Category: Crime

FTC expects record claims over AT&T cramming scam

AT&Y scum

Over 359,000 AT&T customers have already filled out an online application to obtain refunds from the company, which padded phone bills with suspect SMS charges.

Since the Federal Trade Commission announced a $105 million settlement with AT&T last week over fake billing charges, 359,000 individuals have already come forward to claim their share of the refund money, and that number is expected to climb.

The claims relate to so-called “cramming” charges in which AT&T customers paid extra fees, usually in the amount of $9.99, for “premium SMS” services that promised to deliver content like horoscopes and celebrity news to cell phones. Such services are a relic of the pre-smartphone days, but people still paid for them, often without authorization, with AT&T receiving a commission on the charges…

The process for making a claim is very straightforward: anyone who was an AT&T customer after January 1, 2009 can simply fill out this online form, which only requires a phone number and address.

Crooked corporation of the day, eh?

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Banking security stronger — and scarier!

masked fraud

The caller said her home had burned down and her husband had been badly hurt in the blaze. On the telephone with her bank, she pleaded for a replacement credit card at her new address.

“We lost everything,” she said. “Can you send me a card to where we’re staying now?”

The card nearly was sent. But as the woman poured out her story, a computer compared the biometric features of her voice against a database of suspected fraudsters. Not only was the caller not the person she claimed to be, “she” wasn’t even a woman. The program identified the caller as a male impostor trying to steal the woman’s identity.

The conversation, a partial transcript of which was provided to The Associated Press by the anti-fraud company Verint Systems Inc., reflects the growing use of voice biometric technology to screen calls for signs of fraud.

Two major U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., use voice screening, also known as voice biometric blacklists, according to three people familiar with the arrangements, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the system was meant to remain secret…

A recent AP survey of 10 leading voice biometric vendors found that more than 65 million people worldwide have had their voiceprints taken, and that several banks, including Barclays PLC in Britain and Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, are in the process of introducing their customers to the technology.

Like that phrase? “Introducing their customers to the technology?” Asking the banks for more info gets answers like…”sharing any information about our fraud prevention measures would jeopardize their effectiveness”.

Neither Wells Fargo nor Chase responded to questions specifically addressing the legality of their voice harvesting.

Meanwhile, our state and federal elected officials have done nothing about implementing oversight or regulation of the uses of this technology.

The technology, of course, isn’t the villain in the piece. Products like this or any other aren’t inherently good or evil. The people using them determine the conditions for that value judgement.

Texas forced, once again, to release an innocent man from death row


Manuel Velez – a free man

A building worker from Texas, who was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, was released on Wednesday after spending nine years in prison, four of them on death row.

Manuel Velez, 49, emerged from Huntsville prison a free man at 11.32pm CT. He was arrested in 2005, and sentenced to death three years later, for killing a one-year-old who was partially in his care.

But over the years the conviction unravelled. Tests on the victim’s brain showed that Velez could not have caused the child’s head injuries. Further evidence revealed that the defendant, who is intellectually disabled, had suffered from woeful legal representation at trial, and that the prosecutor had acted improperly to sway the jury against him.

Golly – there’s a surprise.

Brian Stull, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented Velez since 2009, said that “an innocent man went to death row because the entire system failed him. The defence counsel who are meant to defend him let him down, the prosecutor who is meant to secure justice committed misconduct, and even the judge made errors that were recognised on appeal…”

…When lawyers with the private firms Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, and Lewis, Roca, Rothgerber took up Velez’s case after he was put on death row, they were astonished by what they found. They discovered that expert opinion had been given in 2006 – fully two years before the trial – that destroyed the state’s case against him.

A neuropathologist had examined Angel’s body and recorded blood on the brain caused by a haematoma that was “well developed”. Crucially, the brain injury was at least two weeks old and was almost certainly inflicted between 18 and 36 days before Angel died.

The timing was critical, as Velez was not in contact with Angel until he moved into the Moreno home on 14 October, 17 days before the boy died. In fact, within the 18- and 36-day period specified by the neuropathologist, Angel was some 1,000 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was on a building job.

This key detail went unnoticed by Velez’s original defence lawyers who made nothing of it at trial, even though it had been prominently incorporated into the official autopsy report on Angel Moreno. The neuropathologist who made the finding was similarly never called as a witness…

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Dumb Crook(s) of the Day

Family Values
Butt dial leads police to meth lab

Three Floridians were busted after one of them butt-dialed 911 while discussing their alleged drug operation.

The dispatcher heard Donna Knope, 55, Jason Knope, 32, and Thomas Stallings, 41, talk about “making and selling methamphetamine” for nearly half an hour on Saturday, authorities said.

Police traced the call to the backyard of the Knopes’ home on Roland Drive in Deltona, 30 miles north of Orlando…

Donna Knope is Jason Knope’s mother.

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office deputies looked inside an open window to a shed to find what appeared to be a meth lab…

They saw a “bottle that appeared to be smoking” and white smoke came streaming from the shed, according to police.

The trio was arrested at the scene where deputies say they found all the elements needs to operate a meth lab, including hypodermic needles, a butane torch, plastic tubing, coffee filters, lighter fluid and more.

All three suspects were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver…

Har!

Chicken held for ransom rots — finally dumped in Montana landfill

The truckload of rotting chickens abandoned at a truck stop west of Missoula was dumped in the landfill Friday morning.

Republic Services employees would not let visitors into the dump site while a crew from West Central Environmental Consultants supervised the unloading of 37,000 pounds of spoiled chicken meat…

The trailer had little smell Friday morning, despite having no refrigeration for at least several weeks – and possibly a month. A small amount of liquid was still dripping out of the drain at the back of the trailer. Piles of absorbent material were used to contain the leakage.

A crew from Iron Horse Towing brought a semi-truck to haul the trailer away from the Flying J at the Missoula Wye.

Driver Brian Baird said he drew the short straw this morning and got the job hauling the trailer

According to Nampa, Idaho Police Sgt. Joe Ramirez, the load of frozen chickens had been picked up on Aug. 20 in Springdale, Arkansas, and was supposed to be delivered to Kent, Washington, on Aug. 21. It never arrived, and the truck and trailer were first reported stolen from Dixie River Freight Inc.’s Nampa office on Aug. 27.

Nampa police listed the truck as a stolen vehicle on Sept. 9, but didn’t immediately enter it in the National Crime Information Center because of some doubt about the criminal nature of the circumstances, Ramirez said in an email.

Detectives later learned that suspect-driver, Christopher L. Hall, had an extensive criminal history and is wanted on a federal parole violation. Hall is now also wanted for the alleged theft of a 2013 Volvo semi truck worth $160,000…

Last Saturday, Flying J truck stop workers at the Wye noticed the abandoned trailer, but didn’t know its contents. On Wednesday, Missoula County Sheriff’s deputies learned the driver allegedly tried to hold it for ransom money. Dixie River officials declined to pay, and the driver abandoned the trailer at the truck stop.

Eeoough! Yuck!

Thanks, Mike

TV reporter quits on air — promoting medical marijuana, legalizing weed

A television reporter quit her job on live TV with a big four-letter flourish after revealing she owns a medical marijuana business and intends to press for legalization of recreational pot in Alaska.

After reporting on the Alaska Cannabis Club on Sunday night’s broadcast, KTVA’s Charlo Greene identified herself as the business’s owner.

“Everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all my energy toward fighting for freedom and for fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska,” she said during the late Sunday evening newscast. “And as for this job, well not that I have a choice, but fuck it, I quit.”

She then walked off camera.

KTVA News Director Bert Rudman apologized for blah, blah, blah

Greene is the professional name used by Charlene Egbe. She told The Associated Press on Monday that she knew about a month ago that she would be leaving the way she did. No one else at the station knew anything about it, she said.

Alaska voters will decide in the November election whether to join Washington and Colorado in decriminalizing pot…

After voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1998, the state of Alaska never set up dispensaries, forcing people to criminalize themselves to access pot…

Perish the thought that conservative politicians let democracy get in the way of maintaining reactionary policies.

And in the tradition of sophistry which rules much of American journalism, AP takes the time and space at the top and bottom of this article to track down dweebs opposing any science-based regulation of cannabis to give them equal coverage – or more.

Dumb Crook of the Day

ung3

Albuquerque resident David Ung didn’t forget his luggage, cell phone or plane ticket in a returned rental car Tuesday.

Instead, police say he forgot 139 pounds of “high grade” marijuana — packed in several black trash bags — in the trunk of a rental car he had returned to Hertz Rent a Car near the airport.

Aviation police officers told an Albuquerque Police Department officer that 40-year-old David Ung dropped off a car, but returned, saying he left a bag inside the vehicle.

By the time he returned, police had already found several black trash bags full of marijuana, packaged in 124 individual heat-sealed clear bags…

Ung was detained at the scene, and refused to talk to officers without an attorney…He was charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute and booked into the county jail on $10,000 bail.

Been sampling the product, eh?

Jailed, some mentally ill inmates are in permanent lockdown

Day or night, the lights inside cell 135C of central New Mexico’s Valencia County Detention Center were always on.

Locked inside, alone, for months, Jan Green – a 52-year-old computer technician with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – rocked on a bench for hours, confiding in an imaginary companion…

Though isolated, Green was, in a sense, far from alone. In jails around the country, inmates with serious mental illnesses are kept isolated in small cells for 23 hours a day or more, often with minimal treatment or human interaction.

Some states have moved to curb long-term “solitary confinement” in prisons, where research shows it can drive those with mental illnesses further over the edge. But there has been little attention to the use of isolation in the country’s 3,300 local jails, the biggest mental health facilities in many communities.

Unlike prisons, jails hold those awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences, limiting time in lockdown. But inmates with serious mental illnesses are more likely to break rules and stay jailed longer, increasing the chances of weeks or months in isolation that risks inflicting additional psychological damage.

A report obtained by The Associated Press found mentally ill inmates in New York City’s jails were disproportionately put in lockdown, some for thousands of days. Inmates who spent time in isolation were far more likely to harm themselves, according to a second report by staff of the city’s health department…

Jails use isolation to punish inmates, but also to separate those with serious mental illnesses because they may be victimized by fellow inmates or are considered dangerous. Many end up in lockdown because of behavior linked to mental illnesses, experts say.

“If they can’t follow the rules outside the facility, how in the world do you expect a mentally ill person to be able to function as an inmate?” says Mitch Lucas, assistant sheriff of Charleston County, South Carolina, and president-elect of the American Jail Association. “So you end up having to deal with whatever tools you have at hand and, in many jails, the tool is restrictive housing and that’s it.”

The number of inmates with mental illnesses has been rising since the 1970s, when states began closing psychiatric hospitals without creating and sustaining comprehensive community treatment programs…

That’s putting it politely. Between Republicans and conservative Democrats, not only state psychiatric hospitals were closed, Reagan tried to end the very existence of the US Public Health Service including their system of Public Health hospitals. Often the sole chance for healthcare for the poor, survival for the mentally ill – Reagan created the avalanche of homeless that swept our nation in following years. Most especially among VietNam era vets who he also ordered blocked from collecting unemployment insurance if they decided against re-enlisting in the US military.

Surprise, surprise! Patient gets $117,000 bill from doctor he doesn’t know

Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.

He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.

“I thought I understood the risks,” Mr. Drier, who lives in New York City, said later. “But this was just so wrong — I had no choice and no negotiating power.”

…In an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.

The practice increases revenue for physicians and other health care workers at a time when insurers are cutting down reimbursement for many services. The surprise charges can be especially significant because, as in Mr. Drier’s case, they may involve out-of-network providers who bill 20 to 40 times the usual local rates and often collect the full amount, or a substantial portion.

RTFA. It’s long, detail and difficult to stomach. So much of modern medicine – especially if you need specialized care and treatment to maintain what passes for a normal life – is extortion.

I’ve been fortunate to know a number of physicians in my life who are dedicated to the original tenets of the Hippocratic oath. I’ve met some greedy bastards like those in this article. They are as contemptible as Bernie Madoff or, say, a lawyer whose dedication to “providing constitutional rights” to the scumbags of the nation pays for a new Ferrari every four or five years to go with their country club subscription and greens fees.

They are thieves in the same class as Congress.