Tag Archive: healthinsurance4everyone


littlevictims.jpg

 

Louisiana investigators say confessed serial killer Samuel Little from Lorain, may be linked to two more unidentified cold case victims in the state.  Little has drawn haunting portraits from memory of women the FBI believes he murdered.  The FBI has released the pictures in hopes some of the victims can be identified.  Little, 78, says he killed 94 women from 1970 to 2005.  Police have confirmed more than 36 cases so far, a tally that puts Little among the deadliest serial killers.  He pled guilty to a Texas woman’s death in January and has been convicted in the deaths of three women from California.

Little was arrested on September 5, 2012, at a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky, after authorities used DNA testing to establish that he was involved in the murder of Carol Elford, killed on July 13, 1987; Guadalupe Apodaca, killed on September 3, 1987; and Audrey Nelson, killed on August 14, 1989.  All three of their bodies were found dumped in the streets of LA.  He was extradited to Los Angeles, where he was charged on January 7, 2013.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in September 2014.

Months later, police said that Little was being investigated for involvement in dozens of murders committed across 14 states between 1970 and 2005.    On November 9, 2018, Little confessed to the 1996 fatal strangulation of Melissa Thomas.  In December 2018, Little pled guilty to the 1994 murder of Denise Christie.  confessed to the 1979 murder of 23-year-old Brenda Alexander whose body was found in Phenix City.  Little also confessed to the 1977 murder of an unidentified woman and the 1982 strangling murder of 18-year-old Fredonia Smith.

According to authorities, he also confessed to the 1982 murder of 55-year-old Dorothy Richards, the 1996 murder of 40-year-old Daisy McGuire, the 1978 murder of 36-year-old Julia Critchfield, the 1978 murder of 19-year-old Evelyn Weston, the 1982 murder of 20-year-old Rosie Hill and the 2005 murder of 46-year-old Nancy Carol Stevens.  Police have linked him to the 1981 murder of 23 year old Linda Sue Boards.  He has also been linked to two murder victims who remain unidentified.

Little confessed to strangling all his victims and dumping their bodies in wooded areas. Without a gunshot or knife wound, many of the deaths were blamed on overdoses or accidents and murder investigations were never opened. The victims were often involved in prostitution or addicted to drugs and their bodies sometimes went unidentified.  According to the FBI, Little remembers his victims and the killings in great detail.   He remembers where he was and what car he was driving but is less reliable with remembering dates.

Little began making the confessions in exchange for a transfer out of the Los Angeles County prison in which he was being held.  The FBI says Little is in very poor health and will stay in prison until his death.  He uses a wheelchair, and suffers from diabetes and a heart condition.  Little has confessed to dozens of murders and has drawn 26 portraits of some of his alleged victims.  One of his victims has been identified from the portraits so far.  Martha Cunningham of Knox County, Tennessee who was 34 years old when Little murdered her in 1975.   The agency is releasing these photos now to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases.  If you have any information that can help, call 800-634-4097.

Advertisements

insys.jpg

 

 

A federal jury in Boston has found Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, as well as four former Insys managers, guilty of racketeering conspiracy.  Former vice president Michael Gurry, ex-national sales director Richard Simon, former regional sales director Joseph Rowan, and one-time stripper turned Insys sales manager Sunrise Lee were also found guilty.

They were accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. The charges call for up to 20 years in prison, but as first-time offenders, Kapoor and the others would likely get only a fraction of that.

The trial against former billionaire Kapoor and four other company executives began in January and lasted into April. Insys managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee were also convicted. The executives were accused of conspiring to bribe clinicians to prescribe the company’s potent fentanyl spray medication off-label.  Former CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before this year’s trial began.

Michael Babich testified against his former colleagues during the trial and told jurors that Insys recruited sales representatives who were “easy on the eyes” because they knew physicians didn’t want an “unattractive person to walk in their door.”

Prosecutors allege that to boost sales for Subsys, which is meant for cancer patients with severe pain-bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking events that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.  Prosecutors said Insys staffers also misled insurers about patients’ medical conditions and posed as doctors’ office employees in order to get payment approved for the costly drug.

Kapoor is the first chief executive officer of an opioid maker to be convicted at a trial. The verdict signals that the public is willing to hold pharmaceutical executives accountable for the U.S. crisis and comes as thousands of state and local governments press civil lawsuits against drug-makers to recover billions of dollars spent combating the epidemic.

The guilty verdict comes as companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc are preparing to face trials over allegations by states and local governments that their sales campaigns fueled a crisis which is costing billions of dollars annually and claims more than 100 lives daily in the United States.  The Sackler family, Purdue’s billionaire owners, are facing a new wave of lawsuits over its role in the marketing of OxyContin. They, like the companies, deny wrongdoing.

 

 

 

 

john-singleton-2.jpgFilmmaker John Singleton, 51, died after suffering a stroke.  The director had been in a coma since suffering the stroke on April 17.  “John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends,” Singleton’s family said. “We want to thank the amazing doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for their expert care and kindness and we again want thank all of John’s fans, friends and colleagues for all of the love and support they showed him during this difficult time.”

On April 17, 2019, Singleton reportedly began to experience weakness in his legs after returning to the United States from a trip to Costa Rica.  He suffered a stroke and was placed under intensive care.  On April 25, it was reported that he was in a coma and on April 29, Singleton was removed from life support and died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  He is survived by his mother, Sheila Ward, his father, Danny Singleton and his children Justice, Maasai, Hadar, Cleopatra, Selenesol, Isis, and Seven.

A slew of actors and musicians paid tribute to him, including Devon Aoki, Tyra Banks, Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Morris Chestnut, Snoop Dogg, Omar Epps, Tyrese Gibson, Omar Gooding, Cole Hauser, Taraji P. Henson, Jason Isaacs, Janet Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Taylor Lautner, Nia Long, Ludacris, Lori Petty, Q-Tip, Michael Rapaport, Busta Rhymes, Kristy Swanson, Mark Wahlberg and Jeffrey Wright.  Rapper and actor Ice Cube who worked with Singleton in Boyz N The Hood and Higher Learning said “There are no words to express how sad I am to lose my brother, friend & mentor. He loved to bring the black experience to the world.

In 1992, at the age of 24, Singleton became the first African American—and the youngest person ever—to be nominated for an Oscar for best director, for “Boyz n the Hood,” a film based on his experiences growing up in South Central Los Angeles.  He wrote the screenplay while attending the cinema school at USC, winning various awards while a student that lead to his signing with Creative Artists Agency, the powerful talent agency.

Many of his most notable films, such as Poetic Justice, released in 1993 and Higher Learning, released in 1995, had themes which resonated with people.  In 1997, he directed “Rosewood,” a historical drama based on the 1923 Rosewood massacre, when a white mob killed black residents and destroyed their Florida town. He also directed the films Baby Boy, Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Four Brothers.   As a producer, Singleton was involved with the movies Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow.

Recently, Singleton has been active in television as both a producer and director, which included co-creating the FX series “Snowfall” — a drama about the early rise of the crack cocaine epidemic — and episodes of shows such as “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Billions” and “Empire.”  In a 2017 interview, Singleton reflected on the fact that he could have done more movies but some of his experiences with Hollywood, and its treatment of African-American movies and filmmakers, had inspired his move into television.

 

 

larry.jpg

 

 

The FBI has arrested the head of a vigilante militia group that has repeatedly filmed itself holding migrant border crossers at gunpoint in New Mexico.  Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the leader of the far-right, pro-Trump group calling itself United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), allegedly rounded up and held asylum seekers at gun point while posing as US Border Patrol Agents.  Videos posted on social media showed members of Hopkins’s militia pursuing migrants in New Mexico’s desert west of El Paso, Texas, holding them at gunpoint and coordinating their arrests with U.S. Border Patrol agents.

UCP and Hopkins claim to work alongside Border Patrol, though the agency has denied working with UCP.  A Border Patrol official released a statement that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.  Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”

Mitchell, 69, of Flora Vista in northern New Mexico, was indicted on a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.  The charge doesn’t specifically relate to Hopkins’ activities at the border but rather to a federal investigation from 2017.   According to court documents, in November 2017, FBI agents visited Hopkins Flora Vista home after learning he previously claimed the group was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  They found Hopkins was in possession of nine firearms and ammunition.  He had three prior felony convictions dating back to 1996, including impersonating a policee officer in the state of Oregon in 2006.  If convicted on the charge in the indictment, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment, according to prosecutors.

Federal officials have not commented on the timing of the charges against Hopkins for offenses committed in Nov. 2017.  NPR reporter Mallory Falk said “It’s a group of armed civilians often dressed in military fatigues. They’ve been camped out in Sunland Park, N.M., which is a small community very close to the U.S.-Mexico border. And they’ve been stopping migrant families that they’re encountering crossing the border who are trying to come into the U.S. to claim asylum. They’ve been stopping those families, telling them to sit on the ground, and then calling Border Patrol, and Border Patrol then comes in and apprehends those families.”  Falk said that Mitchell’s attorney suggested that state officials want to stop the group’s border activities and are using charges that are a year-and-a-half old to put pressure on them.

Hopkins’ attorney, Kelly O’Connell, said that the militia group believes it is aiding an overstretched Border Patrol.  “They generally think that Border Patrol is spread too thin and that there are gaps in the system or there’s literal gaps in the fence,” said O’Connell. “They think they believe that they are helping to enforce the law of America.”  The group has had an encampment in the area since November 2018, and claims to have detained 3,000 migrants in all.

 

 

sri-lanka-easter-bombings-church.jpg

The death toll from Easter Sunday’s bomb attacks targeting hotels and churches in Sri Lanka has climbed to 359, as authorities said they defused another bomb in downtown Colombo and arrested more suspects.  Nearly 500 people were injured during the coordinated bombings across the island nation.  Sri Lankan officials say the attacks were a response to last month’s attacks on two mosques by a white nationalist gunman who killed 50 Muslim worshipers in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Sri Lankan officials say a little-known Muslim organization called National Thowheed Jama’ath carried out the series of Easter Sunday suicide bombings with another Sri Lankan group known as the JMI.  Officials also apologized for failing to respond to multiple tip-offs ahead of Sunday’s eight attacks.  A confidential memo which was ignored, circulated among Sri Lankan security agencies 10 days prior to the attack that warned of a possible attack and gave the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the suspects.

The first round of deadly attacks hit busy Easter services at Catholic churches in the heart of Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community in and around the capital Colombo, as well as a Protestant church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.  Bombs also exploded in three luxury hotels in Colombo, with another blast striking a hotel near a zoo south of the capital, and a final blast at a private home believed to be tied to the attackers.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena requested Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka’s police chief, to step down over the failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks but ath first, the police chief refused.  Sirisena blamed Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando, the defense secretary, for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.   Fernando resigned earlier in the week and Jayasundara later resigned.  Police are looking for 140 people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), according to President Maithripala Sirisena.

President Maithripala Sirisena has revealed his short and long-term measures to bring back normalcy to the island nation coming to terms with the Easter bombings.  “Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown person could live anywhere,” he said, pointing out that during the fight against LTTE, similar methods were adopted.  Sirisena acknowledged “a serious lapse” on the part of the country’s defence secretary and top police official, who failed to inform him about an April 4 letter from a “friendly foreign country” warning about a possible attack.

Despite the police having already detained a lot of suspects, they warned that some people believed by authorities to be linked with the attacks were still at large and may possess explosives.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that the father of two of Sunday’s alleged suicide bombers, a leading businessman who is active in politics, has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons in carrying out the attacks.

 

 

measlesoutbreak.jpg

New York City has declared a public health emergency over the growing measles outbreak with 285 confirmed cases in New York City since the fall.  The “epicenter” of the outbreak is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where vaccination rates among Orthodox Jews are particularly low.  The emergency order was declared in an effort to curtail the outbreak and protect others.  As part of the emergency order, all residents of four Williamsburg zip codes — 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249 — must be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella if they are not already.

Those found to be in violation of the order could face up to a $1,000 fine, officials said.  Under the mandatory vaccinations, members of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check the vaccination records of any individual who may have been in contact with infected patients. Those who have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have evidence of immunity may be given a violation and could be fined $1,000.  New York’s MMR vaccination rate is at 91.1 percent, below the 94 percent requirement to achieve herd immunity.

The NYC Health Department recently issued an order banning all unvaccinated members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg from entering yeshivas and day care programs. Non-compliant schools could be subject to closure.  Roughly 1,800 children in Williamsburg remain unvaccinated.  The city will help unprotected individuals secure affordable and accessible vaccination, and emphasized that vaccination is safe and effective.  In February, the department increased the recommended MMR vaccine dose for children between ages 6 months and 11 months who live in Williamsburg and Borough Park. Infants are advised to get immunized prior to international travel.

The Williamsburg outbreak started when an unvaccinated child acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring.  There have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel according to the health department.  Most of the Williamsburg cases involve members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, many of whom live by the Torah teachings that followers should not cause the body any damage since it is a gift from God.

Last month, in Rockland County, NY, near the city, county health officials declared a state of emergency and barred unvaccinated children from public spaces for 30 days. The order was temporarily halted last week after a judge ruled against it.  Outside of New York City and Rockland County, measles outbreaks are underway in the Pacific Northwest, California, New Jersey and Michigan.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 465 individual cases of measles in 19 states in the past three and a half months. This outbreak has the second greatest number of infected individuals since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

An analysis published in PLOS Medicine has shown that non-medical exemptions increased in 12 out of 17 states with relaxed laws on immunization. Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah gave leeway for philosophical beliefs as a basis to refuse the vaccine.  Authorities said they are now reviewing a bill to ensure that only patients with a qualified medical history like chemotherapy or organ transplantation will be given an exemption.

 

 

 

groundzero1.jpg

 

Three former New York City firefighters involved in the 9/11 rescue effort died last week, within 48 hours of each other.   Retired FDNY Lt. Timothy O’Neill, 60, died on April 2 and Firefighter Kevin Lennon, 54, died on April 4 from 9/11-related cancers — nearly 18 years after responding to the terror attacks.  A third retired FDNY member, Fire Marshal Michael Andreachi, died within the same time period.  His death has not been officially linked to the 9/11 illness he was suffering from.

Their deaths come as 101 survivors who either responded to, or lived and worked near Ground Zero following the terror attacks have passed away from a 9/11 illness since September.  John Feal, survivor advocate John Feal said survivors are passing away at a rate of about 12 a month — or three a week.  Between September 2017 and September 2018, 163 survivors passed away from 9/11 illnesses-which was the highest recorded number of 9/11 related deaths since the terror attacks.  Feal said that if the current rate continues, the number number deaths will exceed last years.  “9/11 is still killing,” Feal said  “Sadly, this fragile community of heroes and survivors is shrinking by the day.”

FDNY lost 343 fire fighters on the day of the attack and more than 180 FDNY employees have died of illnesses from the toxic dust at Ground Zero since the terror attack.  It’s estimated that 90,000 first responders showed up at the WTC in the aftermath of the attack. An additional 400,000 survivors lived and worked in the area at the time.  Nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses.

More than 7,000 FDNY Firefighters police officers and EMTs have been treated for a 9/11 injury or illness in the 18 years after the attack.  5,400 members have been diagnosed with lower respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and less commonly emphysema, COPD, sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis.  Another 5,200 members have been diagnosed with upper respiratory diseases such as chronic rhinosinusitis and/or vocal cord diseases.  5,400 members have also been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disorders.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, when the planes crashed into the towers, 24,000 gallons of jet fuel ignited a fire that spread to 100,000 tons of organic debris and 230,000 gallons of transformer, heating and diesel oils in the buildings, setting off a giant toxic plume of soot and dust from pulverized building materials, The fires continued to burn during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero, and workers were exposed to chemicals like asbestos, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, crystalline silica and other metals and particulates.

Epidemiology studies have confirmed that 9/11 emergency responders and recovery workers have significantly higher rates of thyroid cancer and skin melanoma than found in the general population.  They also face a higher risk of bladder cancer.  Non-responders have had significantly higher rates of breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and other blood-cell disorders.  As the population of those in the area of the World Trade Center attacks increases, so will the number of cancer cases and other 9/11 illness related deaths.

The World Trade Center Health Program, a fund set up to cover healthcare costs for 9/11 first responders and survivors is set to expire in 2020.  Since so many victims have been requesting compensation, the fund is now expected to run out of money even before the deadline.  Earlier this year, lawmakers including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill to permanently fund the federal program and extend its authorization through 2090.

 

20190313-204244-ETHIOPIA_51744.jpg

 

An Ethiopian Airlines flight traveling from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner was carrying passengers of 35 different nationalities, including eight Americans and 21 United Nations staffers.  Sunday’s crash triggered a global grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after data suggested similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash and the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 crash in October that killed 189 people.

The pilot of the Boeing 737 jetliner that crashed Sunday immediately noticed trouble as the plane accelerated wildly after takeoff.  Within one minute of Flight 302’s departure, Captain Yared Getachew calmly reported a “flight control” problem.  “Break break, request back to home,” the captain told air traffic controllers as they scrambled to divert two other flights approaching the airport. “Request vector for landing.”

Air traffic controllers knew the plane was in trouble even before the pilot radioed in that he wanted to turn the plane around.  They noticed the plane’s speed accelerated inexplicably and it oscillated up and down by hundreds of feet.  Radar showed the aircraft’s altitude was well below what is known as the minimum safe height from the ground during a climb.  The plane appeared to stabilize and climbed to a higher altitude, but then began to speed up again in a way that is deemed unsafe.  The plane then sped up even more just before it disappeared from radar screens and crashed six minutes after takeoff.

The ill-fated flight crashed near the town of Bishoftu, about 39 miles southeast of Bole International Airport.  The plane’s crash left a large crater and debris from the Boeing 737 jet was broken into hundreds of small pieces, making the task of recovering each part complex. The largest engine piece on the site was around the size of a small table.  Several dozen forensic investigators and Ethiopian Airlines employees slowly combed the crash site in search of any evidence, raising their hands when they come across anything significant.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders were sent to Paris where French aviation authorities will probe the heavily damaged black boxes for clues to the tragedy.  Preliminary conclusions will take several days and aircraft accident investigations can often take years to complete.  Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley said investigators will look into the MAX 8’s autopilot functions and the training of the pilots who flew the plane, as well as a mechanical part of the control system that alters the up-and-down movement of the plane’s nose.  The mechanism, called a “jackscrew,” is a threaded rod in the tail section of the aircraft that affects the plane’s stability.

Data from the “black boxes,” devices will provide further guidance for investigators as well as some answers for the families of the victims. The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent U.S. agency that investigates transportation accidents and issues widely-respected safety recommendations, also sent three additional investigators to assist in the analysis.

Many speculate whether the software in the plane’s autopilot system might have played a role in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, as it seemed to have done in the fatal crash of an Indonesian Lion Air 737 MAX 8.  In the October 2018 Lion Air crash, it appears the pilots failed to disengage the autopilot when the plane’s nose began pitching up and down.  It’s possible they were unaware of how to do so since some pilots have complained that the information to disengage autopilot was not readily available, and others have raised concerns about the adequacy of the training process.

kc-christchurch1505.jpg

 

At least 49 people were killed and 48 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019.  The attack occurred around lunchtime when the mosques were full of worshippers. Footage of the massacre was streamed live online, and a rambling 87 page manifesto laced with white supremacist references was published just before the shootings unfolded.  Police also neutralized two improvised explosive devices attached to one vehicle near the mosque.

The suspected shooter, Brenton Tarrant, 28, live-streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

Tarrant has been charged with murder and two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.  None of the men in custody have a criminal history.  Tarrant is an Australian-born former personal trainer who is believed to have been radicalized during his travels abroad. According to the Independent, Tarrant met with right-wing extremists while taking a trip to Europe in 2017, and also traveled to Pakistan and North Korea.  Authorities have said that Tarrant had become obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by radical Islamists in Europe in 2016 and 2017.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  The manifesto expresses several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  Tarrant describes himself as an ethno-nationalist and refers to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentions revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an “act of extreme and unprecedented violence” and said “this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”  She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack.  Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought “anything like this” could happen in New Zealand, saying “everyone is shocked”.  Many other politicians and world leaders have condemned the attacks and world leaders attribute the attack to rising Islamophobia.

Prime Minister Ardern announced: “Our gun laws will change, now is the time… People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that.”  Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns but later said the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was “one of the issues” the government would consider.

 

college admissions.jpg

Hollywood actresses and a slew of chief executives are among 50 wealthy people charged in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Those indicted in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.

At a news conference, Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts said “This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud.  There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.” Lelling said “The parents charged in the case are a catalog of wealth and privilege. They include, for example, the CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.”

The ringleader of the scam is William Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network.  Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools.”  Singer, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was also indicted.  Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, and Masera allegedly worked closely with Singer in the scam, according to the indictment.  According to the indictment, Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, California, another employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, and David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver, Canada, were also indicted for allegedly working closely with Singer to facilitate the scam.

Singer would allegedly instruct parents to seek extended time for the children to take entrance exams or obtain medical documentation that their child had a learning disability, according to the indictment. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to one of two testing centers, one in Houston and another in West Hollywood, California, where test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, helped carry out the scam, the indictment alleges.  Riddell, 36, allegedly took ACT and SAT tests for students whose parents had paid bribes to Singer.  Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each student’s test.

Singer also allegedly bribed school coaches to give to his clients’ admissions slots reserved for student athletes in sports including crew and soccer. He went as far as to stage fake photos of his student clients engaging in sports they never played, or to digitally place the faces of his clients onto images found online of athletes.

Others charged in the probe include nine coaches at elite schools, two SAT and ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, a college administrator and 33 parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.  Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of the private investment firm Dragon Global; Bill McGlashan, 55, of Mill Valley, California, a businessman and international private equity investor; Gordon Caplan, a New York attorney; and Gregory Abbott, 68, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a New York food and beverage packaging company, and his wife, Marcia Abbott, 59.

Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not indicted, but according to the court document he and Huffman were caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case, allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam.  Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to USC to have their two daughters falsely designated as crew recruits, though neither daughter ever participated in the sport.