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“Most Wanted” case highlights link between human, animal cruelty, multiple rewards offered

12 Dec

Gazette Staff

The U.S. Marshals Service and The Humane Society of the United States are alerting the animal welfare community of a fugitive on the USMS’ 15 Most Wanted List and are offering rewards for her capture. The fugitive, Janet Barreto, is allegedly linked to multiple puppy mill operations and the homicide death of a toddler.

Barreto may be selling small breed puppies or “rehoming” dogs for a fee through online classified ads using several different aliases. She may also be selling these dogs in flea markets and parking lots anywhere in North America, including Texas, California and Mexico, advertising in both English and Spanish. She has been linked to at least two puppy mills in recent years and she and her husband Ramon, who is also wanted, are well known for selling small dogs such as Yorkies, Maltese and poodle mixes. Following the death of a little girl in her care by blunt force trauma, the Barretos have been on the run for about five years.

According to the USMS, officials found seven other small children extremely malnourished and living in squalor in the couple’s Mississippi home in 2008. The Barretos were also running a puppy mill behind the home with more than 180 dogs and 50 cats, many of them sick or injured and living in inhumane conditions.

Melanie Kahn, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for The HSUS, said: “Too often, the boundaries are wafer thin between cruelty to animals and cruelty to the most vulnerable members of our society, young children. We hope that the dedicated animal welfare community will be the missing link in finding these fugitives.”

William D. Snelson, assistant director for Investigative Operations of the USMS said: “Our collaboration with The HSUS provides a unique opportunity for the USMS to broaden public awareness of this 15 Most Wanted investigation. We hope this partnership will ultimately result in additional leads that help bring Barreto to justice, while highlighting the horrors of puppy mill operations.”

There are several rewards that are available if a successful tip leads to the Barretos’ capture. The USMS is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading directly to Ramon and Janet Barreto’s arrest, and The HSUS offers a puppy mill tip line reward of up to $5,000 for successful prosecutions related to puppy mill cruelty.

Tipsters who may have information about the Barretos’ pet sales are urged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP. Those with general information on the location of Janet and/or Ramon Barreto, please call the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-800-336-0102 or email usms.wanted@usdoj.gov.

Background Information

  • In 2012, the Barretos resurfaced in Southern California, but were evicted from their rental property due to complaints about the noise and smell of animals.
  • When the Barretos fled California in June 2012, witnesses report that they had at least 10 dirty, neglected and malnourished dogs crammed in a cage in the back of their van.
  • Investigators were able to track the sale of several dogs through ads the Barretos placed before they fled California, but do not know what became of the dogs they still had in their possession.
  • The seven surviving children and the animals found by the USMS at the Mississippi home were placed with new families for care and treatment.

    woman wanted for child murder/animal abuse

    Name: Janet Killough BARRETO
    Alias: Janet KILLOUGH, Janet TORRES, Jeanie SEALE, Dealie HARRIS,
    Victoria LOPEZ, Vicky LOPEZ, Vicky ULLOA, Vicky CHRISTIAN,
    Vicky SMITH, Vicky Sara ULLOA

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Tech Giants Ask Government to Reform Spy Program

9 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Rarely do we see tech giants Google, Apple, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Yahoo join forces.  That is exactly what has happened today.  In a seething letter, the respective CEO’s of the above companies all sign on to a plea to standardize government intrusions into the digital lives of citizens.  The statement begins:

The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information. . . .We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.

Apparently, the risks and costs associated with complying with endless government information requests has taken its toll on these corporations.  The real question for me is where are the cellular phone companies on this issue?  Where are the people on this issue?

This report comes on the very day that the Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana State Police have purchased a piece of equipment that will allow them to monitor cell phones without a warrant.  According to the Indy Star, the Stingray device can be mounted on a police vehicle and can monitor all cellular communications in the area. State police refused to comment on the system. http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2013/12/08/indiana-state-police-tracking-cellphones-but-wont-say-how-or-why/3908333/

The full text of the Tech Giant letter is as follows:

An open letter to Washington

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.

For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.

We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com

Sincerely,

AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo

Aol logo Apple logo Facebook logo Google logo LinkedIn logo Microsoft logo Twitter logo Yahoo! logo

Gary Councilman To Plead Guilty to Two Misdemeanor Tax Counts

9 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Here is a lesson for anyone potentially facing federal charges, get a great attorney and get in front of the situation before the press can get a handle on it.  In a Lake County first, Gary Councilman Ronier Scott announced a plea of guilty on the day that the office of US Attorney David Capp announced the charges against him.  Scott avoids the months of negative press that have plagued some other politicians in similar circumstances.  While he still will certainly face much scrutiny, it appears that he will not be required under Indiana law to resign his council seat.  Scott’s Attorney, Kerry Connor, confirmed to the Gazette tonight that the plea agreement calls for Scott to plead to two misdemeanor counts, each carrying a maximum term of one year in prison.  Under Indiana law, an elected official must resign if he or she is convicted of a felony.

Scott admitted in a written agreement that he failed to file tax returns for the years 2008 and 2009.  The agreement will be submitted to the Court on December 20, 2013.  Scott’s wife will be spared prosecution under the agreement.

Ronier Scott was previously implicated in a mortgage fraud matter involving convicted mortgage huckster Jerry Haymon.  Scott had given Haymon a $75,000 grant to renovate a home in his district.  Scott admitted that federal agents had questioned him several times in that matter.   It remains to be seen whether Gary voters will still “punch 10” and re-elect Scott

Van Til Reportedly "Frazzled" Over Impending Trial Date

25 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Some even go so far as to suggest that George Van Til is mounting a Vinny the Chin Gigante defense.  Van Til is reportedly out of sorts after learning that his trial, scheduled for December 9, 2013, will not be continued as requested.  Van Til has been charged with 6 counts of Wire Fraud and two counts related to Obstruction of Justice.  Witnesses who work closely with Van Til now report that he is a different person.  “He comes to work looking like he did not sleep” according to one source.

Van Til is represented by former Gary Mayor and Democratic Political insider Scott King.  King requested a copy of the Government’s witness list but that request was denied.  Standard practice is to provide the list immediately before trial. That seems especially appropriate where an indicted defendant remains in a supervisory position over potential witnesses.   Sources say that Van Til maintains meticulous files on Lake County politicians and has a lot of information to trade for his freedom.  We will see if he is willing to pay that price.

See also <a href=”http://nwigazette.com/2013/11/25/johnson-sentencing-delayed-again/“>Johnson Sentencing Delayed Again.</a>

Johnson Sentencing Delayed Again

25 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Shop Amazon – Black Friday Deals Week – Big Savings, No Waiting

Amid reports of uncharacteristic confidence on the part of the Defendant, the sentencing of David Johnson of A-1 Dave’s Tree Service has been continued again.  The official reason given was “a dispute of guideline applications in this matter.”  Sources familiar with the process continue to stress that this is an unusual number of delays in the matter.  Such delays usually indicate cooperation with the Government-not good news for Lake County Democrats.  The Motion indicates that Assistant United States Attorney Gary Bell had no objection to the continuance.  The hearing will be held on February 6, 2014 absent any further delay.

Johnson pled guilty to bribery involving federal programs in October 25, 2012.  Co-Defendant Alfonso Salinas subseqently pled guilty on May 13, 2013.  Salinas was sentenced on August 13 and reported to the Bureau of Prisons on October 1 to serve his 42 month sentence.

Johnson previously had been sued for racketeering by the Attorney General of Indiana in the “Sidewalks for Votes” scheme in East Chicago.  Despite the fact that he settled that case, Dave’s Tree Service continued to receive local government contracts.  This was particularly the case in Hammond where Johnson was the preferred contractor for tree services.  Dave’s Tree still does work in the City of Hammond but it is not clear at this time if any of those jobs are a result of City contracts.  

 

Mortgage Fraud Collateral Damage/More mortgage fraud convictions…

21 Nov

Submitted by Gary Free Press

The following post is in response to the sentencing of Jeffrey Youngheim, owner of Property Liquidators in Gary, Indiana. It was provided to the Gazette by Gary Free Press and is reprinted in its entirety.

While the Judge in the case identified that mortgage fraud hurts lenders and the community as the homes go into foreclosure and sit empty, what he did not mention, and may not even be aware of is another way all of these mortgage fraud schemes have done horrible damage to the Gary community.

During the height of the mortgage fraud binge in Gary; which included certain individuals formerly employed by the City of Gary—at least one of them a department head—all of these characters were flying high. They created a false bubble. They kept inflating the “values” of these homes in Gary, these homes that were the grist for their scheme.

But the actual real estate market in Gary was declining. Actual market values were plunging downward, yet these scammers kept submitting these fake and fraudulent sales to the County. Pretty much the only homes that were selling–besides all of the stuff being sold on tax sales, were from this group and many of the other groups plying the mortgage fraud schemes in Gary. Remember Jerry Haymon and his crew? The sales information from these mortgage fraud sales were about the only information for sales there was in Gary. So when the Calumet Township Assessor developed their trending ratios (the basis for raising the assessments) from sales disclosures, this is all they had to work with. But they were all fake! The few legitimate sales would have shown declining values.

So here is where the problem came in: the Calumet Township Assessor, instead of actually assessing property properly, uses the data from all of these fraudulent transactions as a basis to determine trending ratios. To them, it seems that the Gary housing market is on fire, but in reality, in is dead on arrival. So they apply this falsely derived trending ratio to all of the properties that aren’t part of these fraud schemes. What happens then? Assessed values of property in Gary doubles, triples, quadruples, and then some! 6000 appeals pending! Up to 13,000 Gary properties listed on tax sales! Everything is screwed up royally!

So why then, now that these schemes have been all been exposed, don’t they (Calumet Township Assessor) admit their mistakes? When will they take responsibility for all of the damage they have caused by using the bad data these frauds generated? Unfortunately, it is too late to undue most of the damage. People have fled the city. People just walked away from their properties. They had no choice; they couldn’t afford to hang onto them any longer. Now we learn there are 10,000 abandoned homes that need to be demolished.

All of these disastrous conditions can be directly linked to these mortgage fraud schemes.

The Judge was right, these schemes were very damaging to the community; but the greatest damage and the greatest harm to the Gary community was caused by the Calumet Township Assessor’s mistakes.

And now, we are supposed to worry about these two defendants being inconvenienced by both being in federal prison at the same time? They were an integral part of the broader conspiracy that helped to destroy this city. They do not seem to be good candidates for sympathy.

Former EC Library Director Gets 4 Months Home Detention in Tax Fraud Case

21 Nov

Gazette Staff

Manuel Montalvo, 39, of East Chicago, Indiana, was sentenced by District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen to 24 months of probation, with home detention of 4 months, and a $1000.00 fine after pleading guilty to the felony offense of filing a false tax return for the tax year 2009. According to documents filed in this case, Montalvo admitted that he provided false information about deductions including that he had $23,382 in business expenses and $17,063 in medical expenses. In fact, both figures were made up. Montalvo filed the false returns while employed as the Director of East Chicago Public Library. This case was the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gary Bell.