in the theft,” Holmes said.

He declined to describe the home and surroundings because the investigation is ongoing but photos police found on Emerson’s Facebook page show items on a dining room table, on counters, porches and in the yard. Holmes said the photos of potentially stolen goods were taken at the Sunset Valley Road home.

In addition to selling items online, Emerson sold them at flea markets in Lawrence and Limestone counties.

“We know that she had been visiting a number of different flea markets and using these online sites to do this,” Holmes said. “People have been coming to the station and saying, ‘We purchased this. If it’s stolen, we don’t want it on our loved ones’ grave.’”

Stolen items include statues, benches, solar lights, plastic flower arrangements and decorative flags, as well as live flower sprays from recent burials, Holmes said.

Police ask that anyone who thinks he may have unwittingly purchased stolen items involved in this case to photograph the items and email the pictures to
Holmes at bholmes@florenceal.org. Holmes said although he realizes this is an emotional case, police ask that people do not bring items believed to be stolen to the police department. They are dealing with numerous items and multiple cemeteries in at least four police jurisdictions and police need to determine how to proceed with storage of stolen items.

In the meantime, Holmes hopes to be able to use photos for identification of items.

Brandy Nicole Murphy is buried in Tri-Cities Memorial Gardens in Lauderdale County and items were recovered from additional graves there, Holmes said.

Also, items were recovered from Greenview Cemetery in Lauderdale County and Oakwood Cemetery in Tuscumbia.

Many items likely came from rural or church cemeteries, some of which may not have names, he said.

Oakwood Cemetery, with its oldest marker dated 1821, is a historical burial ground in Tuscumbia and has graves from soldiers in every American war, beginning with the American Revolution and including graves of about 100 unknown Confederate soldiers. Historic figures buried there include U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin (1921-2005); Arthur Henley Keller (1836-1896), Helen Keller’s father, Confederate officer; U.S. Rep. Edward Berton Almon (1860-1933); U.S. Rep. Archibald Hill Carmichael (1864-1947); Confederate Brig. Gen. James Deshler (1833-1863), killed by exploding artillery shell, Battle of Chickamauga.

Holmes said investigators will continue to gather evidence to present to a Lauderdale County grand jury during a February session. The grand jury will determine additional charges against Emerson, he said.

“The victims in this case have already had to deal with the emotional ramifications of their loved ones passing away,” he said. “To be revictimized by coming to that grave site and finding items stolen is tragic. It’s an emotionally charged situation for victims.

“While we may not be able to get all the items back, we hope to offer some comfort and closure by allowing them to know what happened to those items and to know the person responsible will have to answer for the thefts in court,” he said.

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