Former Miami U.S. Postal Service employee charged with stealing

Miami FL June 16 2014 A former U.S. Postal Service employee is one of two suspects charged with stealing more than $33,000 in checks, federal documents show.

Ainsley J. Holas is accused of taking checks from mailed envelopes last year while working as a postal-support employee at post offices, according to an indictment filed Tuesday. Holas and a second person, Kendra N. Darden, then visited ATM machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and deposited about 20 stolen checks, worth $33,109, into a bank account, the indictment said.

When the checks cleared, Holas and Darden then “split the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme” and went shopping separately or together, it said.

Holas has resigned, a postal service spokeswoman said.

Holas and Darden, whose ages and addresses were excluded from the indictment, each are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Holas also is charged with theft of mail by a postal employee.

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Better security too expensive for many schools

At the Seattle University security headquarters, officers keep constant vigil over their campus.

“We’re just always looking for anything out of the ordinary,” says officer John Irby.

Irby monitors dozens of surveillance screens, while the images of two school shootings in less than a week replay over and over in his head. “It’s the last thing you ever want to see happen, but the first thing you think about in this job,” he says.

Cameras on campuses are now as common as textbooks. Texting and electronic notification systems are becoming quite common, as well. A new generation of school security is now allowing police to lock inside and outside doors remotely if a shooter is spotted on or near campus. The military uses “gunshot detectors” that hear gun fire and can track where the bullets are coming from. Few schools, however, can afford such expensive technology.

“This is something every police, fire and public safety person thinks about all the time,” says Seattle University’s Executive Director of Public Safety, Tim Marron.

Experts point out that everything that could’ve possibly gone right at last week’s deadly shooting at Seattle Pacific University did go right. But even a rapid police response, immediate lockdown and a heroic student security staffer couldn’t save everyone, and that’s troubling.

“Most campuses in this state are not prepared to the level that SPU is,” says school security expert Erick Slabaugh.
Slabaugh’s company, Absco Solutions, outfits schools with security systems. He says SPU is one of the safest schools he’s ever seen, but most others still lag behind because of the cost.

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2 dozen gang members arrested in drug investigation

Federal and local law enforcement raided stash houses and made arrests early Thursday as authorities cracked down on a gang-controlled heroin and crack cocaine operation just off the Eisenhower Expressway, dubbed the “Heroin Highway” by law enforcement for its easy access to Chicago’s West Side.

At a news conference at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said the charges against 27 individuals mirror a trend of Chicago’s street gangs aligning into localized drug-dealing factions.

Authorities said the investigation uncovered that Kenny Shoulders, a leader of the Conservative Vice Lords street gang, controlled the heroin and crack dealing in a 12-block area immediately north of Douglas Park in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

A gang informant told investigators that Conservative Vice Lord members mostly ran the drug-dealing in those blocks but with the assistance of members from the Traveling Vice Lords, Black Souls Nation, Gangster Disciples and New Breed street gangs.

While the charges don’t allege any acts of violence by the gangbangers, Fardon said, “We believe bringing serious charges such as these is an effective tool in reducing violence in our communities.”

Fardon said the arrests mark one of the most significant cases brought so far by a multijurisdictional task force of federal and local law enforcement that has been in existence for about two years. He said the strike force has the ability to develop nimble and quick-moving investigations that can disrupt the drug trade. This investigation took about a year.

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Court rules police need warrant for cell phone location tracking

What started out as a case against a man accused of violently robbing a handful of restaurants and gas stations has morphed into a landmark court privacy decision about cell phone location tracking.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled (PDF) on Wednesday that police must obtain a warrant to track mobile users’ location data. This means cell phone carriers are not obliged to hand over users’ location history to police unless a warrant in produced.

The original case that led to this decision involved a man named Quartavius Davis who was convicted by a jury for taking part in a string of armed robberies in businesses such as Wendy’s restaurant, Little Caesar’s restaurant, and Amerika Gas Station.

During the case, the prosecution’s evidence included cell phone location records that allegedly placed Davis in “close proximity” to these businesses around the time the robberies occurred.

Davis appealed the conviction saying his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure was violated since the government didn’t obtain warrants for his mobile location records. And, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him.

Despite this major decision in regards to privacy and warrantless cell phone location tracking, which was first disclosed by CNET nine years ago, it doesn’t do much for Davis. The court still upheld his conviction by allowing the mobile location evidence to continue to be included in the case against him.

Various courts have grappled with the issue of warrants and cell phone location tracking in the past. In 2010, a Philadelphia appeals court ruled that no search warrant is needed for police to track people’s cell phone whereabouts but individual judges can “sparingly” require one. While civil liberties groups vehemently opposed this decision, the US Department of Justice said it agreed with it at that time.

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Bulletproof blanket seeks to shield kids during school shootings

School shootings are a tragic reality. While much discussion has centered around prevention, ProTecht, a protective and safety products company in Oklahoma, has created a product it hopes kids will use in case such a tragedy strikes their schools. The Bodyguard Blanket is designed to offer a temporary shelter during dangerous situations, particularly school shootings.

While the Bodyguard is also built to help protect children from falling debris during natural disasters like tornadoes, much of the marketing around the product concerns the potential for school shootings. It’s the reason the blanket was created in the first place.

Technically, the Bodyguard is bullet-resistant. It’s made from the same materials used in military and law enforcement body armor. Instead of having kids put on a flak vest, though, it puts the material in a form that can be folded up and then unfolded to create a body shelter. It has straps that help hold it in place like a backpack. ProTecht posted a video of the blanket undergoing a ballistics test, if you’re curious about how it behaves under fire.

Bullet-resistant materials aren’t cheap. The Bodyguard comes with a price tag just shy of $1,000, though ProTecht hopes to partner with schools and nonprofits to make it more affordable to buy in bulk. Even with a substantial discount, it will likely be out of reach for many school districts.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a bulletproof product for the classroom. A bulletproof whiteboard that doubles as a shield appeared early last year. In a better world, no one would even have the impetus to dream up products like these. The Bodyguard Blanket will likely rouse a lot of differing opinions. Do you think it’s excessive or practical? Tell us in the comments.

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TSA recovers record setting number if guns in one day

CHESTERFIELD, Va. June 7 2014 — The Transportation Security Administration reports seeing an increase in guns at airport checkpoints.

The day after the agency reported stopping a record 18 guns at checkpoints nationwide on Thursday, two Virginia men were arrested for carrying guns.

Thursday’s reports became the most ever amount of guns detected at checkpoints in one day.

Friday morning TSA officers at two separated airports detected guns in the carry-on bags of the passengers.

Preliminary indications are that the incidents are not related.

Weapons—including firearms, firearm parts and ammunition—are not permitted in carry-on bags, but can be transported in checked bags if they are unloaded, properly packed and declared to the airline. Passengers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure.

Passengers are responsible for the contents of bags they bring to the security checkpoint, and TSA’s advice to passengers is to look through bags thoroughly before coming to the airport to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items.

TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its web site here:

Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should also contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies.

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Reputed Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Gang Leader Pleads Guilty

An alleged general of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang (ABT) pleaded guilty today to racketeering charges related to his membership in the ABT’s criminal enterprise, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas.

Terry Ross Blake, aka “Big Terry,” 56, of Corpus Christi, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity.

According to court documents, Blake and other ABT gang members and associates agreed to commit multiple acts of murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping and narcotics trafficking on behalf of the ABT gang. Blake and numerous ABT gang members met on a regular basis at various locations throughout Texas to report on gang-related business, collect dues, commit disciplinary assaults against fellow gang members and discuss acts of violence against rival gang members, among other things.

By pleading guilty to racketeering charges, Blake admitted to being a member of the ABT criminal enterprise.

According to the superseding indictment, the ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system. The gang modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang that was formed in the California prison system during the 1960s. According to the superseding indictment, previously, the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism. Over time, the ABT expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit.

Court documents allege that the ABT enforced its rules and promoted discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, assault, robbery and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the enterprise. Members, and oftentimes associates, were required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, often referred to as “direct orders.”

According to the superseding indictment, in order to be considered for ABT membership, a person must be sponsored by another gang member. Once sponsored, a prospective member must serve an unspecified term, during which he is referred to as a prospect, while his conduct is observed by the members of the ABT.

At sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 8, 2014, Blake faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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Cop Describes First Time He Went Undercover

Working undercover on his first case as a fake hit man, an officer said he was more nervous about messing up the case than he was about the danger posed by his secret identity.

“I don’t want to say the wrong things, just you know, mess up the case or anything like that,” Jose, whose name has been changed because he still works undercover, told ABC News’ “20/20.”

Jose is part of an elite squad of undercover agents working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms all across this country. Earlier this year, a group of undercover federal agents agreed to sit down with “20/20″ to recount the stories of intervening in murder-for-hire plots.

The setting for Jose’s first undercover case was a supermarket parking lot in 2011. There, in the midst of grocery shoppers, he met with soccer mom Nicole Faccenda, 42, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

“I guess she wanted to make it seem like she was shopping, if anyone questioned her, what she was doing here at the time,” said Jose.

Faccenda wanted the new girlfriend of her longtime boyfriend, Howie, killed, authorities said. She hired Jose, whom she met through Howie’s relative, to get the job done.

“Just based on looking at her, you didn’t really think that she was capable of doing it,” Jose said. While Faccenda plotted the murder of her romantic rival, she wanted Howie to live — but not because she was carrying a torch for him.

“She wants him to live because she wants him to grieve,” Jose said. “She wants to see him suffer.”

Jose said he worked out the details of the plot with Faccenda. He asked her how she wanted the murder carried out and how much she was willing to pay.

They agreed on the price of $10,000. Faccenda later paid a down payment of $2,000 for the hit, authorities said.

Faccenda was arrested after the week-long ATF operation. She later pleaded guilty and, in December 2013, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“I thank God every day that no one got hurt from my careless actions,” Faccenda told “20/20″ in an email from prison. “I would like to apologize to the victim and her family. I am not — and have never been — a violent person. I was a woman destroyed by emotions and I am paying for it dearly.”

Jose recalled thinking, “What’s wrong with you?”

“When someone’s being so evil next to you, it’s like, ‘How can you even conceive of something like this?’” Jose said.

“And you have to sit there with your poker face, and, ‘Okay, if this is what you want done, this is what I’m going to do.’”

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Sophisticated Puyallup heist nets burglars $1M in gold

PUYALLUP, Wash. — In what could have been a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie, police say a group of sophisticated burglars cut holes in several roofs to pull off a million dollar gold heist this weekend in Puyallup.

Police were called to Gold Definitions Monday morning after employees at the jewelry store realized they’d been cleaned out by thieves.

Officers arrived soon after, and it didn’t take them long to realize they were dealing with something a lot more sophisticated than a common smash-and-grab operation.

Sometime on Sunday, police say the burglars climbed onto the roof of the complex that houses the jewelry store and other businesses. The crooks then cut two large holes in the roof and lowered themselves down into two of the jewelry store’s neighboring businesses.

Once inside, they removed sections of the walls that led them into Gold Definitions, according to police.

After they got inside the jewelry store, police say the burglars cut away a portion of the wall that gave them access to a large safe containing as much as $1 million in gold.

“If you could call criminals professional, this is basically as professional as you can get,” said Det. Mike Lusk with the Puyallup Police Department.

Based on surveillance footage, police believe the entire operation took roughly four hours and the crooks got away with all the gold.

Police say the business was fully alarmed with motion sensors, but the alarm was somehow not tripped during the burglary.

“With our security cameras and our motion detectors, I didn’t think there was a single thing we could have done to have improved our security here,” said Lisa Catt with Gold Definitions.

Anyone with information about the heist is asked to call the Puyallup Police Department.

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The ABC7 I-Team exposed a surge of calls hitting Chicago and the suburbs where thieves are asking for your information. The scheme involves technology known as “telephone spoofing.”

It starts with a mysterious call from what may look like a legitimate local number. It can end with you giving a scam artist your check or credit card information.

In recent weeks, consumer activists say the Chicago area has been hit hard by people who are “spoofing” and trying to rip you off.

The call can come from an unknown number, or even one with a Chicago area code, ut the people on the other end are most likely overseas. Federal authorities say they’re using technology to fool you into thinking the number is local – a technique called spoofing.

“I answered it and it was an automated computerized voice telling me that my Chase card had been locked in that up I wanted to reactivated I need to press one so I pressed one at that point the automatic voice asked me to enter my card number,” said Cheryl Kopczyk.

Instead, Joliet resident Kopczyk hung up, then called the number on the back of her Chase card. The bank and consumer experts say she could have been several digits away from allowing someone to access her checking account.

“Until they asked for my credit card information, that’s when it threw up the red flag,” said Kopczyk.

A Chase spokesperson tells the I-Team that it is warning consumers about the scheme and telling them to handle the situation like Kopczyk did. But the Better Business Bureau says people have fallen for it and this pitch can be convincing.

“There is a problem with your credit card and you got to take immediate corrective action and call up and they want you to verify it’s you by giving your credit card number ,” said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau.

BBB president Bernas and federal investigators suspect the people making the calls somehow buy lists of cell and home phone numbers, or use robo-call capabilities to randomly dial. Bernas says the Chicago area has been flooded with these calls in the last few weeks.

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