Restricted banking access spell a boom for security business

Industry reaction has been mixed since Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines on enforcing marijuana laws Jan. 4. Some entrepreneurs express concern and fear, while others carry on with business as usual.

But one thing insiders agree on is the move will make it more difficult for cannabis companies to find and secure banking relationships, without which businesses are left with a ton of cash on hand.

Despite being legal for recreational or medicinal use in more than half the country, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug and therefore illegal at the federal level. In 2013, Barack Obama’s administration issued the Cole Memorandum, which essentially directed federal law enforcement to allow businesses that are legal under state laws to operate. The memo also signaled banks could do business with these companies so long as they were in compliance with federal guidelines, although many have been hesitant.

In rescinding this policy, Sessions said future prosecutions of businesses and individuals who sell pot in states where it has been legalized will be left up to individual U.S. attorneys.

“The real sticking point here will be banking. Before, banks were very reluctant to do business based on the loosely defined Cole Memo,” said Matt Karnes, founder of industry analyst firm GreenWave Advisors. “This raises more uncertainty, and I think there is going to be a pullback.”

In a November 2017 report, GreenWave found that about 5 percent, or 368, of all financial institutions in the U.S. are on record with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), but only 1 percent are actually servicing these businesses. Many are credit unions and local and community banks. Karnes also said many marijuana businesses conceal the true nature of their business when establishing relationships, and once they are found out, the account is shut down.

“In the last report from FinCEN, 3,800 accounts were opened, but 3,700 were shut down. It’s very short-lived,” he said.

A report from Reuters Wednesday also indicated the action taken by Sessions came as a surprise to FinCEN, which was flooded with calls from banks on how to proceed. CNBC reached out to both the Department of Justice and FinCEN for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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24 people arrested at Port Canaveral on drug charges before EDM cruise

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. Jan 9 2018 - A cruise set sail from at Port Canaveral this weekend but with two dozen fewer people.

Two dozen people were arrested on drug possession charges during security checks before boarding the ship for the Holy Ship! 2018 event.

Holy Ship denied a comment but on its website states that there is a zero-tolerance policy:

“Holy Ship! has a strict zero tolerance policy. You will be embarking Holy Ship! in Port Canaveral and passing through security run by Customs and Border Protection, a division of Homeland Security. Your person and your luggage can and will be searched. Forget about your right to privacy, you are passing through a port where all local and federal laws apply and are strictly enforced.

Every person and each piece of luggage will be inspected by dogs trained to detect explosives and contraband. Anyone found to be violating the law and/or in possession of illegal substances or prohibited items (weapons, illegal controlled substances, etc) will be arrested and banned from all future events. For more information on what to expect at embarkation, visit TSA.”

Twenty-four people didn’t heed that statement Saturday, deputies said.

“It ranges from marijuana to cocaine, MDMA or ecstasy. A lot of the drugs are used in a rave scene. A lot of people with paraphernalia,” Brevard County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Tod Goodyear said.

Goodyear told News 6 the port added security this weekend knowing the cruise would set sail Saturday.

“I think that based on some of the things that occurred during previous events and some of the activities that were there, there was some concern that the people that would be traveling would be trying to conceal drugs and bring them on the ships,” Goodyear said.

Among those arrested was DJ Gina Turner.

She has hired a lawyer and said she couldn’t say much about the arrest but did issue a statement.

“I had a medical marijuana card for both of the charges that I’ve been charged with. Though the report says without a prescription, and I had NO cocaine on me at all, false positive result,” Turner said.

She said she plans to fight the charges.

Norwegian is the chosen cruise line for the event. When asked for a comment, officials referred News 6 to law enforcement officials.

Steve Linden, director of communications and public affairs for Port Canaveral, released a statement about the series of arrests.

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Alert nurses, hospital security leads to drug arrest

ABINGDON, Va. Dec 30 2017 — A woman was arrested after Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies found illegal drugs and a large amount of money in a Johnston Memorial Hospital patient’s room.

Willie Mae Jane Berry, 40, of Pennington Gap, Virginia, was arrested after deputies recovered crystal methamphetamine, numerous pills and approximately $3,000 from an unnamed patient’s room, according to a written statement.

The Sheriff’s Office had received a call from the hospital in reference to illegal drugs being present in the room at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Upon arrival, hospital security and nurses showed the deputies a powdery substance on the sink in the room. The substance was found to be cocaine from a field test, according to the statement.

Berry was charged with six felonies and a misdemeanor, including possession of cocaine, possession of dilaudid, possession of clonazepam and two counts possession of hydrocodone. Berry was also charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute clonazepam, according to the statement.

Berry was transported to the Abingdon Facility of the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail. She is being held without bond.

Charges against the patient of the room are pending.

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Slidell Police arrest 4 following fight in Walmart

The Slidell Police Department has arrested four women following a large fight inside of a Walmart.

Police say the fight happened around 1 p.m. Saturday at the Walmart located at 39142 Natchez Drive.

According to police, they received several calls about the large fight in the produce section. Callers also told police that some of the people were using pepper spray.

The fight involved more than 10 people and two of the people involved in the fight were taken to a nearby hospital for minor injuries.

Police later arrested four women in connection with the fight. Police have charged 19-year-old Alexis Neal of Slidell, 38-year-old Majara Walker of Slidell, 17-year-old Seanice Warren of St. Louis, MO and 22-year-old Morgan Walker of Slidell with disturbing the peace by fighting.

Investigators say the fight began due to a previous conflict between two different families. By chance, the two groups encountered each other in Walmart.

Videos of the fight quickly went viral Saturday afternoon following the incident.

Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal released a statement saying, “This type of behavior is disgusting and unacceptable. This does not portray the character of the majority of our citizens here in Slidell. These women should be ashamed of themselves for doing this in the middle of one of the busiest retail stores in our city. Let this be a clear message that this will not be tolerated.”

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San Antonio security officer helps nab burglary suspect

Police on Friday arrested a 28-year-old man after an apartment security guard caught him stealing three boxes of shoes from his girlfriend, according to court records.

The alleged shoe thief, Brandon De La Rosa of San Antonio, now faces charges of theft, drunk driving and burglary of a habitation. He remains in the Bexar County Jail on a $55,000 bond.

According to his affidavit, De La Rosa was known to the staff members of his girlfriend’s apartment complex because he had been causing problems in the past.

On Dec. 13, a guard saw him drive through the front gate of the complex. Concerned, the guard notified their supervisor and went to check on the victim. He saw De La Rosa’s car on the way and photographed his license plate number. He then went up to the victim’s apartment. Her door was locked and everything appeared to be okay, authorities said.

Upon leaving the victim’s apartment, however, De La Rosa confronted him, asked a few questions and then walked off. “Moments later,” the guard saw De La Rosa walking to his car with three shoe boxes in his hands, according to the arrest affidavit.

The guard went back up to the victim’s apartment and found the door had been kicked in. Police responded to the apartment, and the guard gave responding officers De La Rosa’s license plate number, which came back as belonging to a stolen vehicle, officials said.

Officers with the San Antonio Police Department Vehicle Crime’s Unit went to De La Rosa’s listed address, saw him leave his apartment and then pulled him over and arrested him.

The guard later identified De La Rosa in a line up. It’s unclear if he will face charges in connection to the stolen vehicle as well as the alleged burglary and theft.

The alleged shoe thief, Brandon De La Rosa of San Antonio, now faces charges of theft, drunken driving and burglary of a habitation. He remains in the Bexar County Jail on a $55,000 bond.

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Robot Security guard freaks out homeless people

The San Francisco SPCA, a non-profit whose mission is “to save and protect animals … and enhance the human-animal bond,” is reportedly doing just the opposite with its latest robot security guard.

It is terrifying homeless people that hang out near the SPCA building in the Mission section of the city, which was part of its objective, but it is freaking out residents as well.

According to San Francisco Business Times, the robot ─ dubbed K9 ─ was put into place to try and deal with the number of needles, car break-ins and other crimes that have reportedly come from a nearby encampment of homeless people.

“We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” Jennifer Scarlett, the SPCA’s president, said in an interview with the San Francisco Business Times. 

After the SPCA implemented the robot, Scarlett said homeless encampments disappeared and fewer cars were broken into. She added that it was not clear whether the robot was the cause of the decrease in crime, but that there was a correlation.

Upon seeing the robot, some of the people in the encampment expressed their annoyance, putting barbecue sauce on its sensors, knocking it over and putting a tarp on it, Scarlett said. 

The people in the homeless encampment were not the only ones who were freaked out by the robot.

San Francisco resident Fran Taylor, who lives near the SPCA location, said the robot approached her and her dog while she was out for a walk. The dog began barking and attempted to go near it, while she yelled at it to stop. The robot eventually stopped 10 feet away from her.

Taylor wound up writing a letter to the SPCA, expressing her displeasure after her run-in with the robot. The SPCA responded saying it had security concerns and that the robot was part of its solution.

Last week, the city of San Francisco ordered the SPCA to keep its robot off the sidewalks or it would face a $1,000-a-day penalty for operating it in the public right-of-way without a permit.

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Virginia Credit Union using new eye print security option

Virginia Credit Union is offering another layer of security for its mobile banking users.

EyeVerify is a biometric authentication based on a person’s eye print. The feature uses a phone camera and eye print to confirm the user’s identity when opening the credit union’s mobile banking app.

EyeVerify is an option for members who do not want to manually enter a password or for those do not have a phone that accepts fingerprint identification. Unlike other biometric technologies, it doesn’t depend on a particular model of smartphone.

 
“Since not all phones are enabled for fingerprint authentication but most offer a camera, we wanted to provide an additional layer of security for their mobile banking information,” said Frank Macrina, senior vice president of products and channels for Virginia Credit Union.

The optional technology can provide users with a fast and secure way to use the mobile banking app, Macrina said. Also, if a phone is lost, EyeVerify locks down access to the member’s accounts.

It can be used as well for people who have joint accounts, with eye prints recorded for both users and verified upon opening the app.

The eye biometric offers a stronger option than a thumbprint, Macrina said. However, it is a new technology, and the thumbprint is still the most popular method of biometric security.

The credit union began offering the technology in the spring ahead of many of its banking competitors.

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30 tickets issued daily through RPS bus camera system

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News investigates to see how Richmond Public Schools bus camera system is keeping students safe.

RPS is the only district in Central Virginia that has installed a stop-arm camera system on their school buses. The second district in the state.

The camera system is designed to catch reckless drivers illegally passing school buses.

“We’re averaging 30 violations a day,” Interim Superintendent Tommy Kranz says, “So that indicates to me that yes, it is working.”

100 school buses are equipped with a total of 13 cameras, nine on the outside and four on the inside.

From the first day of Fall to October 24, 1,021 citations were issued to drivers who illegally pass a school bus when the stop-arm is out or red lights are flashing.

8News obtained video through Richmond Public Schools in which cameras caught drivers nearly hitting students when the school bus was stopped.

Michelle Kitts is a RPS parent and admits she even goes a different route in the mornings to avoid the bus stops.

“If they have kids they know how it feels to see somebody speed passed the buses when there are kids,” Kitts says, “even at the stop with no buses around so everyone should slow down and take it easy.”

Kevin Hunter, another RPS parent says he wasn’t surprised by the number of tickets that were issued in the first seven weeks this Fall. He says he believes drivers need to put down their cell phones and pay more attention to the road before a child is hurt.

“As a foster dad I don’t want to see any of my kids go you know shot across the street then you got some driver coming and don’t pay attention,” Hunter said.

In a press release sent to 8News this summer, Richmond Public Schools said they wanted to have all school buses equipped with the camera system by the start of the semester. However, the company that installs the camera paid to install cameras on the first 50 buses and have been working in phases to install the rest. This revenue is generated from the citations that are issued.

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Army veteran TSA agent runs exploding battery away from passengers at Orlando Airport

“The Transportation Safety Administration released surveillance video showing an agent moving a smoking bag containing an exploding lithium-ion battery away from passengers during a panic at Orlando International Airport Friday.

The TSA agent, a 20-year Army veteran, said he believed the bag to be an improvised explosive device. He placed it between a concrete column and a concrete planter to mitigate any harm that might come with a full explosion.

The TSA commended the agent, saying he ran the bag away even as panicked passengers “knocked over the queuing stanchions and dropped roller bags, creating loud banging sounds which were perceived as gunshots, further spreading panic throughout the airport.”

Numerous people at OIA reported there was a panic caused by those loud noises, initially thought to be gunshots.

“Our TSA Team’s performance was outstanding. I’m very proud of our team and how they responded to both the incident and the recovery process of rescreening passengers,” said Jerry Henderson, TSA Federal Security Director.
“Our people responded as they are trained to do, and to lead passengers to safety.”

The Orlando Police Department said on Twitter that no shots had been fired and it was “a loud sound that startled people.”

The department later said on Twitter that the noise was caused by a lithium-ion battery that exploded inside a camera.

The bag the camera was in started to smolder, but no one was injured, the OPD tweet said.

The incident was first reported just after 5 p.m., airport officials said in a statement.

“As a result of the incident, a ground stop was issued and a number of flights were held while passengers were allowed back into the building and security checkpoints reactivated,” the statement said.

The incident did not pose any danger to people at the airport, the department’s Twitter post said.

Regardless, photos given to Channel 9 showed a normally busy terminal that was completely empty.

Because everyone who evacuated the terminal had to go through security screening again, travelers were experiencing inordinately long lines.

“It’s crazy. Nobody knows anything,” traveler McKenzie Golden said.
She had just gone through the security checkpoint and was preparing to get onto a flight home to Michigan when the chaos hit.

“I heard people screaming and then everybody hit the ground and people were basically running over each other, trampling each other,” Golden said.
Numerous flights were delayed due to the incident.

Hours after the battery explosion, massive crowds were still working their way through security to get to their flights.”

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Father/Son Tutoring Company Executives Sentenced for Fraud

“The father-and-son executives of two suburban Chicago tutoring companies have been sentenced to federal prison for orchestrating an $11 million fraud scheme that bilked more than 100 school districts around the country, including Illinois.

From 2008 to 2012, JOWHAR SOULTANALI and his son, KABIR KASSAM, fraudulently obtained funds from the school districts by misrepresenting the nature of their companies’ tutoring services and falsely inflating invoices for tutoring work that was never performed. Soultanali and Kassam also paid bribes to school officials and teachers to make sure the fraud was not detected. The bribes included a Caribbean cruise for an assistant principal in Texas and an outing to a gentleman’s club for a state education official in New Mexico.

Soultanali, 62, of Morton Grove, Ill., and Kassam, 38, of Wheeling, Ill., each pleaded guilty last year to one count of mail fraud. U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve on Friday sentenced Soultanali to six years in prison, and Kassam to five years and ten months in prison.

The sentences were announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John P. Selleck, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Thomas D. Utz Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the North Central Region of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General. The Chicago Public Schools Office of Inspector General assisted in the investigation.

“Defendants abused the trust that the Department of Education placed in them to carry out a massive fraud that was not merely extensive, but also egregious,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kruti Trivedi and Barry Jonas argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “The fraud in this case had a significant impact on both the failing school districts that allocated their federal funds to defendants and on the students at those school districts.”

Soultanali served as director of operations for BRILLIANCE ACADEMY INC. and its wholly owned subsidiary, BABBAGE NET SCHOOL INC., both based on Niles, Ill. Kassam was the president of both companies. The firms contracted with school districts to provide tutoring services to students on-site at schools and via laptop computers.

According to the charges, Soultanali and Kassam furnished the school districts with false applications and marketing materials that fraudulently inflated the companies’ services. The companies falsely stated that they provided pre-testing of enrolled students, created customized tutoring programs, provided ongoing progress reports to schools and parents, and compiled accurate student improvement results after the tutoring was completed. In total, Brilliance and Babbage received $33 million from more than 100 school districts and small schools throughout the country.

The fraud scheme also involved numerous bribes paid to some school officials, with the expectation that the officials would assist in procuring federal funds for the tutoring services.

In addition to Soultanali and Kassam, the investigation resulted in criminal charges against Brilliance and Babbage, as well as three school officials in Texas and one state education official in New Mexico
who pocketed the bribes.”

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