Archive for February, 2016

Casino employees admit to stealing over $40K

Two former employees of the Valley Forge Casino and Resort have admitted to stealing more than $40,000 from the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania facility over approximately three years.

After pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit theft and theft by deception in connection with incidents that took place between March 2011 and December 2013, the former hotel credit manager at the resort, Kelly A. Weir, 47, of Lower Pottsgrove, was sentenced to seven years’ probation and 72 hours of community service. Weir was also ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution to the resort by Montgomery County Court Judge Garrett D. Page, who accepted a plea agreement in the case, according to The Times Herald.

The former convention services manager at the resort, Hung T. Nguyen, 58, of Trappe, also pled guilty to conspiracy-related charges and theft, was sentenced to seven years’ probation, was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to the casino, and perform 72 hours of community service.

Weir, who had worked at the resort for approximately 27 years, and Nguyen, were banned from the casino by the judge as conditions of their sentences. If at the end of five years Nguyen and Weir have paid their restitution in full and successfully completed all other sentence requirements, prosecutors will consider terminating the probationary periods, according to court papers.

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The ongoing back-and-forth between the FBI and Apple over the encryption on the work iPhone of one of the alleged San Bernardino killers continues – with experts and the American public divided on the concepts of safety and privacy when it comes to their mobile data.

Apple opposes a court order issued earlier this month by a federal judge which compels them to help the FBI hack around the encryption on the iPhone 5C of San Bernardino mass killer Syed Farook, which remains locked in the FBI’s possession. Apple says creating the workaround will create a “back door” that will allow almost anyone to hack almost any Apple device.

But the FBI argues it’s not trying to compromise security – and the family members of the San Bernardino victims are reportedly going to file court papers to back their push for the access to the phone.

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“The masked criminal known as the Cyborg Bandit and, later, the Elephant Man Bandit was robbing Seattle-area banks at an average of more than two per month for an entire year before he was caught—in the act of robbing a bank he had already robbed.

For investigators who routinely work bank robberies, the story of 46-year-old Anthony Hathaway, sentenced last month to nearly nine years in prison, is surprising in some ways but all too familiar in others.

“In this particular case and in general, bank robbery is a crime of last resort,” said Len Carver, a detective with the Seattle Police Department and member of the FBI’s Seattle Safe Streets Task Force. “Occasionally you get a thrill seeker or a truly violent individual, but most people who rob banks are supporting an addiction of some kind—drugs or gambling—and they are desperate.”

Hathaway’s addiction was to prescription painkillers and then to heroin. According to court records, he suffered an injury and became addicted to the opiate Oxycontin. After losing his job, he turned to crime to feed his addiction, and between February 2013 and February 2014, Hathaway admitted to 30 bank robberies. He sometimes hit the same bank multiple times.

“Seattle has had many serial bandits over the years,” Carver said, “but Hathaway was prolific. He might top the list for sheer number of robberies in a one-year period.”

During the holdups, which usually occurred late in the afternoon, Hathaway wore a mask and gloves. In the early crimes, he wore textured metallic fabric over his face and was nicknamed the Cyborg Bandit because the disguise was similar to that of cyborgs in science fiction productions. After that disguise began receiving too much media attention, he covered his head with a shirt and cut out two eye holes. That earned him the nickname the Elephant Man Bandit because of the similarity to a movie character of the same name.

In several robberies, Hathaway threatened tellers, saying he had a weapon, although no weapon was ever displayed. On February 4, 2014, after a robbery in Lynwood, Washington, surveillance video showed what might have been the robber’s getaway vehicle: a light blue minivan with a Seattle Seahawks football decal on the back window and an unusual, after-market exterior mirror.

A bulletin with the vehicle’s description went out to area law enforcement, and an Everett Police Department officer spotted it several days later and notified investigators. “An officer on patrol was being observant,” Carver said. “It was a key moment in the investigation.”

At that point, however, the bank robber’s identity was still unknown. The vehicle was not registered to Hathaway, and several people had access to it. FBI agents began surveillance, and on February 11, 2014 they observed a man drive away in the vehicle.

The driver spent several hours circling a Seattle bank that had been previously robbed. “It seemed clear he was going to rob the bank,” Carver said, “and we had a high confidence that whoever was driving the van and about to rob that bank was going to be good for the other robberies.”

Finally, Hathaway parked and pulled a mask over his face as he entered the bank. FBI agents and task force officers were there to arrest him moments later. Hathaway was identified and later admitted to the 30 robberies. In a plea arrangement concluded last month, he was sentenced to 106 months in prison.

“We are grateful that the Safe Streets Task Force was able to close all these robberies,” Carver said. “And we are pleased that Hathaway is no longer a threat to the community.”

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Allison Layton, who owned a California company called Miracles Egg Donation (Miracles), claimed she was in the business of helping infertile couples have children. But her business turned out to be a fraud, and she ended up stealing her victims’ hopes and dreams as well as their money.

Would-be parents paid Miracles tens of thousands of dollars—sometimes their life savings—for egg donation and surrogacy services that Layton promised to coordinate. Instead, during a three-year period beginning in 2008, she defrauded couples, egg donors, and surrogate mothers while living a lavish lifestyle off the proceeds.

“This was not a typical white-collar case,” said Special Agent Dana Eads, who led the investigation from the FBI’s Los Angeles Division. “Many of the victims were in a vulnerable place in their lives—working against their biological clocks and trying to afford this expensive and time-consuming procedure. Some told the judge that because of Layton’s actions, they had effectively missed the opportunity to have children.”

The fees paid to Miracles by would-be parents—known in the surrogacy world as intended parents—were supposed to go into escrow accounts to be withdrawn for expenses related to surrogacy or egg donation. But Layton took the money and spent it on her own $60,000 wedding, a new vehicle for her husband, and high-end shopping sprees she flaunted on social media.

As a result, egg donors, surrogates, attorneys, and others often were not paid for the services they provided, and many intended parents—including some who lived overseas—failed to get the services they paid for.

“It became like a Ponzi scheme,” Eads explained. “Early on, some people got the services they paid for. But then Layton began shuffling funds to cover some clients’ services and not others. And when it all finally collapsed, nobody was getting anything.”

When confronted by clients, Layton lied about why payments had not been made and refunds not issued. She led victims to believe they might soon be paid, when, in fact, many were not. Eventually, several victims contacted the FBI while others filed reports with the local police department in Glendora, California. Court records indicate that more than 40 victims lost in excess of $270,000.

Layton maintained she had simply made poor business decisions, but through interviews, bank records, and e-mail correspondence, Eads soon uncovered the fraud.

“The scam was apparent, especially when we examined her bank records,” Eads said. “Layton regularly told clients their checks—which she never wrote—must have been lost in the mail. She told that to so many people. That story, told the same way again and again, was a clear indication of her attempt to hide the truth.”

In 2014, Layton was charged with wire fraud. In a pre-indictment plea agreement with federal prosecutors, she admitted defrauding the victims, and in September 2015, a judge sentenced the 38-year-old to 18 months in prison.

Considering the damage that she caused—both financial and emotional—some of Layton’s victims believe she got off too easy. Eads understands how they feel. “But as a result of this case,” she said, “Layton is now a convicted felon, and part of the plea she accepted is that she can never work in this industry again.”

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While the region endured single digit wind chills earlier this week, police said two children were struggling to stay warm inside a cold car while their parents gambled.

Officers were dispatched at 3:21 a.m. Monday to the second level of the Sands Casino parking garage in Bethlehem for the report of two children left alone inside a car that had been turned off for several hours, according to court documents released Wednesday.
The outside temperature at the time was approximately 11 degrees, with a wind chill of one degree above zero, police said. “I like to go to the casino, but I wouldn’t leave no kids,” said Carmelo Natoli, the couple’s next door neighbor.
The casino’s surveillance cameras captured video of the children and their parents, identified by police as Enrique and Frances Garcia, arriving at the casino at approximately 12:33 a.m., according to court documents.

The father came out twice — first at 1:35 a.m. and again at 2:35 a.m. — to check on the children, but he never turned on the car, said police, adding that the children had only jackets to keep them warm inside the blue 2002 Honda Accord.
Enrique Garcia, 49, and Frances Garcia, 45, both of the 1300 block of Muhlenberg Street in Reading, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor.
The casino’s surveillance cameras captured video of the children and their parents, identified by police as Enrique and Frances Garcia, arriving at the casino at approximately 12:33 a.m., according to court documents. The father came out twice — first at 1:35 a.m. and again at 2:35 a.m. — to check on the children, but he never turned on the car, said police, adding that the children had only jackets to keep them warm inside the blue 2002 Honda Accord. E
nrique Garcia, 49, and Frances Garcia, 45, both of the 1300 block of Muhlenberg Street in Reading, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor. Loved ones closed the door and did not want to answer any questions Wednesday.
Dr. Charles Barbera, chairman of the emergency department at Reading Hospital, said no one should be left in a cold car, and the situation can turn troublesome fairly quickly. “If someone is not prepared, they could feel the effects of 11-degree temperatures within a half hour and you could see some really profound effects,” Barbera said. The couple is free on bail. A judge has ordered them not to have any contact with the children or to visit another casino until their case is disposed of.

Police said they did not know the children’s ages. There are no signs posted in the Sands Casino parking garage alerting parents not to leave their kids in the car, but security checks are done regularly, according to casino officials. The casino said it is not sure if security guards or a guest noticed the Garcia children early Monday morning, but once the discovery was made, it alerted Bethlehem police immediately.

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“LUMBERTON, N.C. — A Fairmont man has been charged with thefts across Lumberton after a resident posted his picture online.

J.C. Chavis was arrested Monday evening and charged with five counts of felony breaking and entering, four counts of felony larceny and eight counts of misdemeanor larceny.

According to Lumberton police Capt. Terry Parker, Chavis was identified after a resident circulated a picture of him and his vehicle on Facebook and someone who recognized him contacted police. City Councilman Burnis Wilkins, who represents the area where some of the thefts occurred, shared the photos on his Facebook page, and the post was shared more than 1,200 times.

Most of the incidents occurred in the Tanglewood and Godwin Heights neighborhoods, Parker said.

“Mr. Chavis was cruising neighborhoods inside the city looking for property to steal driving a brown, tanish colored van. He has reportedly been seen driving slow in areas and even backing up after passing some residents,” a statement from the Police Department said.

According to Parker, some of the stolen items include lawn furniture and ladders left outside as well as appliances stolen from inside houses. He said the majority of the stolen items have been recovered.

Chavis, 53, has been jailed in the Robeson County Detention Center under a $62,000 secured bond. His last known address is on Pittman Street in Fairmont.

The Robeson County Sheriff’s Department, Fairmont Police Department and the Pembroke Police Department assisted with the investigation.

Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.

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“Net scum have bashed florists with distributed denial of service attacks over Valentine’s Day in a bid to extract ransoms, security analysts say.

The attacks affected almost a dozen florists who were customers of security company Incapsula, and likely many others not monitored by the firm.

Security bods Ofer Gayer and Tim Matthews say one of their florist customers received a ransom note after a distributed denial of service attack.

“Of those sites (with inflated traffic), 23 per cent showed a sharp increase in attack traffic,” the pair say.

“There does not appear to be a trend in attacks against all online florists, but rather targeted attacks.”

Some sites received attacks that sent a flood of over 20,000 requests a second. In one instance the content distribution network provider counted the attack as legitimate traffic, bringing down the site “with a great loss of revenue”.

Attackers are in some instances attempting to exploit the Shellshock vulnerability against florists in a bid to breach the sites.

Distributed denial of service attacks are a common extortion tool in the lead up to big public events. Betting companies are understood to routinely pay off attackers who threaten to knock the sites offline during major sporting events.”

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” A gold watch chain, necklaces and six tooth fillings are among the more than $25,000-worth of jewelry and personal items police say Howard J. Carey stole from residents of the Albemarle County assisted living facility where he used to work.

Carey, 24, turned himself in to county police Wednesday evening on 20 felony charges related to a 14-week string of thefts from residents of Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge, authorities said.
Authorities charged Carey, of Charlottesville, with 10 felony counts of breaking and entering and 10 felony counts of grand larceny, according to court records. A Westminster spokeswoman on Thursday could not say how long Carey worked at the facility on Pantops Mountain Road or whether his position allowed him access to residents’ rooms.
The facility is licensed through the state department of social services and prospective employees submit to background checks as part of the application process, she said. About 380 seniors live in apartments and cottages on Westminster’s 56-acre campus.
“We are deeply disappointed that an associate would commit such acts, but are relieved that this case is nearing closure,” stated Gary Selmeczi, president and CEO of Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge. “We regret that our community has suffered both the criminal and emotional impacts of these thefts and appreciate the dedication and close working relationship with the Albemarle County Police department in resolving this matter.”
Investigators have recovered some of the stolen items, said police spokeswoman Carter Johnson. Police are asking anyone who may have been a victim of theft at the facility to call 972-4038.
Carey declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday. Carey’s family posted his $15,000 bond, according to his attorney, Scott Goodman.”

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“Alabama Power security officer Greg Coleman had a 23-year career with the Birmingham Police Department, and always wondered why the Fire Department guys got all the love.
Now he knows.
Coleman awoke around 3 a.m. Feb. 5 to the cries of a neighbor on Blocker Drive in Bessemer shouting that a house two doors down was on fire and people were still inside.
“By the time I put my jeans on and got down there, an officer (Bessemer Police) was bringing out the woman who lived there, asking if anyone else was in the house,” Coleman recalled. “All she could say was she couldn’t get the door open. She was frantic.”
Coleman knew a young man with autism lived with the elderly woman, and he was nowhere to be found outside the house. So Coleman and a second Bessemer police officer went inside as the flames and smoke intensified.
“The fire was in the upstairs bedroom but smoke was pouring down the staircase,” Coleman said. “And there he was; just standing there at the bottom of the stairs.”
The 22-year-old man has autism and does not speak, according to Bessemer Fire Department Capt. Robert Washington. The woman is his caretaker, Janice Wallace.
Coleman didn’t know the two well, but had noticed a special needs bus taking the young man to and from school daily.
As the smoke billows enlarged and breathing became difficult, the Bessemer officer quickly shouted for the boy to come to them at the front door. He wouldn’t budge.
Coleman rescued the young man minutes before the Bessemer Fire Department arrived at this home.
“I just went over there and picked him up in my arms and carried him out,” Coleman said. “I don’t know if I threw him over my shoulder or what. We were just trying to get out of there.”
And get out they did. Within minutes the Bessemer Fire Department was on the scene extinguishing the blaze confined to an upstairs bedroom. Washington said the cause is still under investigation.
Coleman shuns the hero moniker, saying it was a team effort, starting with the neighbor, Lawrence Blocker, whose family gave the street its name, going from house to house crying for help, and the two Bessemer officers who arrived early on the scene and bravely went into the smoking house.
Coleman, who has been with the power company a year and a half, has seen his share of close calls and tragic events as a long-time member of the Birmingham Police Department’s Tactical Unit. He has been a canine and motorcycle instructor; a bomb-squad member; a SWAT team member; a hazardous materials specialist; and rode mounted patrol, among other things.

“I would always kid with the guys at the Fire Department I’d rather be in a gun battle any day than a burning house,” Coleman chuckled. “But when I saw that boy standing in that burning house, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I know now why everyone loves firemen.”

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Everybody lies. We lie to protect people from painful truths and to preserve the family name. We lie about affairs, flirtations, and addictions. Sometimes, we even lie to ourselves.

In this episode, we’ll hear two stories about family secrets—and the blurry line between deception and delusion: An alcoholic conceals his addiction from everyone, including himself. And Ann Walling recalls her old-school Southern family, the rites and hierarchies they observed, and the painful histories they could never bring themselves to face.

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