8 arrested in retail theft ring ‘Operation Loot and Scoot’

Jacksonville FL May 30 2018

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has successfully arrested eight people in connection with an organized retail theft ring that they believe stole more than $500,000 worth of merchandise.

Following a two-year investigation which involved undercover officers, police arrested Natasha Soukseunchay, Latoya Shurman, Jennifer Upton, Chiquita Moorehead, Brian Harris, Deedra Berry, Dantavia Berry and the man they credit with being the leader of the ring, Antoun “Tony” Arbaji.

Sheriff Mike Williams told the media in a press conference that Arbaji sold upwards of $300,000 dollars of stolen merchandise on websites he maintained.

He would pay people for the stolen items either $10 per item or 20% of the total worth. Sherriff Williams said the suspects would enter stores with a large box and conceal stolen items within it and would walk out only having paid for the item printed on the box or having not paid at all.

“There’s a method that these suspects know what stores do or won’t do and they take advantage of that at the end of the day,” said Williams.

This investigation was difficult and took two years due to the merchandise being sold not only online but also across state lines. The investigation led police as far away as Tallahassee and St. Marys, Georgia and everywhere in between, according to the Sheriff.

When police arrest Arbaji they seized $53,000 in stolen merchandise and $11,000 in cash.

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Mobile County forms task force to fight “skimming”

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and The Attorney General Office of Alabama are forming a partnership to combat Cyber Crimes in the Mobile Area.

According to the sheriff’s office, the purpose of a partnership between the two offices would allow for investigative support when needed for large-scale Cyber Crimes such as; electronic financial crimes that occur from skimming devices on ATM’S, gas pumps and any other devices where credit/debit is used.

“Cybercrime seems like it would be a fairly open and shut case-a cybercriminal commits a crime, law enforcement steps in and catches the bad guy and the case is closed,” says Sheriff Sam Cochran. “Since the method of how they commit these crimes are so complicated, law enforcement usually has to coordinate with government agencies, international partners, and private corporations and that is why this partnership will be such an asset. Our Deputies will be provided the forensic training in order to capture the evidence immediately without compromising the investigation.”

Back in February, the Alabama Attorney General announced the launch of a cybercrime lab with federal and state law enforcement. Marshall announced the initiative with prosecutors and Secret Service, FBI and Homeland Security officials in Montgomery on Wednesday. He says the lab will use cutting-edge tools to investigate cybercrime like online sexual exploitation, human trafficking and data breaches.

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Public officers pan private police force plan

Lansing — Michigan law enforcement groups on Tuesday panned a new Senate plan to that would allow businesses, schools or other entities to contract with private security police forces that could carry weapons and make misdemeanor arrests.

The legislation could “de-professionalize” policing, reduce transparency and create a system where public safety services could vary depending on the wealth or resources of private entities, critics said.

But sponsoring Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, said he’ll invite police to a work group in hopes of improving legislation that advanced out of the Government Operations Committee in a 4-1 vote. His bill is a second effort after a private policing bill last year drew similarly harsh criticism.

“The main intent is getting more law enforcement on the ground in areas where there isn’t any available,” Kowall said.

Senate Bill 924 would expand a 1968 law that allows entities to create their own private police agencies, giving them the option to instead contract with a third-party vendor for the service.

The Detroit Medical Center, Detroit school district, General Motors Co. and the Henry Ford Health System are among 13 entities that already operate private security police agencies in Michigan.

Public law enforcement groups say expanding the law to third-party contractors heightens concerns over transparency, accountability and logistics.

“Under this law, any apartment complex could have their own private policing,” said Bob Stevenson, a retired Livonia police chief now with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

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Hillsborough security plan: trained armed guards in 100 more elementary schools

TAMPA — With scarce dollars and a mandate to provide armed protection for all students, some Tampa Bay area school officials have started to make use of a state initiative they once disparaged.

Named for a coach who was slain in the Feb. 14 Parkland massacre and enacted after opposition to an earlier proposal to arm teachers, the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program is a way to qualify other school employees to carry weapons and defend campuses against lethal intruders.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister was among those who earlier this year scoffed at the idea of arming teachers, which was first proposed by President Trump. And the guardian program never caught on among educators and law enforcement as the best way to protect schools.

But Chronister stood with Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Thursday to unveil a security plan that relies on trained security officers, including many who already work in Hillsborough schools.

“As much as I am opposed to arming our educators,” Chronister said, “there is a unique reality here in Hillsborough with an almost 40-year-old, established agency of security personnel that we can take advantage of. I can feel comfortable that they are going to provide the level of professionalism, safety and security to keep our children safe.”

Florida’s school security mandate has officials in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties scrambling to place an armed person on every campus by the new school year, which begins in August.

The hurdles are time and money, with not enough of either for districts to meet the mandate as they would like. The favored option among most educators is to hire school resource officers, or SROs, who are certified law enforcement officers. But that is proving expensive, with not enough money from the state to offset the cost.

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“Bait Bike” Program Helps University Public Safety Catch Thieves

While students spent this school year rushing to and from classes, Pacific’s Department of Public Safety spent the past eight months hard at work protecting students and their belongings.

The officers at Public Safety are a proactive group who have gotten creative when it comes to curbing crime at Pacific. Perhaps the best display of that creativity is the Department’s response to one of the most common issues plaguing campus over the years: bike theft.

A 26-year veteran of the force, Lieutenant Wayne Germann of Public Safety told The Pacifican that officers could do very little about bike theft for a long time.

“It’s been very hard to have a progressive and proactive approach to bike theft because we have so many bike racks on campus that we can’t put enough people or enough cameras around to actually protect the bikes,” Germann said. “So either students have to be taught how to lock them up properly, so people can’t steal them, or we have to take other measures.”

One of the other measures Germann is referring to is something called the “bait bike” program. Spearheaded by Sergeant Nick DeMuth, this program addresses the bike theft problem by leading officers directly to the thieves themselves. Officers place decoy bikes around campus that contain GPS tracking devices, then simply wait for the bikes to be stolen.

“[We] take the bike out to an area where it’s known bikes are being stolen, or parts of bikes are being stolen, and purposely lock it up with a cable lock, which is one of the easiest locking mechanisms to cut and steal the bike,” Germann said. “The moment that somebody comes over and touches the cable lock… it will set off the GPS. Then it flashes up onto the screen for dispatch, which tells them where the bike is at, where it’s going, and so forth.”

Dispatch will then begin sending officers to the location of the bike to place the suspect under arrest.

The program has been in place for approximately two years, since Sergeant DeMuth learned about it from a department in the Las Vegas area. DeMuth knew it would be perfect for Pacific, and put in a request to take one of the bikes in the evidence room and turn it into a “bait bike.”

“Then he ordered the GPS unit and stuck it in the seat, and the rest was history. We were just knockin’ the heck out of them,” Germann said.

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Sexual Assault Aboard Aircraft

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the FBI is taking that opportunity to alert the public about a serious federal crime that is on the rise: sexual assault aboard aircraft.

Compared to the tens of millions of U.S. citizens who fly each year, the number of in-flight sexual assault victims is relatively small, “but even one victim is unacceptable,” said FBI Special Agent David Gates, who is based at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and regularly investigates these cases. “We are seeing more reports of in-flight sexual assault than ever before,” he said.

Sexual assault aboard aircraft—which usually takes the form of unwanted touching—is a felony that can land offenders in prison. Typically, men are the perpetrators, and women and unaccompanied minors are the victims. “But at LAX,” Gates said, “we have seen every combination of victim and perpetrator.”

In fiscal year 2014, 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to the FBI. In the last fiscal year, that number increased to 63 reported cases. “It’s safe to say that many incidents occur that are not reported,” said Gates, one of the FBI’s many airport liaison agents assigned to the nearly 450 U.S. aviation facilities that have passenger screening operations regulated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In larger airports such as LAX, multi-agency task forces are on location to investigate a variety of criminal and national security matters, from sexual assaults to terrorism and espionage.

 Crimes aboard aircraft fall within the FBI’s jurisdiction, and in the case of in-flight sexual assaults, agents describe elements of these crimes as being strikingly similar. The attacks generally occur on long-haul flights when the cabin is dark. The victims are usually in middle or window seats, sleeping, and covered with a blanket or jacket. They report waking up to their seatmate’s hands inside their clothing or underwear.

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Oakbrook mall security using license plate readers technology

Oak Brook IL April 24 2018 If you park at Oakbrook Center, your car may be part of a candid camera scenario, as security cars drive up and down aisles in lots and garages, using license plate reading technology to check the plate numbers on vehicles.

The license plate recognition system, which has been used since late 2016, helps Oakbrook Center monitor and enforce that shopping center employees are parking in designated areas and leaving the best parking for guests, explained Marissa Ellenby, senior manager of communications for General Growth Properties, the owner/operator of Oakbrook Center.

“Our research has shown us that parking is a top pain point of our shoppers,” Ellenby stated.

But a senior investigative researcher for an organization that defends civil liberties in the digital world says the use of license plate recognition systems raise privacy questions.

“It’s important that businesses respect their customers,” said Dave Maass of the 28-year-old Electronic Frontier Foundation. “People do care when they find out about this; privacy is a major issue.”

Maass said potential privacy concerns over the type of system being used at Oakbrook Center include whether the system is being checked for cyber security, possible use of a third-party server for collected data, whether any stored photos taken may include more than a license plate, how long data is retained, whether notice of system use is posted and who is authorized to access data, including police.

He said that photos taken of license plates could include bumper stickers.

“Sometimes, a bumper sticker indicates someone’s political views, for example,” he said. “Anyone who sees the vehicle could see a bumper sticker, but if you don’t know for sure who might have access to a photo taken of it with a license plate scanner, that could be an issue.”

The issues Maass raised, including the use of third-party servers, how long data is saved, whether data is used for marketing purposes and if the system is audited, were asked of Ellenby via email, but were not answered.

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Sarasota County Florida will create internal school security force

Sarasota County FL April 19 2018 The Sarasota County School Board decided Tuesday to create and manage an internal school security department over the next two years, dramatically shifting course from earlier discussions about continuing and expanding a program employing sheriff’s deputies and police officers from elementary through high schools.

Under the plan — a direct response to demands for increased security because of school shootings — the program would be phased in beginning this fall and completely implemented by the end of the 2019-20 school year, and will cost the district a total of about $3.1 million over those two years. The district plans to hire about 30 employees in the first year and 26 the following year, staffing their elementary schools with the trained and sworn law enforcement officers first and then adding them to middle and high schools.

For the 2018-19 year, Bowden will try to negotiate with local law enforcement agencies to retain the school resource officers in middle and high schools for that year while the district attempts to integrate their new, district-managed police officers at the elementary level. That will cost the district anywhere from an additional $1.4 to $2.5 million.

Three of the board’s five members, Caroline Zucker, Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown, spoke highly during the meeting of the idea of an internal police department. The concept was compared to the college police forces that staff many higher education campuses.

They will buy into the district and buy into the kids and keep those kids safer because they are responsible and they don’t report to anybody else but the school system,” Zucker said. “I like your plan for two years, because this gives you ample time to be able to put everything in place.”

Goodwin echoed that point, adding that the school police department employees could work with students after school and have a positive impact on their lives.

But School Board members Bridget Ziegler, the chairwoman, and Eric Robinson, were reluctant to quickly sign on to the new program, noting that it was a big task to undertake with only four months before the next school year.

Zucker, reflecting on previous criticism by Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight that the board was moving too slowly on security after the Parkland school shooting in February, countered one of Ziegler’s comments by saying, “We were told we’re moving too slow, and now we’re moving too fast?”

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Hackers Infiltrated Mortgage Company

A recently closed California hacking and identity theft case sadly illustrates the misery that can be visited on unsuspecting victims when their personal information is compromised.

Between 2011 and 2014, four U.S. citizens who resided in San Diego—but carried out their crimes from across the Mexican border in Tijuana—hacked the computer servers of major U.S. mortgage brokers, stealing detailed loan application information from thousands of customers and then using the victims’ Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers to open unauthorized lines of credit and take over and drain victims’ retirement accounts.

“The damage crimes like these have on victims, the economy, and society in general are significant,” said Special Agent Chris Christopherson, who investigated the case from the FBI’s San Diego Division. “Individuals had their finances wrecked and their credit destroyed, through no fault of their own. For many of them,” he added, “the impacts are still being felt.”

One of the fraudsters in the conspiracy, John Baden, was the chief hacker. He infiltrated mortgage companies using a common hacking technique known as “fuzzing,” which works by overloading a web server with massive amounts of data that can lead to the server revealing security loopholes.

Once Baden had access to victims’ information, he and his conspirators, Victor Fernandez, Jason Bailey, and Joel Nava, went to work. Fernandez—the group’s ringleader—identified multiple victims’ brokerage accounts and took control of them by calling the companies and providing the victims’ personal information to change passwords and contact information. Then it was simple for him and his conspirators to wire funds—sometimes up to $30,000 at a time—from the victims’ accounts to accounts they controlled.

Victims stretched from California to Florida, and one individual lost nearly $1 million in the scheme, Christopherson said. A second part of the scheme involved extensive credit fraud. The criminals used victims’ detailed personal information to set up bogus lines of credit and retail credit card accounts to which they charged thousands of dollars for goods and services. Most of the proceeds from the sale of items in these crimes were used to buy drugs.

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TSA agents ask some travelers to remove snacks from carry-ons

Washington DC April 1 2018 You’ve taken off your shoes and removed your laptop from your carry-on bag to go through airport security screening. You candy bar may be next.

Although it’s okay to board an airplane with food, some Transportation Security Administration agents have been asking travelers to remove their food from carry-on bags at checkpoints before putting them on the conveyor belt. Signs have also appeared at some TSA checkpoints directing people to remove snacks before screening.

It’s apparently a recommendation, however, not a requirement, and part of a new policy that is not really a policy – or at least not a uniform one. Whatever it is, it’s left peckish travelers feeling a little peeved, as USAToday and others have reported.

Travelers are permitted to take food and snacks onto an airplane after the bags have been screened. A TSA official also said Wednesday there has been no nationwide policy change requiring people to remove food from their carry-ons to get through security.

But confusion appears to have set in as the TSA adopted new, unrelated procedures last year for screening electronic devices, the TSA official said.

As terrorists became more skillful hiding explosives, the federal agency announced July 26 that TSA agents would require travelers to remove electronic devices larger than a mobile phone and put them in a separate bin for screening. The new procedure on electronics – which was rolled out little by little so as not to interfere with peak holiday travel last year – is expected to be fully in place at all checkpoints by this summer.

But while the TSA was implementing the procedure for screening personal electronic devices, some agents started directing travelers to remove their snacks, too. That’s because high-tech scanners detect organic compounds contained in some explosives and sometimes give false alerts on food. That requires a hands-on bag check, which slows down the line.

At some checkpoints, TSA agents who were telling travelers to remove their large electronic devices would spot a stash of potato chips or cookies and have the traveler to put those aside, too. It was, as a TSA official described it Wednesday, more or less an opportunistic request.

But somehow this has morphed into procedure at some airports and not others. Some passengers who have been asked to remove junk food from bags have reported that TSA checkpoint officials told them the agency planned to adopt a policy that would make everyone to do it.

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