Archive for April, 2014

ATLANTA—Justin Cody, and his wife, Aeshia Wilmore, have been sentenced for their roles in a fraudulent income tax refund scheme.

“Stealing identities of innocent people has become all too common,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The sentence these two received makes it clear that we are committed to exposing and bringing to justice anyone who engages in this conduct.”

“IRS-Criminal Investigation will remain proactive in the investigation of individuals and groups who engage in stealing the identities of innocent people,” said Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge. “We will utilize every tool available to investigate those who conspire with each other to victimize members of our community for their own personal gain.”

J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The FBI is pleased with the role it played in bringing these defendants to justice. The FBI will continue to provide its investigative resources and assets in protecting individuals’ identities and their use in these growing schemes involving false tax returns.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: from as early as February 2013 to May 2013, Justin Cody and his wife, Aeshia Wilmore, participated in a scheme to defraud the Department of the Treasury by filing hundreds of fraudulent income tax returns using stolen identities. This type of scheme is commonly called stolen identity refund fraud. Cody used stolen personal identification information of hundreds of victims, along with fake wage and withholding information, to prepare numerous fraudulent tax returns, claiming over $600,000 in tax refunds. After the refunds were processed, Cody had the refunds applied to blank prepaid debit cards that he and Wilmore used at various ATMs throughout the Atlanta area.

Justin Cody, 33, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to serve seven years and three months in federal prison. Aeshia Wilmore, 25, also of Atlanta, was sentenced to two years in federal prison by United States District Judge Steve C. Jones. On November 22, 2013, Cody and Wilmore each pleaded guilty to count three of the indictment, which is a substantive count of theft of public funds. Cody also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity fraud.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Hacker hijacks baby monitor

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Heather Schreck was asleep around midnight in her Hebron home when a voice startled her.

“All of a sudden, I heard what sounded like a man’s voice but I was asleep so I wasn’t sure,” Heather said.

Disoriented and confused, Heather picked up her cell phone to check the camera in her 10-month-old daughter Emma’s room. The camera was moving, but she wasn’t moving it.

“About the time I saw it moving, I also heard a voice again start screaming at my daughter. He was screaming, ‘Wake up baby. Wake up baby.’ Then just screaming at her trying to wake her up.”

That’s when Heather’s husband, Adam, ran into Emma’s room. Adam said the camera then turned from his petrified daughter to point directly at him.

“Then it screamed at me,” Adam said. “Some bad things, some obscenities. So I unplugged the camera.”

But the Schrecks were only beginning to plug into the truth of what had just happened.

“Someone had hacked in from outside,” Heather said.

So how many other times had someone hacked into their camera and watched their baby through their Foscam IP Camera.

“You do kind of feel violated in a way,” Adam said.

According to tech experts, wireless IP cameras like the one the Shrieks have are an easy way for hackers to open a cyber door directly into your home.

“Any kind of Internet-connected device essentially could be subjected to this,” said Dave Hatter, a solutions expert for Infinity Partners.

And experts say once they get inside the camera in your home, hackers may also be able to get inside your lives.

“It’s not just that they want to get in and mess with your camera. More sophisticated hackers know they can use this as a launching off point to get into your network and potentially steal your ID or use your network to launch malicious attacks against someone else,” Hatter said.

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Fraud Scheme Uncovered

They are our nation’s heroes—often risking their lives abroad to protect us at home. Which makes what one Virginia con man did all the more despicable…defrauding military personnel and their dependents in an investment fraud scheme.

But one of his victims came forward and filed a complaint. And after a joint investigation conducted by the Richmond offices of the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)—under the auspices of the Virginia Financial and Securities Fraud Task Force—Vernon Matthews was charged in the scheme, pled guilty, and was recently sentenced to a federal prison term.

Matthews operated a company called First Capital Group (FCG), located in Virginia Beach. He had a license to sell insurance, not to give investment advice or handle securities—but that didn’t stop him from doing so. Starting in 2010 and continuing until early 2013, Matthews solicited members of the military and their families to make investments with FCG.

Often times, he set up booths at establishments known to be frequented by the military—like restaurants located near military bases—and offered promotions, like a free night at a hotel. And when potential victims came to his office to claim the prizes, Matthews would pitch them on an investment.

And he lied through his teeth while doing it. Among Matthews’ misrepresentations:

He received compensation from the U.S. government for his investment advice and services (he did not);
He would invest his clients’ funds in certificates of deposits, mutual funds, or something similar (Matthews misappropriated all the funds for his own personal or business use);
FCG was affiliated with several reputable investment companies and funds (it was not);
The investment provided a good return—anywhere from 4 to 300 percent—and was low-risk or no-risk (it did not and was not).

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association’s focus at this week’s annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country.

The nation’s largest gun-rights group, which officially opens its meeting of about 70,000 people Friday in Indianapolis, wants Congress to require that concealed weapons permits issued in one state be recognized everywhere, even when the local requirements differ. Advocates say the effort would eliminate a patchwork of state-specific regulations that lead to carriers unwittingly violating the law when traveling.

“Right now it takes some legal research to find out where you are or are not legal depending on where you are,” said Guy Relford, an attorney who has sued communities for violating an Indiana law that bars local gun regulation. “I don’t think that’s right.”

Opponents fear the measure would allow more lenient gun regulations to trump stricter ones when permit holders travel across state lines.

“It’s a race to the bottom,” said Brian Malte, senior national policy director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “It’s taking the lowest standards.”

The push for reciprocity comes as the gun rights lobby is arguably stronger than ever before, with more than 5 million dues-paying members.

The NRA has successfully defeated numerous gun-control efforts in recent years, even after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. With midterm elections looming, the organization’s legislative wish list likely will be somewhat more modest than usual this year.

The “reciprocity” effort on state concealed carry laws has strong support from Senate Republicans but narrowly missed being amended into last year’s proposed expansion of gun sale background checks. Still, it faces long odds in Washington because Democrats control the Senate and White House.

Following a federal judge’s ruling striking down Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons, the Legislature last summer passed the nation’s final law allowing them.

Illinois is among at least 10 states that currently don’t recognize permits issued elsewhere, according to the NRA’s website. Most others recognize permits from only a portion of the other states.

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CTA’s new weapon in graffiti battle

The CTA is hoping that a new deterrent will hit home with graffiti taggers who are thinking about leaving their mark on transit property.

The agency is taking vandalism and graffiti defendants — or in the case of minors, their parents or legal guardians — to Cook County Circuit Court, officials said Tuesday.

The message to vandals for several years now has been that they face an increasing likelihood of arrest for criminal defacement of government property, as the direct result of thousands of surveillance cameras across the CTA system.

However, that alone hasn’t proven to be enough of a disincentive to rub out the CTA’s $1 million-a-year graffiti problem, officials said.

Anti-graffiti civil lawsuits against parents are the first of their kind filed by the CTA, using the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law, which authorizes “recovery of damages from parents or legal guardians’’ for up to $20,000 “due to the willful injury to person or property by minor children.’’

The CTA is seeking to recover the cost of graffiti clean-up and repairs of rail equipment, any lost revenue caused by its equipment being out of service, court costs and attorney fees, officials said.

“Unlike in criminal court, where it is left up to judges to decide whether to order restitution, the civil lawsuits allow us to recoup all the costs related to the damage,’’ said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. She said the CTA is relying on state law rather than city ordinances because only attorneys representing the city can file cases under the city’s administrative hearing process.

The CTA recently filed four lawsuits totaling $13,109 against the parents or legal guardians of eight minors, ages 14 to 17, all charged with misdemeanor criminal defacement to property, officials said.

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Attorney General OKs Armed School Employees

AUSTIN - Texas school districts that allow employees to carry handguns for the protection of students do not violate state laws banning concealed firearms at school sporting events or during school board meetings, Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an opinion released Friday.

Although firearms generally are banned in those places by other state laws, Abbott said the state’s so-called “guardian plan,” approved a year ago for mostly rural school districts that cannot afford to hire security, provides an exception.

Abbott said employees or school trustees specifically authorized by school district administrators to carry concealed weapons will not run afoul of the other laws specifying the prohibited places.

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, last fall had asked Abbott for an opinion on the matter after several Texas school districts began authorizing employees to carry concealed weapons on campus, and several questioned whether the state’s gun laws limited their work areas.

In his ruling, Abbott said it also covers school marshals, school employees who are designated to carry concealed weapons on duty for security purposes under another state law.

The laws were approved a year ago amid controversy over allowing Texas school districts to beef up security in the aftermath of the December 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 26, including 20 students. Supporters insisted that having trained, armed employees could thwart an attack, while opponents claimed putting more weapons in schools was not the answer unless they were carried by trained police officers.

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Below is a look at the 5 biggest benefits to carrying a concealed carry permit or license regardless if your state is Unrestricted, Shall Issue or May Issue for concealed carry. Unrestricted states still offer licenses for those who wish to apply, and those licenses provide advantages to firearm owners.

Five benefits of concealed carry permit

1. Licenses put police officers at ease

2. Licenses help when openly carrying around uninformed people

3. Licenses allow firearm owners to carry in more public areas

4. Licenses educate firearm owners on laws that could save their lives

5. Licenses make it easier to buy firearms

Facial recognition – coming soon

Technology giant NEC’s Hong Kong branch is promoting a small, “easy to install” appliance which will enable businesses to monitor their customers based on facial recognition.

From a recent NEC press release:

The new Mobile Facial Recognition Appliance enables organizations in any industry to offer an ultra-personalized customer experience by recognizing the face of each and every customer as soon as they set foot on the premises.

Face recognition is becoming ever more sophisticated and accurate, bringing automated detection and tracking of people by the way they look within reach of all sorts of people.

For law enforcement this technology is, of course, a dream. Despite limited success in the real world, any modern conspiracy thriller worth its salt includes a scene where creepily intrusive/heroically hardworking forces of law and order are shown to be able to find anyone passing near any security camera, and follow them around with minimal effort.

With the FBI’s latest plans to expand facial recognition data this sort of thing comes another step closer to reality.

It’s not just the feds and the snoops that love the idea though. In the business world, who people are and what they’re up to has become the basis of a massive industry, with big data on anyone and everyone being used to hone and target advertising and promotions in an effort to suck in a few more customers.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT/WYMT) - On the University of Kentucky’s campus signs promote seeing excellence, tomorrow, and of course blue. Although there should be more signs saying they see you.

“Right now, we’ve got over 400 cameras out and we’re expanding almost on a daily basis,” stated UK Police Chief Joe Monroe.

“I just never really knew they were there, until you told me about them. It’s amazing,” reacted one sophomore student.

“I don’t think they really tell us those kinds of things at freshman orientation,” added a freshman student.

It’s not as if these cameras are hidden, they’re in plain sight on poles and even the emergency call stations around campus.

“The system will actually be able to have almost 2,000 cameras by the time the project is through,” explained the Chief.

It was this network of cameras that caught a recent arson attempt outside Commonwealth Stadium.

“We were able to deploy the new camera system and actually research and look at some of the video footage. (We) actually get a good description of the suspects,” said Monroe.

According to police, the footage caught several suspects attempting to light a car on fire via a cardboard box on Wednesday night. Investigators add that the car was not badly damaged. Still it was all seen by a security camera mounted high above the parking lot on the Commonwealth Stadium scoreboard.

“A lot of times you don’t have witnesses, so now we’re able to use the camera system as our witness and gather this evidence very quickly,” Monroe explained.

In the last month, campus police say the system has helped them solve two crimes, and they say it could even evolve into a way to prevent crimes.

“For students and staff that are walking on campus, they can call in to us and we’ll be able to follow them on cameras, by the time the project is through.”

Also by the time the project is complete, police expect to have a central command center where all of the video feeds can be monitored. While the police already patrol the campus heavily, having eyes everywhere will go a long way.

The three students arrested are said to be Jennings Kleeman, 18, Cullen Gallaher, 18, and Ian Baughman, 19.

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A Chicago woman was charged with three felonies after she allegedly used a fake credit card with another person’s account information on it to buy clothes and other goods in River Forest and Oak Park, police said.

Shirley Cameron, 47, of the 200 block of North Keeler Avenue, shopped at GAP Clothing in Oak Park and Jewel Osco and Walgreens in River Forest on March 4, River Forest Police Department Justin Labriola said. She also possessed a fake Indiana driver’s license, police said.

An investigation showed Cameron regularly bought bundles of re-encoded credit cards on Chicago’s West Side and used the cards until they no longer worked, according to a River Forest Police Department news release. Police suspect Cameron has been using the re-encoded cards since at least 2013, Lavriola said.

Her March purchases included spending about $33 at GAP, about $340 at Jewel Osco and about $312 at Walgreens, including a Hallmark gift card, Labriola said. The Jewel Osco and Walgreens purchases included $300 gift cards, he said.

River Forest police arrested Cameron April 11 after a traffic stop in Chicago, according to the Tuesday release.

The victim, who lives downstate, reported she had not lost or had her credit card stolen. One of Cameron’s re-encoded cards matched the victim’s credit account, police said in the release.

Police are investigating the source of the re-encoded card with help from federal agencies, the release states.

Cameron was charged with two counts of felony use of a forged credit card and felony possession of a fraudulent identification card. River Forest detectives alerted Oak Park police about Cameron’s suspected activities at Oak Park stores, the release states.

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Illinois’ new concealed carry law has been in effect for several months now, but it appears there is still confusion over some of its requirements.

A ‘no guns allowed’ sign is posted in a tiny public park in Downers Grove attached to the larger park district sign.

Yet right next door in Lombard, there are no signs banning guns nor are there any signs up in Maywood’s public parks — a community that’s seen plenty of gun violence.

“If you were to look at the one common thread in this legislation, it’s confusion,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says. “It was messed up from day one and it still is today.”

Dart says the concealed carry bill passed by the state legislature last year is a mishmash of confusing language when it comes to requirements placed on municipalities and park districts.

“There’s wildly inconsistent behavior here as far as people not knowing what to do,” Dart says.

The statute includes a list of 23 places where concealed carry is prohibited, including public parks, playgrounds, libraries and schools.

The statute also requires ‘no guns’ signs be posted at those places. And while we found the signs at one public park in Homewood, the vast majority of parks we checked have no signs at all.

There is no enforcement mechanism in the law and no state agency to check whether the law is being followed. Nor is there any deadline to post the signs.

Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association says local park districts and other agencies are being made aware of the law through professional associations and questions whether all that signage is even needed.

Sheriff Dart is opposed to the bill, so he’s trying to pick it apart any way he can,” Pearson says.

“Every person that takes a concealed carry class has to go through that section and knows all the prohibited areas.”

Anyone with a concealed carry permit caught in those prohibited areas could lose their license and face a Class B misdemeanor.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Park District says they’ll begin putting up signs prohibiting guns in all public parks in the next few weeks.

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