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Archive for December, 2011

THE TRIAL FOR MURDER OF JESSIE CATE IN WA AUSTRALIA

The man accused of murdering Dawesville teenager Jessie Cate has made a brief appearance in a Perth court.

Kyle Rohan Garth, 19, appeared in the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court via video link from Hakea Prison on Wednesday.

He was not required to enter a plea.

Garth’s lawyer, Brian Mahon, told the court that reports were being prepared on his client and requested an adjournment.

Jessie’s body was found buried in bushland in Bouvard, south of Perth, last week.

Garth will reappear in court on February 29.


BIG MONEY FOR THE BOYS IN ARGENTINA FOR ID CARDS SYSTEM

Eight former Siemens senior executives and agents have been charged with plotting to pay $US100 million ($99.55 million) in bribes to secure a $US1 billion contract to produce national identity cards for Argentine citizens, in a scam involving a ”shocking level of deception and corruption”, an assistant US attorney general says.

An indictment returned late on Monday in US federal court in New York charged the defendants with conspiring together from 1996 to early 2007 when they worked for the German engineering company.

A former member of the central executive committee of Siemens AG, Uriel Sharef, and two former chief executive officers of Siemens Argentina were among those charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the wire fraud statute, the Justice Department said. They were also charged with money laundering, conspiracy and wire fraud.

”Today’s indictment alleges a shocking level of deception and corruption,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said. ”Business should be won or lost on the merits of a company’s products and services, not the amount of bribes paid to government officials.”

The charges against Sharef marked the first time a board member of a Fortune Global 50 company had been charged in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case, Breuer said. He was not in custody on Tuesday and it was not immediately clear who might represent him in legal proceedings. None of the bribe recipients were named in the indictment and none of the defendants is in the United States.

Breuer said it was Justice Department policy not to name people who are not indicted and that the US would work with other countries to bring the defendants to justice.

Seven of the defendants were also charged in a civil case in New York in which the Securities and Exchange Commission accused them of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It’s the largest action the SEC has ever brought against people accused of bribing foreign officials, said Robert Khuzami, SEC director of enforcement.

Ronald Hosko, the FBI’s agent in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office criminal division, and Khuzami emphasised the complexity of the investigation, which authorities unravelled with what Breuer called ”extraordinary” cooperation from Siemens, the German engineering company.

”The company is not indicted,” said Alexander Becker, a Siemens spokesman. ”We can’t comment on proceedings against individuals.”

The conspirators committed to pay $US100 million in bribes to Argentine officials and actually paid more than $US60 million, including more than $US25 million laundered through the US banking system, Breuer said.

After the identity card project was terminated, the defendants tried to recover profits they would have gotten from the contract that was awarded to them illegitimately, US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

The SEC said bribes were initially paid to secure the contract to produce national identity cards known as Documentos Nacionales de Identidad for Argentine citizens. According to the indictment, the government of Argentina invited bids in 1994 to create state-of-the-art national identity cards to replace manually created national identity booklets that citizens previously received.

The contract issued to a special-purpose subsidiary of Siemens was suspended and then cancelled after a change in Argentine political administrations, the indictment said.


KILLING SPREE INTO CHRISTMAS CROWD BY MAN IN BELGIUM

A man hurled grenades at a bus stop in the Belgian city of Liege and sprayed gunfire at a square crowded with Christmas shoppers and children on Tuesday, killing three people and wounding 123 others before fatally shooting himself in the head.

It was not clear what his motive was, but Belgian officials said there was no indication it was an act of terrorism.

Witnesses said the gunman, named as Nordine Amrani, 33, began his attack near the bus stop at Place Saint Lambert, a shopping area and the site of the Christmas market and main courthouse – sending shoppers scattering to flee the bullets.

Amrani, released from jail about a year ago after being convicted of possessing weapons illegally, ended it by shooting himself in the head with a handgun, the witnesses said.

“He had a bag. He got a grenade out of his bag. He threw the grenade at the bus stop. Then he had a Kalashnikov (rifle). He shot in all directions. Then everyone ran to try to save themselves. Then he got a revolver out and put a bullet in his head,” one witness told RTBF radio.

The victims were a 15-year-old boy, who died at the scene, a 17-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman who died in hospital. A justice official said 123 had been wounded.

Liege’s mayor, Willy Demeyer, said the two boys had been sitting school exams nearby just before being caught in the attack.

Random killings of this kind are relatively rare events in Belgium. Most recently, in January 2009, a man stabbed to death two infants and a woman and injured 13 at a nursery in the town of Dendermonde.

Gaspard Grosjean, a journalist for a local Liege newspaper, was in the square moments after the attack.

“We saw people with bullet wounds in their shoulders, their hands,” he said, adding that he had seen one body. “I see people completely scared, people are crying, everyone is on their phones.”

Justice officials said Amrani had been summoned in the morning to appear before police, an appointment he did not make.

POLICE FAILURE TO CHECK ON QLD HEALTH WORKER

As police prepare to charge the alleged Queensland Health fraudster, the state’s top cop has revealed officers failed to follow up a lead last year.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said allegations made about then Queensland Health employee Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, were last year sent to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, which referred them back to Queensland Health.

Mr Atkinson said police were aware of the allegations and could have made enquiries of New Zealand authorities, but did not.

Police outside Hohepa Morehu-Barlow's apartment building, at rear.
Police outside Hohepa Morehu-Barlow’s apartment building, at rear. Photo: Bridie Jabour

“What we’re doing now is trying to ascertain why those enquiries were not made,” he said.

Mr Barlow has been accused of embezzling $16 million from Queensland Health.

Mr Atkinson said his understanding was that last year’s complaint was made by someone outside of Queensland Health.

“The information related to the alleged background of Mr Barlow in New Zealand and the alleged activities of Mr Barlow in the health department,” he said.

“It would have been a fairly straightforward process for us to have checked his background in New Zealand.”

Mr Atkinson also confirmed today Mr Barlow was apprehended by a security guard at New Farm this morning before police were contacted, saying officers were patrolling the area but did not have it under constant surveillance.

“Initially he was found by a security guard,” he said.

“We had been doing patrols of the area.”

Mr Atkinson declined to say what Mr Barlow’s “medical issues” were but said he understood he was now conscious.

He said it was not yet clear where Mr Barlow had been staying in the last few days as he was being searched for.

“We don’t know for sure, we think … he was being looked after by friends and we think he was in Brisbane in that regard,” Mr Atkinson said.

Police were expected to charge Mr Barlow with fraud as early as this afternoon.

However, police said they were waiting for him to be released from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, where he is under police guard, before charging him.

In a statement issued this evening, police said the man wanted for questioning would remain in police custody at the hospital overnight and no charges had been laid at this stage.

They did not provide any information about his condition.

The manager of the finance division at Queensland Health’s Community Services Branch allegedly siphoned the millions from Queensland Health into private accounts over the past three years.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh this morning welcomed news of the arrest, praising police for “getting their man”.

However, she said it was not the end of the matter and the government was working to close any loopholes that allowed $5 million to be taken from public purse over the past three years and $11 million in the past fortnight.

“This is just the beginning,” she said.

“It is unacceptable that this could happen and we are working to close any loopholes that exist.

Officers were yesterday investigating leads that members of the public had provided to Crime Stoppers.

Mr Barlow had just a small window of opportunity to give police the slip on Thursday afternoon, when the alleged theft first came to light.

Police raided his luxury $5.65 million riverside apartment in New Farm on Thursday evening, but there was no sign of the man who led a lavish lifestyle in Brisbane’s high-society and claimed to be a Tahitian prince.

It’s understood investigators may have missed the public servant by a matter of minutes.

Yesterday Ms Bligh said she was confident the state could recover the stolen money.

She confirmed $12 million of Mr Barlow’s assets had been seized by police and would be held during legal proceedings against him.

She admitted the checks and balances that should have prevented the alleged fraud had clearly failed, but she stopped short of saying whether heads would roll.

“I’m having all of that investigated by external forensic auditors and if there are people who have failed in their duty, then action will be taken against them,” she said.

Senior government and Queensland Health officers, including the auditor-general, met with the Crime and Misconduct Commission on Saturday.

They were trying to piece together how the alleged fraud occurred and what lessons could be learned to prevent it happening again.

Ms Bligh dismissed allegations that Queensland Health had ignored an auditor-general’s report earlier this year that found public sector agencies were failing to maintain basic financial controls.

Queensland Health had implemented every single recommendation made in the report, she said.

“There has been no specific recommendation or commentary in relation to the financial processes within this part of Queensland Health,” she said.

Ms Bligh also dismissed the suggestion that the alleged fraud highlighted problems within Queensland Health, which was still reeling from the payroll bungle of 18 months ago.

Meanwhile, Mr Barlow’s New Zealand family said it was not aware of the allegations but intended to stand by him.

“He’s a naughty boy if he’s done that, but he’s still my whanau [family],” Mr Barlow’s aunt Josie Boldy told New Zealand’s Sunday News.

Prison psychologist accused

of making false rape claim

She split her own lip with a pin, scraped her knuckles with sandpaper and had her friend punch her in the face. US investigators say she even ripped open her blouse, then wet her pants to give the appearance she had been knocked unconscious.

But it was all part of what authorities say was an elaborate hoax by the woman to convince her husband she was raped so they could move to a safer neighbourhood.

Charges filed by the Sacramento County district attorney allege Laurie Ann Martinez, a prison psychologist, conspired with the friend to create the appearance that she was beaten, robbed and raped by a stranger in her Sacramento home on April 10.

Ms Martinez, her friend and two co-workers eventually told police the whole thing was a set-up to convince Ms Martinez’s husband that they needed to move from a blighted, high-crime area.

It didn’t work. Instead, the couple filed for divorce six weeks after the incident, according to court records.

“If all you wanted to do is move, there’s other ways than staging a burglary and rape,” said Sacramento police Sergeant Andrew Pettit. “She went to great lengths to make this appear real.”

Ms Martinez, 36, a psychologist for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, reported she had come home that day to find a stranger in her kitchen, authorities said.

“As she tried to run away, the suspect grabbed her and hit her in the face,” court records say in describing what she told police. “She lost consciousness and then when she awoke she found her pants and underwear pulled down to her ankles.”

Missing from her home were two laptop computers, Ms Martinez’s purse, an Xbox video game console, a camera and numerous credit cards that Ms Martinez said the stranger had stolen.

In reality, the items were all at the home of her friend, Nicole April Snyder, authorities allege. Investigators said Ms Martinez had Ms Snyder punch her in the face with boxing gloves they bought for that purpose.

Ms Martinez began crying hysterically when police arrived, according to court papers.

Ms Martinez’s two lawyers in the family court actions, Russell Carlson and Ben Ramsey, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment. Her husband’s attorneys in the family law case declined to comment.

Ms Martinez was arrested on Monday and freed on $US50,000 bond. There is no record that she has a criminal attorney before her arraignment set for Monday.

Ms Snyder, 33, is charged with the same conspiracy counts, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest. Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said she had no indication that Ms Snyder had retained an attorney.

If convicted of conspiracy, each woman faces up to three years in prison, Ms Orio said.

Police detectives and crime scene investigators spent hundreds of hours on the case, until one of Ms Martinez’s prison co-workers came forward to say Ms Martinez had been talking at work about faking a crime at her home to persuade her husband to move, Sergeant Pettit said.

“It doesn’t sit well for other women who really are victims, crying wolf,” Sergeant Pettit said.

Ms Martinez had been a psychologist overseeing other mental health workers treating inmates at California State Prison, Sacramento, department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. The prison east of Sacramento was the scene last week of a fight among more than 150 inmates that sent 11 inmates to outside hospitals.

Ms Thornton said Ms Martinez was redirected to the department’s headquarters in May, when the investigation began, and has had no contact with inmates since then. Ms Thornton said the department was also conducting its own investigation.

Ms Martinez did not immediately return an emailed request for comment left with Ms Thornton.

Robert Kahane, executive officer of the California Board of Psychology, said Ms Martinez’s licence was valid.

However, “we are working diligently to ensure immediate and continued consumer protection as quickly as possible”, he said.

AP


STREET SHOOTER TROUBLED BY RECENT BREAKUP WITH WOMAN

Friends and neighbours of a gunman who was shot dead by police as he fired randomly at passing cars on a Hollywood street – critically wounding one man – say he was deeply troubled by the recent break-up with his girlfriend.

US authorities released the identity of Tyler Brehm, 26, and examined his body, Los Angeles County Coroner’s Lieutenant Larry Dietz said, a day after the shoot-out at Hollywood’s intersection of Sunset and Vine.

Investigators have not released a motive for Friday’s attack.

Shot ... police officers advance on Tyler Brehm.
Shot … police officers advance on Tyler Brehm. Photo: AP

 

Friends and neighbours said Brehm was stung by the end of the relationship.

“He wasn’t a bad guy, he just got fed up,” stunned friend and neighbour Christina Mesropian said after a KNBC-TV news crew told her the gunman was Brehm.

Ms Mesropian said he was struggling to get over a break-up with girlfriend Alicia Alligood.

Hollywood shoot-out ... Tyler Brehm's body lays on the ground after he was killed by police.
Hollywood shoot-out … Tyler Brehm’s body lays on the ground after he was killed by police. Photo: AFP

“He was like ‘Ah, I’m over it, I’m over it,’ but I could tell he wasn’t over it,” Ms Mesropian said.

Ms Alligood, did not appear on camera, but told a KNBC reporter that she and Brehm had “been dating for 4½ years; we broke up recently”.

Ramon Hernandez, who lived in the apartment next door to Brehm, said the couple had recently moved out. He told KABC-TV that they kept to themselves but at times he heard them arguing.

“I could tell that he was an unstable person,” Mr Hernandez said, “but I don’t know the details on what actually made him snap.”

Brehm walked down the middle of Sunset Boulevard, firing on motorists with no clear target. He injured three of them until two police officers who happened to be in the area – an off-duty motorcycle officer working on movie set security and an LAPD detective – shot and killed him, authorities said.

In amateur video taken at the shooting scene, the gunman appeared to have short hair and wore jeans and a white tank top.

He paced back and forth near the busy intersection, firing close to 20 rounds from what appeared to be a .40 calibre handgun, police said. Several witnesses reported seeing him reload at least once.

“He was screaming he was going to die and that he wanted to die,” Gregory Bojorquez, a photographer who captured images of the aftermath, told the Los Angeles Times.

He continued shooting at vehicles and in the air when he was confronted by the officers.

They ordered the suspect to stop and drop his weapon. He was shot when he pointed his weapon at the officers. The gunman was pronounced dead at the scene, Los Angeles police Officer Cleon Joseph said.

No officers were hurt.

John Atterberry, 40, the driver of a Mercedes-Benz, was wounded in the face and upper torso and taken to a hospital in “guarded and critical condition”, police said in a statement.

Mr Atterberry was at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre and remained in a critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Simi Singer said.

Ms Atterberry is a music industry executive who has worked with artists such as Brandy, the Spice Girls and Jessica Simpson, according to the trade paper The Hollywood Reporter and other media outlets.

A truck and another car were struck by bullets.

Two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries. One man suffered a grazing wound to his left thigh when a bullet passed through his car door. Another man had minor cuts from broken glass after a bullet struck the driver door where it met the window.


YOUNG USA MAN ESCAPES FROM ARMED KIDNAPPERS

An American teenager abducted by Islamist militants in the Philippines five months ago fled barefoot through the jungle after telling his captors he was going for a bath in a stream.

Kevin Lunsmann, 14, tricked his four armed Abu Sayyaf kidnappers on Friday.

He evaded their clutches, then followed the stream down a mountain and walked for two days without shoes before he was found by villagers on the island of Basilan.

Great escape ... Kevin Lunsmann, right, a kidnapped American teenage boy, talks to Zamboanga city mayor Celso Lobregat.Great escape … Kevin Lunsmann, right, talks to Zamboanga city mayor Celso Lobregat. Photo: AP

At first he feared they might be sympathetic to his captors and fled. But after a brief chase, the villagers convinced the boy, who was exhausted, hungry and in shock, that they meant him no harm, and his ordeal was finally over late on Saturday.

“He was in fear, so there was a bit of a chase before the villagers convinced him that they were friends,” said police Senior Superintendent Edwin de Campo, adding that Kevin had bruises on his arms and feet but was otherwise fine.

Harry Thomas, the US ambassador to the Philippines, said that Kevin had talked to his family by phone and would be reunited with them shortly.

He added: “In this holiday season nothing makes me happier than knowing that an innocent victim is returned to his family in time for the holiday celebrations.”

Kevin was seized with his Filipino-American mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, 50, and a Filipino cousin, Romnick Jakaria, 19, while they were on holiday with relatives on an island near Zamboanga city on July 12.

In a carefully co-ordinated raid at 3am more than a dozen armed men stormed the resort on Tictabon Island, off Mindanao, and overpowered the guards.

Police said that Mrs Lunsmann, who grew up on Basilan and changed her name from Jerpa Usman, was visiting relatives and had intended to return with Kevin to her husband in Virginia.

Their captors took the hostages to Basilan island and called the family in the US to demand a ransom. Mrs Lunsmann was freed two months ago, but it is unclear whether a ransom was paid.

Mr Jakaria escaped last month when special forces from the Philippines army got near an Abu Sayyaf mountain redoubt.

Kidnapping for ransom has long been a problem in the impoverished southern Philippines where most of the seizures are blamed on Abu Sayyaf, which has fought a decades-long insurgency.

Troops hunting the militants had engaged one Abu Sayyaf group in a firefight near Lamitan town where Kevin was eventually found. This may have distracted his captors and allowed him the chance to escape.

But Philippines army Colonel Ricardo Visaya said he asked the boy if he had been set free, suggesting a ransom might have been paid.

The boy replied: “No, I really did it myself.”


Woman awarded $3.8m after

brother sold her home and fled


THE  government has been ordered to pay $3.8 million to a woman who was in cloisters in an Italian nunnery when her brother stole the title to her home and sold it from under her.

Teresa Nadia Pedulla lived with an order of nuns in Sicily and then Calabria for five years, before leaving to care for her dying father in June 2009.

While she was in Italy, her brother Fernando Rene Panetta used fraudulent means to obtain the certificate of title to her North Curl Curl home.

He took out several mortgages against the Soniver Road property, including one for $1.99 million, then sold it for $3.8 million in March this year.

Mr Panetta and his wife, Anna Lam, each received $684,890.92 from the sale and left Australia on separate flights on May 25. They have not been seen since.

The NSW Supreme Court ordered the NSW government to compensate Mrs Pedulla from the Torrens Assurance Fund.

Justice Michael Penbroke found Mrs Pedulla could claim under the Real Property Act in circumstances where the loss arises from ”having been deprived of the land, or of any estate or interest in the land, as a consequence of a fraudulent act.

The Registrar General was also ordered to pay Mrs Pedulla’s costs.

The court heard a solicitor, Lewis Fineman Yee, was ”central and causative” to the ”brazen and fraudulent conduct” of Mr Panetta.

In July and August 2006, Mr Yee obtained the certificate of title by falsely saying Mrs Pedulla was his client.

He swore a false statutory declaration, produced a forged power of attorney and witnessed Mr Panetta’s signature when the transfer of registration was lodged in March 2007 for only $1 consideration.

Mrs Pedulla didn’t discover she had lost her ownership of the house until April this year when her brother was in Italy after the death of their father.

Justice Penbroke said Mr Yee acted out of obligation to Ms Lam, with whom he had a long-term business, domestic and intimate relationship before she married Mr Panetta. However, he found Mr Yee was not an ”innocent dupe” but played a major key role in the fraud.


HOW TO DESCRIBE "RIDICULOUS LAWSUITS BY INMATES"?

When Jesse Dimmick
  was a fugitive from Colorado fleeing a murder charge, he led police in
  Kansas on a chase, and his car was disabled in front of a newlywed
  couple's house. He ran in and confronted the couple, Jared and Lindsay
  Rowley, at knifepoint. As police surrounded the house, Dimmick says he
  got a verbal agreement from the couple that they would help him escape
  in exchange for an unspecified cash payment, which he says constituted
  "a legally binding oral contract." But when he fell asleep, the Rowleys
  fled the house and police stormed in, shooting and wounding Dimmick. He
  was convicted of multiple felonies in the case, but after his
  sentencing (10 years, 11 months), Dimmick was extradited to Colorado to
  face the murder charge. In his free time while awaiting trial in that
  case, Dimmick has sued the Rowleys "without the aid of proffessional
  [sic] legal counsel," his claim notes, alleging "breech [sic] of
  contract" and demanding $235,000 in compensation. The Rowleys' attorney
  asked for a dismissal of the suit, but the judge has yet to rule on
  that motion. (RC/Topeka Capital-Journal) ...The law has this backwards.
  Inmates shouldn't be allowed to file such suits without the judge's
  permission.
JUSTICE WAS SEEN TO BE SERVED:
Lifer gets a win in court and a payout,but...

"He thanked me and said, 'You did a great job and I'm
  satisfied'," said Attorney Harrison Williams of his client, Eon
  Shepherd, after their federal lawsuit against the state concluded.
  Shepherd is a prisoner serving life, and with Williams' help he sued
  the State of New York because prison guards "touched" his "sacred"
  Rastafarian dreadlocks during a search, and "slightly tore" his hair.
  With Williams' help, Shepherd won the suit -- and was awarded $1.00 by
  the jury. Williams says his law firm put in $75,000 worth of billable
  hours to prosecute the case; an appeals court ruled that the federal
  Prison Litigation Reform Act, which was passed to try to stem
  ridiculous lawsuits by inmates, applied in this case. The Act in part
  limits attorney's fees to 150 percent of a jury award applied, and the
  court awarded Williams $1.50 for his time. (RC/AP) ...Hopefully he's
  one and a half times more satisfied than Shepherd.
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