Former Pittsburgh Chief Harper Gets 18-Month Prison Sentence

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper today was sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program, and failure to file tax returns.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon handed down the sentence nearly a year after Harper was indicted following what appeared to be a whirlwind investigation by the FBI.

The judge called Harper’s diversion of funds a “quintessential case of government corruption and betrayal of the public trust,” adding that he treated an unauthorized credit union account as “a personal ATM.”

The judge also ordered Harper to pay restitution of $31,987 and to serve one year of probation following his release from prison.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/02/25/Former-Pittsburgh-police-chief-Nathan-Harper-sentenced/stories/201402250123#ixzz2uNCftqtk

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Pennsylvania Ranks 4th In Black Homicide Victims, Latest Stats Show

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PENNSYLVANIA ranked fourth nationwide in black homicide victimization in 2011, according to an organization that ranked the state second in the previous year.

The Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, which released the new study Thursday, said the latest figures show that Pennsylvania had 29.02 homicides per 100,000 black civilians in 2011.

A study released by the same nonprofit group last year ranked Pennsylvania second in 2010. The state was ranked third in 2009.

In 2011 — the latest year for which FBI statistics are available — blacks accounted for half of all homicide victims nationwide, yet represented 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Pa_ranks_4th_in_black_homicide_victims_latest_stats_show.html#SIwjH48fKP1kXpBA.99

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Five Arrested In One Of Largest Heroin Busts Ever For Scranton Police

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man purported to be the main supplier of heroin in the Hazleton area was arrested Thursday night, smashing his drug ring and landing the Scranton Police Department one of the largest heroin seizures in its history.

Officers from the Scranton Police Special Investigations Division, with the assistance of Lackawanna County detectives and agents from the FBI, arranged a deal between a confidential police informant and Willy Perez, 35, who officers learned was operating a heroin ring in the Scranton and Hazleton areas, police said.

Mr. Perez had several people package and deliver heroin and cocaine for him, sometimes in disguise, according to an arrest affidavit. One “runner,” known as “Mohamed,” wore Domino’s Pizza delivery uniforms as a cover when delivering the drugs.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/five-arrested-in-one-of-largest-heroin-busts-ever-for-scranton-police-1.1574862

Vehicle Thefts In Reading At 10-Year Low

A decade after vehicle thefts became an epidemic in Reading, police say the crime is on a pace to reach a 10-year low.

As of the end of July, 170 vehicles had been stolen in the city this year, compared to 246 at the same point last year, said Officer Keith Merkel, one of three city policemen assigned full time to a state police regional auto theft task force.

But Merkel isn’t ready to pop champagne corks. He noted August and September were the busiest months for vehicle thefts in the city last year.

While auto thefts have declined locally and nationally in recent years, car thefts actually spiked in Reading in 2012.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=504178

Federal Grand Jury Indicts PA Cyber Charter School Founder Nicholas Trombetta And His Accountant

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nicholas Trombetta, a onetime wrestling coach who founded the wildly successful PA Cyber Charter School, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a variety of fraud and tax charges.

A 41-page indictment made public this morning outlined the federal government’s allegations against Mr. Trombetta and his accountant, Neal Prence.

“This investigation is active and continues,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said during a press conference this morning at the FBI field office on Pittsburgh‘s South Side.

Federal investigators tallied the amount they said Mr. Trombetta stole at $990,000.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/federal-grand-jury-indicts-pa-cyber-charter-school-founder-nick-trombetta-and-his-accountant-700493/#ixzz2coSV4x1p

Feds: Hughestown Cop Sold Drugs On Duty

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When federal agents confronted Hughestown police officer Robert F. Evans Jr. on Thursday about dealing powerful painkillers while on duty and in full uniform, he told them he wanted to cooperate.

Evans admitted obtaining oxycodone pills from a friend and through a prescription, selling the pills over the past year, and driving a client to Wilkes-Barre in a Hughestown police cruiser so the client could buy illegal drugs, according to an affidavit released Friday by the FBI after agents charged the officer.

Read the affidavit

“I dealt pills with a gun on my hip,” Evans told investigators, the affidavit said.

Read more:   http://citizensvoice.com/news/feds-hughestown-cop-sold-drugs-on-duty-1.1530751

Teen Hero Chris Garcia On Rescue Of 5-Year-Old Abduction Victim: ‘My Mom Always Said To Help People’

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Chris Garcia was younger, he wanted to be a police officer or an FBI agent.

“It’s really cool to crack cases and be a good person,” said Chris, who accomplished both feats July 11 when he helped save a 5-year-old girl after she was abducted from outside her grandmother’s home in Lancaster Township.

Now the 13-year-old has career aspirations that include being a pro football player or a mechanical engineer.

But he will always be a good person, thanks to his upbringing.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/874775_Teen-hero-Chris-Garcia-on-rescue-of-5-year-old-abduction-victim—My-mom-always-said-to-help-people-.html#ixzz2Zn78iZIZ

Feds: NY Man Tried To Extort $250K From Paula Deen

ATLANTA (AP) – Authorities on Friday arrested a New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen in exchange for not going to the news media with “true and damning statements” he said she made.

FBI agents and local sheriff’s deputies arrested Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, N.Y., Friday morning. A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Savannah, Ga., charges him with extortion.

The complaint says Paculis was threatening to go to the media with statements made by Deen unless the former Food Network star gave him $250,000.  The complaint does not specify what was in the statements Paculis claimed were made by Deen.

Paculis did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday.  A call to a phone number for Paculis found in the criminal complaint rang unanswered.  He had his initial court appearance Friday in New York and was released on bond, said FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett in Atlanta.  He has been ordered to appear in federal court in Savannah on July 16.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20130705_ap_3c4f0b80c0464555ac4403b9885126e5.html#pjWmdoGwSTv5x8qd.99

President Obama’s Dragnet

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls.

Read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/opinion/president-obamas-dragnet.html?hp&_r=0

Woe And Wonder: Surveillance Cameras Were The Key In Boston

It’s been an extraordinary week of fast-moving events — a week of tragedy, tears, anger and fear. Yet the bombs that on Monday shattered the joyful celebration of a storied event, the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring nearly 200, never blew a hole in the social fabric.  Too many helping hands — heroic first responders, brave ordinary citizens — stood ready to hold it together.

Then swiftly followed brilliant police work by the FBI, and other law-enforcement agencies aided immeasurably by the tools of the modern age — surveillance cameras in public spaces and video and photos shot on cell phones and digital devices in the hands of spectators. Those images proved decisive.

By late Thursday, after the FBI released video and photos, the tips were pouring in and the suspects — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar, 19 — were on the run.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/editorials/woe-and-wonder-surveillance-cameras-were-the-key-in-boston-684246/#ixzz2R17HeZSf

1 Of 2 Boston Bomb Suspects Dead; Suburbs Shut Down

WATERTOWN, Mass. (AP) — Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said as the manhunt intensified for a young man described as a dangerous terrorist.

The suspects were identified to The Associated Press as coming from the Russian region near Chechnya, which has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency stemming from separatist wars. A law enforcement intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP identified the surviving bomb suspect as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old who had been living in Cambridge, just outside Boston, and said he “may be armed and dangerous.”

Two law enforcement officials told the AP that Tsarnaev and the other suspect, who was not immediately identified, had been living legally in the U.S. for at least one year.

In Boston, still on edge over the attack on the marathon, and its western suburbs, authorities suspended mass transit and urged people to stay indoors as they searched for the remaining suspect, a man seen wearing a white baseball cap on surveillance footage from Monday’s deadly bombing at the marathon finish line.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130419/NEWS04/130419074/1-of-2-boston-bomb-suspects-dead-suburbs-shut-down#full_story

City Controller Michael Lamb Conducting Broad Audit Of Pittsburgh Police Bureau

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb quietly launched a broad audit of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police last week, according to communications obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette under the state right-to-know law.

The controller’s office launched the performance audit — which, as opposed to a fiscal audit, can go beyond dollars — through an email of March 21 to acting police Chief Regina McDonald.  The email said preliminary objectives include “secondary employment and staffing.”  The first meeting with Chief McDonald occurred Wednesday.

Other communications between top controller’s office officials and top police brass show that auditors launched a review of the police Premium Pay Account on Feb. 8 by emailing bureau personnel and finance manager Sandra J. Ganster.  On Feb. 9, Ms. Ganster brought her concerns about the alleged diversion of funds meant for that account to public safety director Michael Huss, her attorney has said.  The alleged misapplication of funds meant for the account last week became the centerpiece of the criminal case against former police Chief Nate Harper.

“It does appear that our [inquiry] is what prompted a whistle-blower to step forward,” Controller Michael Lamb said.  “I think that the work that we’ve done has helped to unveil this scandal.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/city-controller-michael-lamb-conducting-broad-audit-of-pittsburgh-police-bureau-681299/#ixzz2OwWQ6pb9

Attorney: Ex-Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper To Plead Guilty

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper intends to plead guilty after a grand jury returned an indictment against him Friday charging him with conspiracy and tax evasion, his attorney said.

Robert Del Greco Jr. said the evidence against Mr. Harper was “unambiguous.”  He said Mr. Harper would plead guilty to all five counts contained in the indictment without modification.

“It’s a felony,” Mr. Del Greco said this afternoon.  “It’s cost him his career, possibly his pension.  I don’t know that I could put it any better.”

He said his client’s actions were indefensible, that the “lure of the account” proved an “irresistible temptation.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/federal-grand-jury-meeting-suspended-police-finance-manager-on-hand-680415/#ixzz2ONLqh8zO

Pittsburgh Officer’s January Memo Alerted Police Command Of Fund Diversion

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh police Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson ordered a secret credit union account to be shut down after learning of its existence in January from then-Assistant Chief Regina McDonald, he said Friday night.

The deputy chief confirmed that he has been cooperating with federal investigators probing the flow of funds into the Pittsburgh police bureau‘s personnel and finance office and has been interviewed by the FBI.

In January, Deputy Chief Donaldson said, Assistant Chief McDonald, who is now acting police chief, approached him after being made aware that an officer at police headquarters had written a formal memo documenting concerns about potentially questionable financial practices involving colleagues.

The memo, obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was dated Jan. 18 from Officer Christie A. Gasiorowski to her supervisor, Sgt. Carol Ehlinger.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-officers-january-memo-alerted-police-command-of-fund-diversion-678558/#ixzz2N3QmJVuw

Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s Finance Chief Claims Harper Told Her To Divert Funds

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Now it’s going to start “hitting the fan”.  This is gonna get way worse before it gets better.

The attorney for the Pittsburgh Police Bureau‘s finance manager said Thursday his client was instructed by former chief Nate Harper to open a credit union account now under federal scrutiny and followed his orders in diverting tens of thousands of dollars to it from funds meant for the City of Pittsburgh.

William H. Difenderfer represents police personnel and finance manager Sandra J. Ganster, who, he said, reported her concerns about the account to city Public Safety Director Michael Huss on Feb. 9.  He said his client has since spoken twice to federal authorities.

“The chief would tell her, basically, keep roughly a $3,000 balance in this account,” Mr. Difenderfer said.  “Like she said, I guess the best way to describe it was, ‘It had an odor, but the chief directed me to do it, and I did what he told me to do.’  She didn’t feel comfortable with it … but obviously complied.”

He estimated that between $28,000 and $37,000 was diverted to the credit union account since about 2008 or 2009 when the account was opened.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/police-bureaus-finance-chief-claims-harper-told-her-to-divert-police-funds-678454/#ixzz2My5KUCyn

Pittsburgh Officials Keeping Search For Police Chief Under Wraps

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just as quietly as police brass have begun making changes at headquarters, city officials have begun their search for a new chief to head the bureau at the center of a federal investigation.

Few details have been released about the search for someone to succeed former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper, who resigned under pressure last week after the mayor met with federal authorities.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and public safety director Mike Huss have said only that they prefer an outside candidate, they have “no plans” to hire an outside search firm and they plan to consult the police union.

Groups that conduct searches for police chiefs say the process, when done thoroughly, can take months and can be especially tricky for a bureau under intense scrutiny.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-officials-keeping-search-for-police-chief-under-wraps-677360/#ixzz2MJE8FYGH

Corrections Officer Killed At Federal Prison In Wayne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Wayne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Wayne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A corrections officer from Nanticoke was killed by an inmate at a federal prison in Wayne County last night, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Eric Williams, 34, was killed by an inmate who used a homemade weapon at the U.S. Penitentiary, Canaan, a federal prison for male inmates.  He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 11:30 p.m.

“This is clearly the darkest day in our institution’s short history, and we are in shock over this senseless loss of a colleague and friend,” Warden David Ebbert said in a statement.

Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said the prison remains in lockdown and that the FBI is investigating the attack.  He referred comment on potential charges to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/corrections-officer-killed-at-federal-prison-in-wayne-county-1.1450249

Pittsburgh’s Acting Police Chief Takes More Action; Ravenstahl Defends His Reputation

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tumultuous week in the Pittsburgh police bureau ended Friday with the acting chief promising to create an additional layer of oversight for the office at the center of a federal investigation.

Effective Monday, the personnel and finance office will report directly to the assistant chief of administration. It had done so until 2010, when former Chief Nate Harper ordered it to report directly to him for reasons that remain unclear.

“It was something that a number of chiefs felt,” Chief Regina McDonald said, referring to the desire to move the office out from under the chief’s direct command. “No unit should report directly to the chief or deputy chief. It protects the chain of command.”

Chief McDonald, on her second day in the bureau’s top spot, said additional changes could come next week but declined to specify what they might be. She said her focus moving forward will be to repair the bureau’s reputation.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburghs-acting-police-chief-takes-more-action-ravenstahl-defends-his-reputation-676540/#ixzz2LkTfJr8J

Acting Pittsburgh Police Chief McDonald Says Changes Coming To Bureau

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Regina McDonald said FBI agents interviewed her today and that people can expect to see changes in the bureau within the next week.

Chief McDonald, a 32-year veteran of the force, would not specify what those changes will be or comment on the futures of those working in the office being investigated by the FBI or involved in a side business with former Chief Nate Harper, who resigned Wednesday at the request of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

She said her primary goal will be to reestablish the ethics and integrity of the bureau.

“I guess you depend on the integrity of the people you put in various positions,” Chief McDonald said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/politics-local/acting-pittsburgh-police-chief-mcdonald-says-changes-coming-to-bureau-676347/#ixzz2LZo4U4jY

‘We Have To Do Better’

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City statistics showing that the once-declining number of violent crimes in Reading began to edge up in 2012 drew a variety of reactions Thursday from city, county and community leaders.

Most agreed the trend means it is even more pressing to work on the follow-up ideas coming from last week’s crime summit.

Released Wednesday, the statistics also show crime is less than it was a decade ago.

But that brought a warning: Don’t accept the situation as the city’s new normal.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=445862