HOUSTON TX May 20 2013 – A man wanted in connection with the slaying of a rural route postal carrier was taken into custody Sunday morning by postal inspectors and Texas Rangers, police said.
Investigators said that James Wayne Ham, 36, was found in a vacant house located near his home in San Jacinto County. Postal inspectors said Ham is considered the lead suspect in the murder of U.S. Postal carrier Marie Youngblood, 52, whose body was found at 10 p.m. Friday on Morris near Harrell, right outside of Coldspring.
Investigators think Youngblood was shot somewhere else and driven to where her Jeep Cherokee was set on fire.
Law enforcement agents from around the country have been looking for Ham since Friday night. Federal agents are pointing fingers at Ham, because they say he was complaining to postmasters about not getting his mail delivered properly.
Inspectors said the last time a postal worker was killed in Texas was about 30 years ago.
ALHAMBRA, Calif. May 20 2013– Authorities released the identity of the man who was shot and killed by officers after he brandished a knife inside the Alhambra police station.
Tony Nim, 35, of Alhambra walked into the police station shortly before 7:30 a.m. Friday. He was carrying a black backpack and did not respond to front desk questions asking why he was there.
Police say they tried several languages to communicate with him, but he did not respond. Detectives said officers were concerned the man either had mental problems or was under the influence of drugs.
About five minutes later, Nim pulled out a 12-inch knife out of his backpack. That’s when three officers opened fire, killing him. No officers were injured.
Nim was declared dead at the scene.
NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. My 20 2013– A 64-year-old Providence man was remanded to the Adult Correctional Institutions Monday following his arrest over the weekend on charges of shoplifting more than $100 in Gillette razors from the Stop & Shop supermarket on Mineral Spring Avenue.
The police described Raymond E. Henderson of 160 Broad St., Providence, as a habitual offender who was already on a year’s probation on another charge of shoplifting brought in February by the Cranston police.
After his arrest on Friday, Henderson complained of chest pains and was evaluated at Fatima Hospital. He was eventually taken to North Providence police headquarters and arraigned before a justice of the peace.
Source- Providence Journal
PHOENIX AZ May 20 2013
A Phoenix police officer and a city firefighter have been killed in two separate incidents, city officials said a news briefing Sunday morning.
Bradley Harper, 23, a two-year veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department, died after being crushed between two fire vehicles at a mulch fire Saturday near Lower Buckeye and 35th Avenue, said Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan.
Darryl Raetz, 29, a six-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, died from injuries suffered in a hit-and-run crash early Sunday morning, said Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia.
Silent Witness is offering a reward for information leading to identity and arrest of the hit-and-run suspect.
“I ask every citizen on this tragic day to pray for the families and the safety of our officers and safety of our firefighters,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said Sunday morning. “The family of the fallen will never be forgotten.”
Khan said his department will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss funeral arrangements for Harper.
“I received a call at 1:30 a.m. (Sunday) that Bradley Harper passed away,” Khan said. “My thoughts are with his family.”
Phoenix police said crews were repositioning several trucks when the firefighter became pinned. It’s still unclear exactly how that happened.
Saturday night firefighters were huddled outside the entrance of the emergency room at the hospital while the young man’s wife and parents waited inside.
Khan described the firefighter as resilient. Khan said the 23-year-old volunteered to be assigned to Phoenix’s busiest fire unit.
Raetz was struck by a vehicle at 51st Avenue and Cambridge.
Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said Raetz was assisting officers processing a DUI scene. Crews were loading a vehicle onto a tow truck when Raetz was hit by another vehicle, Thompson said.
“The Phoenix Police Department will do everything we can to investigate this incident to the fullest extent,” Garcia said.
Anyone with information about any of these fugitives or crimes is asked to call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS OR 480-TESTIGO.
No other information was immediately available.
By John Simerman, NOLA.com
New Orleans LA May 20 2013
It’s a favorite talking point of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas when they’re discussing crime in the Crescent City: Yes, New Orleans is the nation’s murder capital, but other than that, it’s a reasonably safe place.
In fact, it’s significantly less dangerous, they say, than Orlando, Fla., perhaps America’s most popular family destination, which had a violent crime rate 35 percent higher than New Orleans in 2011, the last year for which national data are available.
And it’s not just Orlando. New Haven, Conn.; Little Rock, Ark.; Springfield, Ill.; Amarillo, Texas; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Boston; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and even Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, among hundreds of other cities, are all more dangerous than New Orleans, according to the statistics.
The city’s crime problem — its anomaly — is murder, Serpas says, and Landrieu has built his public safety agenda around it.
More than semantics are at stake. Countless tourism dollars and economic development chances are riding on the city’s reputation as a safe place to live and do business. And crime stats are held out as an objective, oft-cited indicator of how safe visitors and residents should feel.
It’s a point the mayor makes in interviews with national media outlets — “You have to understand the difference between the crime rate and the murder rate,” he recently told the Atlantic — and it also allows New Orleans to avoid landing on unflattering lists such as “The 25 Most Dangerous Cities in America.”
Aside from murder, Serpas said last week, New Orleans is “an incredibly safe city.”
But do the police stats mask a darker picture?
The city’s crime numbers are so counterintuitive that many criminologists find them hard, if not impossible, to swallow. They generally regard murder as the most reliable crime statistic, because killings are almost always reported and are thus hard to manipulate in crime reporting. And a high murder rate typically signals high levels of other crimes, especially violent ones.
But according to several criminologists, crime statistics for New Orleans dating back many years suggest that either the city is fudging the numbers, or that New Orleans residents are less apt to report serious non-fatal assaults than residents of America’s other murder hotbeds.
In short, the city registers an improbably low rate in crimes that tend to have a relationship to murder.
The most recent statistics on assaults, submitted by the NOPD to the federal government for 2012, suggest that the city’s gun-toters are remarkably lethal shots.
For large American cities in 2010, the median ratio of gun assaults to gun murders stood at 11-to-1.
Among the 50 cities with the highest murder rates, the median ratio of gun assaults to murders was 8-to-1. In New Orleans, the ratio of gun assaults to murder, already remarkably low at less than 4-to-1, fell to 2.4-to-1 in 2012, according to initial reports submitted by NOPD to the feds.
In fact, the number of gun assaults for each murder committed in New Orleans reportedly has fallen by more than half during the past two decades, the federal figures show. Meanwhile, the number of shooting and stabbing victims showing up to Interim LSU Public Hospital and the former Charity Hospital — which together have seen the bulk of violent trauma patients in the city — has remained relatively level for the past 15 years.
Jimmy Gallagher, a former NOPD officer and now a civilian NOPD employee who monitors the crime reporting system, said the most recent figures, from 2012, are the result of a programming error. A new automated reporting system, installed at the beginning of 2012, failed to accurately account for nearly 400 gun and knife assaults — mostly gun assaults — instead labeling them as “other weapons” assaults, he said.
The department discovered the error after an inquiry from NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said last week that the department just corrected the error and provided the newspaper with documents showing the fix.
Even with the revised numbers, however, the ratio of gun assaults to murder remains among the lowest recorded in any American city with a murder epidemic, and criminologists who reviewed the data doubt that the figure accurately reflects violent crime in the city.
According to an analysis of federal crime data by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, New Orleans has consistently ranked first or second in murder rate among cities with a population of 100,000 or above during the past decade, but it consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the 50 most murderous cities in the country in the ratio of gun assaults to murders.
Indeed, the city consistently logs a gun assault-to-murder ratio that is about half of the median rate among the top 50 murder cities in the country.
The discrepancy is glaring. The city’s revised reporting claims a 64 percent drop in aggravated gun assaults from 1997 to 2012.
The hospitals, meanwhile, report only a 15.5 percent slide in the number of shooting victims. The reason for the wide gap between those numbers is unclear.
Assault stats are key
The relatively high safety ranking New Orleans enjoys can be traced mostly to the relatively low rate of reported assaults here – in particular, savage beatings, but also shootings and knifings.
No crime figures more prominently in a city’s violent crime rate than assault. Violent crime, as measured by the FBI, includes four crimes: Murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Of the four, aggravated assault is by far the most common, followed by robbery; those two crime categories account for roughly 90 percent of America’s violent crime.
Even in murderous New Orleans, only 7 percent of reported violent crimes are homicides. Nationwide, that number is 1 percent.
There were 1,320 aggravated assaults reported in New Orleans in 2010, nearly 10 times the number of reported rapes.
Aggravated assaults includes four subcategories: assaults with guns; assaults with knives; assaults with “other weapons,” such as tire irons or baseball bats; and assaults with “personal weapons” – hands and feet, primarily.
In those latter two categories – which make up the bulk of assaults in many cities – New Orleans has for the last decade or so had an extraordinarily low rate. In 2010, the city recorded 254 aggravated assaults not involving guns or knives.
The reported rate of such assaults in other cities typically seen as peers of New Orleans – that is, cities with high murder rates, high poverty rates and a poorly educated populace – is often an order of magnitude higher.
In Detroit,for instance, the reported rates per capita of savage assaults that don’t involve a gun or a knife is more than threefold that of New Orleans. Flint, Mich.’s is seven times ours. i.
Closer to home, Baton Rouge’s rate of aggravated assaults not involving guns or knives was five times New Orleans’, and Jefferson Parish’s rate was quadruple that of the city.
Serpas, who has a doctorate in urban studies, says that doesn’t necessarily signal a problem with the data.
For starters, he asks, who knows what’s going on in these other cities? It’s impossible to make judgments, he says, without studying them in great detail. Maybe, for instance, New Orleanians are peaceful generally, but when they decide to quarrel, they’re in it for keeps – hence the eye-popping murder rate, but the low assault rate.
“I have no idea what they do in Detroit,” Serpas said. “I’ve never lived in Detroit. I’ve visited it three times. How am I supposed to know that?”
Can the numbers be believed?
But the criminologists interviewed by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune – while stopping short of saying the NOPD is cooking its books – say New Orleans’ numbers just don’t add up. Assaults and murders – given that both tend to be violent expressions of rage – generally move in tandem, they say.
But whereas criminologists generally regard murder statistics as reliable, assaults are much less so. There are two major reasons: Assaults aren’t always reported to police, whereas murders almost always are. And though the FBI has strict guidelines about how to classify various crimes, assaults are obviously murkier than murders in terms of categorization, leading to errors.
“There’s so much discretion about what’s a simple assault and what’s an aggravated assault,” said Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “But to argue that you’re safe in the face of anomalous assault rates … that raises questions.”
Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at University of Missouri-St. Louis who specializes in crime statistics, said he finds it “hard to believe New Orleans would be so out of sync with so many other comparable cities – my city of St. Louis, Baltimore, Cleveland, other impoverished cities.”
“You not only expect to see (a certain ratio between aggravated assaults and murder), you do see it. You see it in national figures, and you see it across cities,” Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld noted that the ratio of aggravated assaults to murders has been falling precipitously in New Orleans since the mid-1990s — much faster than the rate of killings.
That raises Rosenfeld’s eyebrows, given that aggravated assaults are essentially unsuccessful murders, and there’s no evidence that emergency medical care in New Orleans has been on a steady decline.
“I find the growing gap between assaults and homicides to be very puzzling,” he said. “For New Orleans to exceed the national figure by that much requires a good deal of imagination.
“The two real possibilities are that citizens have reduced the rate at which they’re reporting these crimes to police, or that police have changed the way in which they classify” such reports.
NOPD says its process for reporting violent crime to the FBI has not changed in decades.
Rosenfeld says it’s also possible that police are deliberately suppressing the numbers. But he finds that unlikely, saying if there was a widespread pattern, it would likely have come to light.
David Kennedy, the John Jay College criminologist whose theories about violent crime and murder form the backbone of Mayor Landrieu’s anti-murder campaign, NOLA for Life, declined to talk about the numbers with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
Franklin Zimring, a criminal justice law professor at University of California at Berkeley, noted that the city consistently ranks first or second in murder rate among cities with 100,000 or more people, and it just as consistently ranks near the bottom in the ratio of gun assaults to murders.
“That either means the folks in New Orleans are better marksmen or they’re not reporting as many, proportionally, gun assaults as the fatal gun assaults would suggest,” Zimring said. “And the hand and foot assault rate versus the median is another. Again, it shows a staggering difference of exactly the kind that would suggest you don’t have all of the non-fatal events being categorized and reported.
“What that means is two things: One, the best measure of relative violence up and down in New Orleans is probably the fatality rates; and two, it’s a safe assumption with regard to assaults, and I would say also with regard to robbery, that there is a fairly substantial unreporting,” whether by police, victims or witnesses – or all of the above.
66 police reports and 6 mistakes in 1 week
A NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune review of 66 police reports on assaults that occurred in October 2011 – chosen randomly from a single week – shows some evidence of miscategorizing assaults according to the FBI definitions, although not enough to explain the city’s anomalously low aggravated assault rate.
Of the reports reviewed by the newspaper, six appeared to be wrongly categorized in police reports as simple assaults rather than aggravated ones, meaning they wouldn’t factor into the city’s violent-crime rate.
However, police say they recategorized three of the incidents as aggravated assaults in their reporting to the feds, that they didn’t consider two of them to rise to the level of an aggravated assault upon review, and that in only one of the cases are they now revising the status of the crime from simple assault to aggravated assault for the FBI.
“There is a lot of gray area in some of these things,” said Lt. Chris Lea, who oversees crime statistics reporting for the department.
Serpas strongly defends the quality of the NOPD’s data, showing reporters an NOPD document that says crime reports go through six layers of auditing. That includes random checks on specific reports by supervisors to ensure that crimes were properly classified, and random calls to citizens to see whether their calls were handled and categorized appropriately.
The chief also strongly disputes the notion that perhaps reported assaults are artificially low because New Orleanians are less apt to report them to police than people in other cities.
In fact, crimes that occur in New Orleans are far more likely to be reported to authorities than they are in other jurisdictions, Serpas says.
He points to an annual study funded by the New Orleans Crime Coalition that asks respondents whether they have been the victim of a crime during the past year, and if so, whether they reported it.
Consistently, about 80 percent of those polled who said they were victims of crime also said they reported the crime to police.
Nationally, the comparable figure is about 50 percent, Serpas notes, saying he believes the high proportion here speaks well of how residents view the NOPD.
But the figures in the survey of 600 residents, which excludes felons, does not distinguish between violent and non-violent crimes.
According to the firm that conducts them for the coalition, only nine people in one recent survey said they were victims of violent crime.
The claim that New Orleans crime victims are more likely to report it further confounds criminologists, since that should make the city’s rates of reported crimes higher than those of other cities.
“I think there is clear evidence we are doing all we can to ensure we’re being as accurate as we can be,” Serpas said. “So if that’s assumed … Do more people in New Orleans have greater shot capacity? Are they more accurate?”
Added Lea, the NOPD lieutenant who oversees the crime data: “Until data users examine all the variables that affect crime in a town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction, they can make no meaningful comparisons.”Jon and Lin-Huff Corzine, criminologists at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, have studied New Orleans abnormally high “lethality rate” – that is, the high proportion of murders to reported shootings.
They note there could be a variety of causes – subpar medical care; a trauma center that is distant from many of the shootings; a reluctance on the part of some shooting victims to report attacks; a high proportion of murders that are better classified as assassinations.
All of those things could be in play in New Orleans, they said, but it’s not immediately obvious whether there is some change in those trends that would have led the lethality rate to rocket upward over the last 15 years.
“Is it that they’re really more lethal (in New Orleans), or that they don’t report the aggravated assaults in the same way or to the same extent, which would mean a higher lethality rate?” Lin-Huff Corzine said.
“It’s clear that something is going on.”
Phoenix AZ May 20 2013 Robin Ramirez owned a fleet of 26 vehicles, three condominiums and a 36-foot boat — all paid for with profit from selling fake coupons.
The 41-year-old Phoenix woman led the largest counterfeit-coupon enterprise in U.S. history before her arrest last year, federal and local officials said.
More than 40 U.S. manufacturers, including Procter & Gamble, fell victim to Ramirez’s sophisticated counterfeit scam.
Ramirez sold enough fake coupons online to turn a $2.3 million profit over five years. She was sentenced this month to two years in state prison.
Phoenix police arrested Ramirez, Amiko Fountain and Marilyn Johnson in July. Fountain, 43, and Johnson, 54, each received three years probation.
Investigators seized $40 million in counterfeit manufacturer coupons and $1.1 million in assets from Ramirez. The coupons were for about 240 product brands, including Bush Beans, Iams, movie theater chain AMC and Starbucks.
“It was amazing to me,” Phoenix police Sgt. David Lake said. “Usually people we deal with are (so) midlevel, low-level (that) unless it’s a drug cartel, (rarely) will you find this kind of money.”
Lake led a group of 12 officers in the eight-week investigation dubbed “Operation Super Coupon” that built the case against Ramirez and her accomplices.
“Robin did not have any significant work history that I could find,” Lake said. “She was a pilot’s wife hanging out at the house and got into this easy money.”
Phoenix detective Sara Garza, who pored over the enterprise’s financial records, said Ramirez lived a low-key lifestyle with her illicit gains.
She appeared to be an ordinary housewife who drove a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser and lived with her husband, a retired commercial airline pilot, in a four-bedroom Southwestern-style home on an acre in northeast Phoenix.
“She had these really nice luxury cars that she didn’t drive,” Garza said.
Ramirez amassed a fleet of 26 vehicles, including a 1965 Corvette, three Camaros and a toterhome, which is a recreational vehicle with trailer, Garza said. The toterhome boasted granite countertops and $30,000 in flooring and was “well-upholstered,” she said.
Ramirez also owned a 36-foot Heritage boat and ATVs.
Ramirez stored many of her “high-end toys” in a rented hangar at Deer Valley Airport, Garza said.
Ramirez also rented a stash house nearby that she used for her coupon business and to hide a BMW and a Land Rover from her husband, Garza said. She said Ramirez duped her husband into believing she operated a legitimate business.
The seized assets include more than $100,000 in bank accounts, jewelry, Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags, 100 rifles and handguns and three condominiums and a house, all purchased in cash in 2012 in east Phoenix, Garza said.
Lake said Ramirez began selling fake coupons seven years ago, using eBay before launching her website in 2007. The website, savvyshoppersite.com, is not associated with Savvy Shopper magazine, a publication owned by Gannett Co., Inc., parent company of The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and KPNX-TV.
Phoenix police became involved after companies targeted in the scam partnered with industry watchdog Coupon Information Corp. and hired private investigators, who traced the bulk of the country’s high-quality fake-coupon sales to Phoenix.
Lake said once the coupons were purchased from the website and verified to be fakes, the challenge was finding who was behind the Internet sales.
As Internet crime rises, the challenge for law enforcement is showing who is actually at the keyboard, Lake said. But in this case, all investigators had to prove was that Ramirez controlled Savvyshopper.
Investigators did just that by obtaining search warrants for the website’s financial documents, digging through the trash and staking out a post-office box at a Glendale UPS Store where Ramirez was seen retrieving packages, Lake said.
Ramirez used aliases and fake addresses to hide her identity, Lake said.
A complex operation
Ramirez would write a letter to a manufacturer complaining about a product and saying she would never buy it again. The manufacturer in turn would send her a free product coupon. Garza said investigators found a master file of these letters with fake names.
Ramirez then arranged with a printing company that Lake suspects to be located in Asia to reproduce the manufacturer coupon in mass quantities. She then would sell the coupons online.
For an extra $2, Ramirez would add a counterfeit hologram, similar to what manufacturers use to prevent fraud, Garza said.
“These were not just coupons for 50 cents,” Lake said. “Some were up to $70 in value.”
The lowest-value coupon in Ramirez’s possession was for $2 off a product.
Ramirez would sell the coupons for half the face value, Lake said.
She had hundreds or even thousands of customers; many were repeat customers, investigators said.
Lake said Ramirez filled more than 20,000 orders. Some customers purchased large quantities of fake coupons. One woman in Illinois spent $77,841.50 on 148 orders from Ramirez’s business, according to the police report.
Lake said some buyers he contacted knew the coupons were fakes.
Impact of fake coupons
“The Phoenix case in particular was very damaging,” said Bud Miller, executive director of Coupon Information Corp. “It’s the largest single coupon case we’ve encountered to date. While it was centered in Phoenix, it touched every state in the country.”
Miller said Ramirez’s scam cost the industry “tens of millions of dollars, which translate to higher product costs and job loss.”
The coupon industry is a $4.1 billion business that loses roughly $500 million a year because of counterfeit coupons, according to industry officials.
Manufacturers produce a limited number of coupons to control the cost associated with the promotion. Large quantities of fake coupons result in a significant loss, officials said.
Lakes said fraud also causes manufacturers to give out fewer coupons and coupons with a lower face value.
Representatives from Bar-S Foods Co., in a news conference announcing the arrests last year, said the Phoenix company “lost a quarter of a million dollars” through Ramirez’s scheme.
Bar-S Foods printed 5,000 coupons offering $2 off one of its products. The company issued 1,800 of these coupons and received more than 45,000 back, according to the Phoenix police report. The fake coupons gave $5 off each product purchased.
Miller said the group is working with law enforcement and industry partners to combat ongoing coupon fraud with measures such as placing holograms on coupons and educating the consumer.
“The consumer should never purchase coupons,” he said. “They should not pay for something that is given away for free.”
Selling or transferring coupons to a third party violates most coupon-redemption policies, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Miller said people paying for coupons “are giving their names and addresses and other information to people who may not have their best interest at heart.”
As Ramirez’s business grew, she turned for help to two of her customers, Fountain, a licensed chiropractor, and Johnson, a retired teacher who owned a business with her husband breeding English mastiffs from their south Phoenix home, investigators said. Lake said the two were hired about a year before their arrests.
Fountain was paid a salary for such work as packaging and affixing the fake holograms to the coupons. She lived for free in the stash house.
A mail carrier told authorities that she picked up “20-200 packages” from Fountain each work day, with shipping labels from Savvyshopper.
For her help in packaging and filling orders for coupons, Johnson had access to Ramirez’s coupons, which she sold on a competing website, Lake said. He said Johnson operated her site for about a year and earned $18,000.
A profitable business
During the five years Ramirez operated Savvyshopper, she took in $2.3 million, $2.1 million of that generated in the year before her arrest, Garza said.
“Her business was just booming,” she said. “People are looking to get into the same business she was, but she had the lion’s share of the market throughout the country.”
Ramirez’s enterprise showed a profit margin of 91 percent.
In June 2012, Ramirez made $214,334. She spent $5,700 on postage, $1,900 for printing the coupons, $4,000 to pay Johnson and $1,700 rent for the stash house, Garza said. Most months that year were similar, she said.
Lake said Ramirez has no previous criminal record. “We don’t know how she got involved,” he said. “This was a pretty elaborate and a complicated job. She did a great job hiding who she was. She layered herself as a professional would.
“There were a lot of things that we don’t see from a first-time offender, so we believe that she was coached by someone bigger.”
Although Ramirez made big bucks, she lost it all at the end. She is incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville and faces a $5 million restitution order.
Lake said Ramirez’s husband divorced her, and she lost her nearly 3,000-square-foot home with 10-foot ceilings. She and her husband agreed to buy the home in June 2011 for $515,000 but lost the property after Ramirez’s arrest and subsequent loan default.
“There are still people out there doing this,” Lake said. “All ideas start somewhere. We have to track it back to whose idea it was and how it spread.”