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Huntsville Man Charged With Fraud

The men and women in the military risk their lives daily protecting not only the  lives and liberty of Americans, but many others around the world.  When we see a service member in military uniform, especially one who has earned medals for bravery beyond the call of duty, we feel pride at their accomplishment and respect their sacrifice for our freedoms.  Unfortunately there are those who have not served in the military who do not have the right or authority to wear military uniforms, badges, decorations and medals, but do so anyway to garner the respect and honor they do not deserve.

Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney, and Robert Haley III, FBI Agent in Charge, announced that a  federal grand jury in Birmingham indicted a Huntsville man yesterday for fraud and unauthorized wearing of U.S. military uniforms and medals.  The indictment filed charges Christopher Bernard Graham with one count of fraud in relation to identification documents, two counts of unauthorized wearing of the U.S. Army Combat Uniform and eight counts of unauthorized wearing of U.S. military badges, decorations or medals.

The fraud charge was for the identification card Graham had in his possession that was illegally produced to appear as though it was an actual military ID issued under the authority of the United States.  Graham wore the Army Combat uniform between October 2010 and April 2011, and then again from November 2011 and April 2012.  During these same time frames, the defendant also wore the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Ranger Tab, the Army Parachute Qualification Badge and the Army Air Assault Qualification Badge, according to the indictment.

If convicted of the fraud charge, which is a felony, Graham could spend up to fifteen years in prison and be fined up to $250,000.  The other charges of wearing an unauthorized uniform or military badges, decorations and medals are misdemeanors, and the maximum penalties for these crimes are six months in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Alabama Attorney General Warns of Fraud after Isaac

In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, warns that his office will be vigilant in protecting citizens from those who might illegally exploit this dangerous situation.

The laws that crack down on looting and price gouging went into effect when Governor Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency August 26th. The anti-looting law was adopted after last spring’s destructive tornadoes. It makes looting a class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years of prison and a fine of up to $15,000 and makes price gouging punishable by fines and penalties.

Those found guilty of price gouging may be fined up to $1,000 per violation and may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.

It is common for the elderly in many states to become victims of fraud when it comes to house repairs, it is also common after a storm to have phony contractors approach houses that obviously need work. The Attorney General warns consumers to take precautions when hiring someone to make repairs.

There are a few general rules to follow anytime you hire a contractor:

  1. Ask for references. Get names and numbers and contact them.
  2. Ask for proof that they are insured or bonded.
  3. Never make a full payment upfront.
  4. If get estimates from multiple contractors. If a bid is well below the market price, it’s probably too good to be true.
  5. Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against them.

20 Charged in Connection to Multistate Pot Operation in South

This Tuesday 20 people faced arraignments in Walker Georgia on charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The Lookout Mountain District Attorney alleges that a Walker County family and at least 17 others were running one of the largest marijuana selling operations in the region.

Detectives say that Seth, Warren, and Barbara Smith were smuggling pot into Walker County and using their home in Menlo as a distribution hub.

The charges were brought after police seized boats, guns, cars and other equipment from the Smith’s house.

Smith’s attorneys say the search was done improperly.

During the search police discovered a trailer, which they believe was used to transfer marijuana across state lines including Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee. Police say that the Smith’s had operated their pot dealing enterprise for 10 years.

Much of the evidence against the Smith’s have been sealed by court order. Attorneys for the defendants have not agreed whether the cases will be handed together or individually.

The Smiths’ connection to the pot operation has also caused further investigation of their business ventures. The family formerly operated a barbeque restaurant and an antique shop. Authorities are now investigating the operation of those businesses for any evidence of corruption.

The charges brought against the Smiths under RICO are just one type of charge that can be brought under the law for operation of an illegal business. Usually authorities charge defendants under RICO when they want to connect large number of individuals with a crime. Penalties under RICO tend to be strict.




Huntsville Businessman Sues City Preservation Board for Fraud

What should you do when city commission members, first approve, and then deny your plans to build a house after you have bought the property and tore down the existing house?  If you are a wealthy businessman, you sue the city for fraud and conspiracy.

When a wealthy Huntsville businessman was denied permission to build a large Greek revival-style estate on Echols Avenue, he responded by suing the city for fraud, negligence and conspiracy.

Echols Properties filed the lawsuit last week.  The limited liability company registered to William S. Propst, asks a judge to “terminate and remove” the five Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission members who voted against the house.

The May 14th vote, amounted to an “inverse condemnation” of his land by rendering it unsuitable for its intended purpose, alleges Bill Propst, Jr.  He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit stems from the board’s vote earlier this month blocking Propst from starting construction on a home at 415 Echols Ave. in Twickenham.  The board raised concerns that the ornate, two-story house would tower over neighboring homes.  The estimated size of the Propst estate was 15,000 square feet.

Four of the preservation board sided with Propst.  One member of the board who sided with Propst, Peter Lowe, said it would be “unconscionable” to tell Propst no after approving design plans for the home at a November 14, 2011 meeting.  Propst was also allowed to tear down the former residence to make room for his estate.

Burwell, the preservation board’s president, warned at the outset of the May 14 meeting, that a no vote six months after approving architectural drawings of the Propst residence could land the city in court.

In Propst’s lawsuit, it states there are no height restrictions listed in preservation commission regulations or historic district design guidelines.  Basically the rules say that new construction “typically should not exceed the height of the tallest adjacent historic building.”

Propst’s attorney wrote that the defendants … owed (Propst) a duty to honor the approval of the 2011 Application and the Echols House, including its design and scale, and to properly evaluate the 2012 Application in light of the (preservation commission’s) prior precedential decision.

Propst, Jr., is the son of Vintage Pharmaceuticals founder William S. Propst, Sr., who in 2007 sold the company for approximately $1 billion.

In 2009, Propst, Sr., and his wife donated $5 million to the city to upgrade the Von Braun Center arena, now known as Propst Arena.


Two-Day Birmingham Police Operation Yields 20 Arrests

Alabama crime has been on the rise in recent years.  To help combat this rise in crime, Birmingham police have started an initiative called Operation Rescue-Rapid Engagement.  In a tw-day period, police made twenty arrests.  The police initiative was aimed at arresting wanted criminals and assuring residents in targeted neighborhoods that police are listening to their complaints about criminal activity in their neighborhoods.

This initiative, called Operation Rescue-Rapid Engagement suppressing Crime through Unified Enforcement, was carried out Wednesday and Thursday in Birmingham’s East Lake and Gate City communities.

Eight of the arrests were for felony charges, which included robbery, assault, buglary, unlawful possession of marijuana and weapons violations, said Birmingham police spokesman Sgt. Johnny Williams, Jr.  There were also 12 misdemeanor arrests, and 41 citations were issued as well.

According to Sgt. Williams, one arrest in Gate City was of a convicted felon who was in possession of a pound of marijuana, crack cocaine, a loaded handgun and a large amount of cash.  Another arrest, said Williams, was of a person who admitted to being on the way to a burglary when stopped by police.

Operation Rescue was led to the eastern part of the city because of a wave of burglaries.

Several weeks ago, the city’s west side, primarily the Central Park community, was the focus of Operation Rescue.  During that operation, 38 people were arrested for both felonies and misdemeanors, including outstanding warrants.  This is the second year for the initiative.

Alabama crime statistics indicate a total upward trend in crime based on data from 10 years when violent crime and property crime was increasing. Based on this report, the crime rate in Alabama for 2012 is expected to be higher than in 2009 when the state violent crime rate was higher than the national violent crime rate average by 13.21%.

Birmingham crime statistics report an overall upward trend in crime based on data from 11 years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing.  Based on this trend, the crime rate in Birmingham for 2012 is expected to be higher than in 2009.

In 2009 the city violent crime rate in Birmingham was higher than the violent rate in Alabama by 174% and the city property crime rate in Birmingham was higher than the property crime rate in Alabama by 113%.


Hoover Police Charge Suspect in 2002 Kidnapping, Rape and Robbery

Ten years ago, a Hoover woman was abducted, robbed, raped and terrorized.  She now knows the identity of one of her assailants.

Authorities have charged a 26-year-old Birmingham man with first-degree kidnapping, robbery and rape in these crimes.  DNA helped investigators solve this crime that has haunted Hoover detectives for a decade.

William Harris, Jr., of Powderly, was charged with the decade-old crime and was just 16-years-old at the time he committed the crimes.  Harris is already serving life without parole after he kidnapped a Hueytown father of two and shot him to death.

Hoover police Chief Nick Dervis said, “I was always brought up to believe that everybody is good, but being a police officer for 30 years obviously has shown me that’s not true.  This guy has a pattern of  kidnapping and robbing.  He is evil.”

When the Hoover crime happened back in December 2002, the victim was returning to her apartment about 10 p.m., when two men approached her and forced her at gunpoint back into her car.  She was taken to three banks and forced to make withdrawals from ATM’s.  The men then took her back to her apartment where she was raped.

Evidence found inside the car was tested for DNA and was later resubmitted to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, where it was analyzed and compared to a national database that holds more than 10 million genetic profiles from convicts and arrestees.

Hoover detectives learned that Harris’ DNA profile in the database matched that of their evidence, so they took another sample from him and it was verified that he was their guy.

The victim met with Hoover officials on Wednesday and they told her of the arrest.  Chief Dervis said, “The public doesn’t always realize this stays with a victim the rest of their life.  She is glad this guy has been in jail, and can’t harm anyone else.”

Harris is not cooperating with authorities in naming his accomplice.  “We are not going to stop until we identify the second suspect,” said Hoover police captain Greg Rector.

The original article can be read here.

2010 DUI accident case comes to a close

After 2 years Carlos Martinelly-Montano the man charged with illegally being in the United States, multiple DUI’s and lastly a DUI crash that ended with 2 injured and 1 dead. Montano had many other encounters with the law for repeated DUIs, putting him in a touchy situation. In August 2010 Montano was said to be under the influence and when driving past another car that had 3 nuns in it, Sister Denise Mosier, Sisters Connie Ruth Lupton and Charlotte Lange. Montano was said to have crossed over the center line and hit head on the other car while passing the sisters vehicle, who were on their way to Saint Benedict Monastery for a retreat like event. Sister Mosier did not make it and the other two received medium injuries. The crash was after closer inspection the 3rd DUI occurrence while he was waiting being deported for is illegal immigration status. There were many other legal issues involving the questioning of why action had not been taking at an earlier date, due to his other infractions and his immigration status.  After his trial in February he may be facing up to 70 years for his charges.

Woman charged with credit card fraud after stolen car investigation

On Wednesday in Tuscaloosa Alabama, what started as a seemingly ordinary request to track down a stolen car, took a turn for the worse for Teresa Cunningham Averette , 47 and her daughter Bambi Tiffany Nicole Averette-Dunn, 28.Averette stated her 4Runner had been stolen, later to be stated an object of a civil dispute and not stolen.  After the vehicle was recovered it was found that it had with in it many prescription drugs, marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.

The vehicle in question was the property of Richard Morgan Shirley, 51. When he was asked by the authorities about the drugs and other items, he stated they were not his. When the authorities looked deeper into the claims made by Averette it was discovered she was already wanted for 2 counts of identity theft and credit card fraud. Averette-Dunn was then the party in question for the ownership of the said illegal prescription drugs.

The sheriff’s office released this information, along with the rest of the charges that are as follows:  Richard Morgan Shirley was put in Tuscaloosa County Jail with a bond of $17,500 for un-lawful possession of marijuana, prescription drugs and the other paraphernalia. Averette –Dunn was released and had her bond set at 10,000 for possession of controlled substance. Averette was also released on a bond of 45,000 for 2 counts of credit card fraud and identity theft.

John Goodman Trial

An unfortunate set of events put a lot into perspective for the Goodman family and the International Polo Club, in the form of club founder and lifelong player of the sport John Goodman,48, being found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and DUI manslaughter.

John Goodman was the founder of the International Polo Club, a philanthropist of sorts in the form of gracious donations to polo related charities and foundations. The entire polo community was rather concerned over the events that took place over the past several months. The more recent being his trial and the overall tone and spin placed on the whole trial and view of Goodman.

The crash took place in February 2010 where Goodman was accused of fleeing the scene after the crash, and ended with Scott Wilson, 23 dead. According to police reports, Goodman was going over 60 mph when he ran a stop sign and then hit Wilson’s vehicle, flipping it into a canal, which caused Wilson to drown. Adding to the negative side of the case, it was stated by authorities that it was over an hour after the crash when Goodman called the police. When he was taken in to custody he had a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit. Goodman’s lawyer stated Goodman was drinking after the crash to help ease his pain from his injuries. There was misinformation being brought to light throughout the trial, from friends, family, and Goodman’s ex wife. Isla Carroll Goodman, Goodman’s wife for 22 years stated he had an issue with cocaine use, adding to the strangeness of the incident. There was some other concern of some of Goodman’s legal decisions as of late, some being his taking his wife in adoption as his daughter.

Even with all of the negative information being passed around and the poor spin put on Goodman’s image in the press, being demonized as drunken and overly reckless, Goodman’s peers and family painted a much more personal picture of his personality.  Many comments from Jim Rossi, Co manager of the Polo Club pointed to his surprise in the situation. The crash took place on the day of the US Polo Association hall of fame induction, “That event is typically a celebration but this tragedy turned it quite somber”, said Rossi.” I have a lot of respect for what John Goodman has done for our sport and this is tragic all the way around”. Another comment of Rossi’s, still in line with the overall uncertainty of his peer’s reactions, “it’s all very sad”.

In light of all the information on hand and the trial’s conclusion, Goodman may face up to 30 years.

Former Regions Bank Employee Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud Scheme

On April 30, Crystal C. Thomas, 29, a former Regions Bank employee at the bank’s customer service center in Birmingham, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.  According to Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn, Thomas will be sentenced in about 15 weeks.

“She has accepted responsibility for her actions and we’re hoping the judge will be lenient when it comes to the sentencing phase,” Christopher Burrell, Thomas’s attorney, stated after the hearing.

In May 2011, Regions Bank investigators contacted the U.S. Secret Service about employees fraudulently filing and approving financial claims for bank customers.  The bank investigators had detected the approvals by Thomas and another bank employee on a number of financial claims on the accounts of five bank customers.  These claims had been previously denied by other bank employees.

In the plea agreement, Thomas and the other bank employee admitted they were involved in the scheme and had worked with bank account holders who they knew and who knowingly participated in the scheme.  The money was split between the different parties.

According to court records, the other bank employee, Omeshia Pettaway, is to have a change of plea hearing on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson.

When accused of a white collar crime such as bank fraud, it is wise to seek legal counsel from an experienced white collar crime lawyer, one with the background and expertise needed to successfully defend your rights.

To read original article, click here.