Fake FEMA inspectors spotted in Houston neighborhoods

HOUSTON - Fake FEMA inspectors have been spotted in a couple of Houston neighborhoods. But they didn’t do their research very well.

The neighborhoods they’ve hit did not even flood. That was the first red flag when a man knocked on Kathy Horner’s front door.

“And he identified himself as a FEMA inspector,” said Horner.

She said the man even looked the part.

“He did have a very official looking badge,” said Horner.

But she knew her family never filed a claim for flood damage.Therefore, she never opened the door.

She also took a photo of the man’s white sedan before he left the neighborhood.

“I set the alarm and called the constable,” said Horner.

Horner posted a warning on the NextDoor app under the heading “FEMA Inspector Impersonator.”

Her story mirrors a post from a homeowner on 24th Street titled “Beware of supposed FEMA inspector.” The man in that case bolted when confronted with a camera.

“These are real bottom feeders,” said neighbor Michael Silverman.

He hates to think people would fall for such a scam, especially in areas unaffected by the flood.

“So any FEMA workers that would come around here would be very suspicious,” said Silverman. “And I would think they would be looking to take advantage of some people.”

According to FEMA, you should always ask to see an inspector’s badge up close. A FEMA shirt or jacket does not make them legitimate.

Another very important reminder is that inspectors never show up unannounced. They have no reason to be at a home if the owner did not file a claim or register for disaster assistance.

“Just be careful about who you talk to,” said Horner. “Don’t let anybody in your home.”

And be watchful of warnings from people who’ve encountered potential imposters.

Here’s a template of a federal ID that official inspectors will have. They may also say “contractor” on the bottom.


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Woman posed as lawyer, duped immigrants and filed petitions

“A Lynwood woman who allegedly stole the identity and bar license number of an attorney is expected to face a federal judge today on charges she filed immigration petitions on behalf of foreign nationals who believed she was a legitimate lawyer.

Jessica Godoy Ramos, 36, was arrested late Wednesday pursuant to a criminal complaint that charges her with mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to the criminal complaint, Ramos accepted thousands of dollars from several dozen aliens who sought her services in an attempt to obtain legal status in the United States. The complaint affidavit alleges that Ramos filed immigration petitions on the behalf of some aliens, but in other cases she never performed any services for her clients.

In at least one instance, Ramos created counterfeit immigration parole documents which a client was able to use to enter the United States, the government alleges.

The complaint alleges that Ramos’ clients initially believed she was a legitimate immigration attorney, but several became suspicious when Ramos directed them to appear at U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services offices for interviews — but they did not have any scheduled appointments.

“The crimes alleged in this case victimized dozens of immigrants who were attempting to realize the American dream by paying someone they thought was a lawyer,” said acting U.S. Attorney

Sandra R. Brown. “This type of scam, which unfortunately targets new immigrants too often, undermines our immigration system and can shatter dreams of obtaining legal status to remain in the United States.”

If convicted, Ramos would face up to 20 years in federal prison for the mail fraud count and a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years for the aggravated identity theft charge.

“Unscrupulous immigration practitioners not only exploit the trust of their often-unwitting victims, but by filing fraudulent immigration applications they create a security vulnerability and potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security
Investigations in Los Angeles.

Federal authorities began investigating Ramos in February after the HSI- led Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force received a tip from USCIS about five of Ramos’ clients who went to USCIS offices in downtown Los Angeles expecting to pick up their non-existent “green cards.”

“People who wish to file for benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have a right to proper representation,” said USCIS Los Angeles District Director Donna Campagnolo. “This
case is a good example of all agencies involved working together to ensure that the integrity of the program is preserved and individuals are able to retain proper representation to aide them through the process.”

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Walmart security officers honored by St Paul Police

“It was a routine day for Walmart security officers Chao Vang and Dan Miller until a man in a winter coat slipped out the door with a pair of pants and some medical supplies.

Soon, along with St. Paul police officer Tom Reis, they were embroiled in a life-or-death struggle with the shoplifter. The man was sprawled across the ground flailing his limbs, a 6-inch knife in his right hand.

“I was on my knees holding [the man] down,” Reis recently recalled. “He would’ve been in the perfect position to get my neck … It is a possibility I wouldn’t even be here” were it not for Vang and Miller.

Both hands clamped down on the man’s right wrist, Reis yelled for Vang and Miller to help until other St. Paul officers could arrive. Vang and Miller recently received the police chief’s life saving award for their actions during the Dec. 22, 2016, incident. One other civilian and two officers also received the award for their actions in other cases.

“He asked for help, so I just jumped in,” Vang said.

Reis was working off-duty at the Midway store on University Avenue when he spotted the shoplifter and stopped him. Unbeknown to the officers at the time, the man had just allegedly violated a harassment restraining order, sliced another man several times with the knife and was apparently seeking a change of clothes and first aid at Walmart.

Reis walked the man into the back of the store with Vang and Miller in tow. When Reis gave him a pat down, he discovered the knife stashed in a coat pocket. “Don’t do anything stupid,” Reis told the man.

But the man pulled away, brandished the knife and refused to drop it, according to Reis and court documents. Reis and the man struggled to the ground, with the officer warning the man that he would use deadly force if necessary. That’s when Reis called for Vang and Miller.

Miller yelled for a store worker to call 911 and held down the man’s back and left arm. Vang grabbed onto his legs.

“The guy said, ‘I’m not going to give up my knife,’ ” Vang recalled. “And, ‘I’m going to stab you if I have to.’ ”
The man thrashed.

“I’m going to get you,” the man said, according to Reis.

“I had to put all my body into it,” Vang said.

The struggle continued despite the pile-on, and at some point, Reis sustained a small cut to his right hand that remains scarred today. He can’t be sure if it was the knife or something else that nicked him, but he knows he was uncomfortably close to an officer’s worst nightmare — being killed on the job or killing someone on the job to save his own life. Backup officers arrived before any more harm could be done.

“I’m grateful they stepped in and helped me,” Reis said of Vang and Miller. “In the big picture of things, no one got hurt, which I think is a small miracle.”

The 31-year-old man, a Minneapolis resident, was charged with three felonies in the incident at Walmart and the earlier assault on a man. Charges were later dropped when he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Venancio Arellando-O’Campo was also recognized for stopping to help an elderly man with dementia who had wandered away from a field trip to Como Zoo on a cold February day.
Arellando-O’Campo was driving when he saw the man walking along Hwy. 36 dressed only in a sweatshirt, said Police Chief Todd Axtell. Concerned by the unusual sight, he pulled over, spoke to the man, who had limited communication skills, and took him to McDonald’s when he said he was hungry.

“This is really a classic definition of being a good Samaritan,” Axtell said.

The man had been missing for hours when Arellando-O’Campo found him.

“I feel glad to help somebody …,” Arellando-O’Campo said.

Officers Jeff Boyle and Santiago Rodriguez were honored for performing CPR on an unconscious man who had fallen to the ground at a gas station during a heroin overdose.

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1st Armor security firm emphasizes local hiring, community relations

“Private security company 1st Armor Protection Services makes community service central to its policing approach and, so far, that philosophy seems to be working. The minority-owned and operated company reports that in the past four years no shots have been fired on any of the 1,000 or so properties it protects, and there have been only two arrests.

Several members of the firm’s leadership team sat down with the Banner at 1st Armor’s Dorchester-based headquarters, near the Field’s Corner T stop.

1st Armor provides ongoing security patrolling and services to more than 1,000 properties through contracts with roughly a dozen property management companies. Matt Breveleri, operations director, likens the firm’s role to that of university campus police, only in their case, they work on any property that hires them. Under Boston Police Department policy, such private firms have the same legal power to make arrests and function much like police.

Larry Celester, director and co-founder, says that one advantage to hiring 1st Armor is that while a more minor issue such as a residential noise complaint may be lower priority on the BPD’s long list of situations to which it responds, that complaint still matters to residents. Because it focuses only on its properties, 1st Armor can respond quickly. While residential security forms the bulk of the firm’s work, the team also serves commercial clients such as Hen House, McDonalds and Victoria’s Diner. It also provides event security.

While there are other private security companies, its focus on community service sets 1st Armor apart, according to Breveleri and Celester. The business only hires employees who live or grew up in Boston’s neighborhoods, in order to recruit those who understand the communities.

“We police a little differently because we were those kids,” Celester said. “It’s not that these [so-called gang member] kids are criminals or violent — they’re bored. … I was that poor kid in that neighborhood, bored with nothing to do. When security came around, then I had something to do.”

This summer, to keep kids out of trouble, 1st Armor used its 14-seater van to take youth to the beach, while staff continued to hold barbecues and seek out other events for kids to attend, Celester said.

Bringing ice cream or refreshments to community parties, hosting cookouts and helping out locally — for instance, offering to fix an off-kilter air conditioning unit — are critical parts of company strategy, as is getting out of the cruiser and walking or biking the areas, both Celester and Breveleri said.

Security officers need to establish positive relations and not be known locally only as impersonal figures that are there to lay down the law, Breveleri said.
“You can’t just show up and put handcuffs on people and leave, and then come back and expect to be well received,” he said.

While the BPD is a leader in its practice of community relations, especially in districts B2 and B4, Celester said, it lacks the type of resources that 1st Armor can provide.
the Bay State Banner”

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Sacramento neighborhood hires private security, sees crime drop

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — Sacramento’s Woodlake neighborhood is among a growing number of communities that is adding an extra layer of protection against crime: private security.

“It’s just another set of eyes on the situation,” said Andy Hernandez, a homeowner and member of the Woodlake neighborhood safety committee.

Hernandez helped push Woodlake residents to hire the firm Paladin Security in 2012.

In the past five years, they’ve seen a drastic change.

“We’ve seen a major drop in the everyday petty crimes, and it seems to have reduced the number of car break-ins,” Hernandez said.

Now, more neighborhoods and organizations are following suit.

“We’ve certainly gotten a lot busier,” said Matt Carroll, Paladin’s vice president of operations. “We’re seeing an increase in our call volume of 20 to 30 percent every year over the past five years.”

Paladin now services about 450 customers in the greater Sacramento region.

That includes neighborhoods such as Woodlake, regional transit stations and a growing number of business districts.

“Police have to work for everyone, and we only have to work for the people who are paying us,” Carroll said.

And police said they support the efforts of security officers like Ryan Giarmona to help reduce and identify crime.

“I think it takes a lot of pressure off their shoulders, and they actually like us assisting them and helping them,” said Giarmona, who works with Paladin Security four times a week, serving 12-hour shifts mostly at Regional Transit light rail stations.

Sacramento police sent KCRA the following statement: “We appreciate the presence of private patrols in the city. It is important to remember that private security officers do not have peace officer authority and do not have the training that police officers in California have.”

But for Hernandez and his neighbors, who voluntarily pay about $20 a month per home for private security, it offers peace of mind he can’t put a price on.

“Quite frankly we wanted to be able to help our law enforcement officers any way we could in solving crimes and preventing crimes,” Hernandez said.

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Authorities Are Toughening Penalties To Would-Be Looters

In flooded Houston, with scores of businesses closed and homes evacuated, authorities are sending a message to those thinking of looting or price gouging: Taking advantage of the situation won’t be tolerated.

Police are beefing up security over reports of looting during and after Hurricane Harvey. That includes imposing a curfew and stiffening penalties for crimes committed in the stricken area.

“We’re city that is about diversity and opportunity and all kinds of justice,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “But we’re not a city that’s going to tolerate people victimizing people that are at the lowest point in their life.”

Acevedo said additional police officers were heading into the Houston area and described the curfew as a “tool to assess the intentions of people that are out there.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner stated that the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew is intended to prevent criminal activity. It “exempts flood relief volunteers, those seeking shelter, first responders, and those going to and from work.”

It’s not clear how many criminal incidents have occurred in areas hit by flooding, and the police chief declined to provide statistics. “I don’t have the numbers. I can just tell you … we’re nipping it in the bud,” Acevedo said.

Fourteen people accused of looting were arrested in the past 48 hours, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement released Tuesday. They will face “heftier penalties” if they are found to have broken the law in the disaster area. Burglarizing a home could mean life in prison.

“People displaced or harmed in this storm are not going to be easy prey,” Ogg said. “Anyone who tries to take advantage of this storm to break into homes or businesses should know that they are going to feel the full weight of the law. … Offenders will be processed around the clock without delay.”

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Private security hired to guard Confederate monument

Security guards were hired this week to watch over the federal monument and cemetery of Confederate dead near Point Lookout State Park. Those buried in the mass grave have been deceased for more than 150 years.

In addition, an online link to a private park commemorating the Confederacy, near the entrance to the park in Scotland, was removed from the St. Mary’s County tourism website this week, upon the request of a citizen, without the county commissioners’ knowing about it.

When the commissioners learned that the online page for the private park was taken down, the board instructed staff to put it back up on late Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it hired the local security firm Spaulding Security and Investigation to guard over the Point Lookout Confederate Cemetery this week.

The VA did not respond by deadline on Thursday to say how long security would be needed at the cemetery, or how much the service is costing.

St. Mary’s County Commissioner John O’Connor (R) said of the need for security at the cemetery, “I think it’s a sad state of affairs that we’re in that we’ve lost all civility to the point where we have to have security over monuments and graveyards, and that we’ve sunk so low that we’re removing Asian sportscasters because his name is Robert Lee,” referring to an on-air personnel change made by ESPN, which reassigned a broadcaster from working an upcoming University of Virginia football game in Charlottesville.

“That’s sad,” O’Connor said.

Joe Anderson, a former St. Mary’s County commissioner and chairman of the board of governors for the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, sent an email to the St. Mary’s County

Department of Economic Development on Aug. 18 to request that its tourism website remove mention of the private Confederate Memorial Park.

“Given the terrible turn of events in our country over the last week, I don’t think anything more need[s] to be said,” Anderson wrote.

Anderson cited a post from Facebook that said, “I know that since the actual ‘Confederate Memorial Park’ is private property, not much can be done to remove it … but who can we talk to for it to be taken off of the St. Mary’s County tourism website?”

The privately maintained Confederate Memorial Park has a statue in the center of it of a Rebel soldier. The park is at the corner of Route 5 and Scotland Beach Road, owned by Confederate

Memorial Park Inc. with a mailing address in Friendswood, Texas. The 2-acre property was purchased in 2003 for $30,000. The park includes flags of the states that seceded from the Union in the
Civil War, and was dedicated in 2008.

Adjacent to that property is a 1-acre site owned by the United States government, with federal and state monuments to those Confederates who died at Point Lookout, which was a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War.

Between 1863 and 1865, more than 50,000 Confederate prisoners passed through Camp Hoffman at Point Lookout. Approximately 4,000 died there, but the federal monument lists the names of 3,382

Confederate soldiers and sailors and 44 civilians.

The site, which is home to the unmarked remains of the Confederate dead, is overseen by Baltimore National Cemetery. The site also is home to a state-erected, 25-foot obelisk to the

Confederate dead. That state monument was dedicated on July 4, 1876, on the edge of Tanner Creek, where the mass grave had been moved to in 1870 because of erosion from the Chesapeake Bay at the original site at Point Lookout.

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Spare change you forget at TSA checkpoints

All the nickels, dimes and quarters travelers leave behind at airport security checkpoints adds up to big bucks — enough that next time you forget your change after emptying your pockets, you might want to go back for it.

In fiscal year 2016, travelers left behind a record $867,812.39, according to a report from the Transportation Security Administration. That’s over $100,000 more than went unclaimed the previous year. Of that amount, nearly $80,000 was in foreign currency.

“TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint, however there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. “Unclaimed money, typically consisting of loose coins passengers remove from their pockets, is documented and turned into the TSA financial office.”

New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport ranked the highest for unclaimed money with $70,615. That was followed by Los Angeles International at $44,811.82. Among D.C. area airports, only Dulles International made the top 10 in unclaimed funds with $20,801.25.

National Airport travelers, however, weren’t far behind Dulles, leaving $18,753.31. And despite being the region’s busiest airport, travelers left only $5,946.50 at checkpoints at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport.

So where does all that spare change go? In 2005, Congress gave the TSA the authority to spend the money on security operations.

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How To Know Which NIST Framework To Use

“One of the most important aspects of the recent cybersecurity executive order is also the aspect causing the most confusion.

When President Donald Trump signed the executive order in May, it included the requirement federal agencies use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to manage their cybersecurity risk. However, some have confused the NIST CSF with the NIST Risk Management Framework, which all federal agencies have been required to follow since its 2010 introduction.

To put it succinctly, they are two different frameworks. As industry and government work together to execute this order, it is very important for everyone to fully understand the two frameworks, and how they differ.

NIST CSF Overview

The NIST CSF was released in February 2014 in response to a 2013 executive order that called for a voluntary framework of industry standards and best practices to help organizations manage cybersecurity risk.

The CSF was created as a result of collaboration between government and the private sector. It “uses a common language to address and manage cybersecurity risk in a cost-effective way based on business needs without placing additional regulatory requirements on businesses.”

The heart of the NIST CSF is the Framework Core, which consists of five functions: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. The functions and their components aren’t a checklist of actions to be performed in order. Rather, they are concurrent and continuous activities that “provide a high-level, strategic view of the life cycle of an organization’s management of cybersecurity risk.”

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Shopping center security guards emerge as heroes following Chelmsley fire

“A pair of quick-thinking security guards at a Solihull shopping centre helped to evacuate terrified residents after a fire tore through the roof of a nearby tower block.

The fearless guards at Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre were on patrol when they spotted the flames and smoke coming from the top of the building in nearby Moorend Avenue.

As shoppers watched the drama in horror, the brave duo sprinted across to the block, which is managed by Solihull Community Housing (SCH) and alerted the concierge to the danger.

The plucky twosome, who would not be named, swiftly took to the stairs and banged on the doors of the flats in the 10 storey building.

Residents told the Birmingham Mail they had been unaware of the blaze which could be seen for miles away after the fire took hold at around 1.45pm.

Twenty-five firefighters tackled the incident and gave oxygen therapy to one man who was injured.

Residents from the top two floors were evacuated.

One of the security guards said: “There didn’t seem to be a fire alarm in the block.
“We tried to find one so that we could actually hit a panic button.
“My colleague went to the top floor and I started on the fifth so we worked it between us.
“We were there for about five to 10 minutes but it seemed longer.
“We didn’t think about it, we just went in to help. Then the fire brigade took over.”
Liberty Chester, who has a four year old daughter Lacie, said she didn’t feel safe.
“I’m just glad Lacie wasn’t there,” she said.
“If she had been she would not have gone back into the flat.
The 24-year-old added: “It was the security guards from the shopping centre who saw the smoke and ran over to tell us.
“They tried to find the fire alarm but couldn’t.
“Then they began banging on all the doors to tell us.
“We were waiting outside for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes.
“We weren’t told anything. Nobody knew what was going on.”

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