Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kansas City Star photographer arrested by police during Ferguson protest

KANSAS CITY, MO. ---- A Kansas City Star photographer was arrested during a protest resulting from the events of Ferguson, Mo., earlier this week.

Photographer Jill Toyoshiba was arrested and ticketed by Kansas City, Mo., police officers, according to The Star. 

More information:
Jill Toyoshiba told newspaper editors that police arrested her after she had been taking photos of marchers on a sidewalk and stepped into the street to let them move past. 
She was released about an hour and a half later. Police spokesman Capt. Tye Grant said Toyoshiba had been given several warnings to get back on the sidewalk. 
Read more here.

TRAFFIC: Kansas Highway Patrol offers tips on Thanksgiving travel

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- This week, Kansas roads will be busy with holiday travelers going to and from their destinations.

The Kansas Highway Patrol will mobilize, along with other law enforcement organizations across the state, to participate in the annual Special Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP). The enforcement program is courtesy of a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The Patrol and other agencies will focus on impaired drivers, child passenger safety laws, and seat belt use among travelers of all ages. Because of the STEP campaign funding, there will be more law enforcement officers on Kansas’ streets and highways during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period when travel increases in Kansas and across the nation.

According to preliminary KDOT stats, during the 2013 Thanksgiving reporting period, there were 569 collisions, resulting in 150 injuries, and six deaths.

KCK home health provider convicted on Medicaid fraud charges

By KHI NEWS SERVICE
KHI News Service

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — A Kansas City, Kan., home health attendant has been convicted in a federal case based on fraudulent Medicaid billing practices.

Doris Betts, 55, pleaded guilty to health care fraud in U.S. District Court. Her conviction was announced Tuesday by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose office is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to investigate home health care fraud in Kansas.

Betts' conviction is the first from the joint operation, dubbed “Operation No Show,” which focuses on abuse of Medicaid’s home- and community-based services program that pays personal care attendants to assist qualifying Medicaid recipients with general household activities and personal care.

The Attorney General's Office and HHS agreed to recommend a sentence of 18 months in prison for Betts, followed by three years of supervised release and $251,573.32 restitution to the Kansas Medicaid program. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6, 2015.

STATE NEWS: Another Hunter Sentenced For Violating Migratory Bird Act

U.S. Department of Justice

KANSAS CITY, KAN. – A hunter pleaded guilty and was sentenced Monday for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when he and seven friends met in Kansas to hunt mourning doves, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

George Morgan, 52, Gordonville, Texas, was sentenced to a year on probation in which he is not allowed to hunt, fish or trap; a $2,000 fine; and $3,000 restitution to the state of Kansas.

Seven other hunters in the same party already pleaded guilty and were sentenced. The men admitted they violated the federal law protecting migratory birds when they participated in an annual opening weekend dove hunt in Graham County, Kan., on Sept. 1-2, 2013.

STATE NEWS: Reno County Hunting Guide Sentenced For Violating Migratory Bird Act

U.S. Department of Justice

KANSAS CITY, KAN. - A professional hunting guide from Reno County pleaded guilty and was sentenced Monday for violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Ryan Warden, 36, Haven, Kan., pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In his plea, he admitted the violations occurred while he was guiding two agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who were working undercover when they hired him. Warden was a co-owner of a guiding business called Misty Morning Outfitters with a business location at 109 South Kansas Street, Haven, Kan.

During the hunt, Warden shot a mourning dove from a motor vehicle, which is a violation. He also took one more than the daily bag limit of 15 mourning doves. He did not tag the birds when he took them back to the company’s lodge for storage.

STATE NEWS: Seven-Foot Man Sentenced For Bank Robbery in Franklin County

KANSAS CITY, KAN. - A seven-foot man was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison for robbing a Franklin County Bank, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

Caleb Jeffcoat, 26, Quenemo, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery. In his plea, he admitted that on March 19, 2014, he robbed the Goppert State Service Bank at 118 East Franklin Street in Pomona, Kan.

During the robbery, he wore a black ninja mask belonging to a co-defendant’s son and carried a BB gun modified to make it look more like a real gun.

Investigators used surveillance photos and other information to identify Jeffcoat, who is seven feet tall. He was arrested two days after the robbery.

Grissom commended the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask for their work on the case.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

GUEST COMMENTARY: Kansas City's growing Hispanic community should be respected by media

By AMERICA MARTINEZ-SERRANO

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Kansas City is a fast growing city. It is considered the city of fountains and most recently it has been under the spotlight since it hosted a World Series game in its beloved Kauffman Stadium.

However, most people do not realize that Kansas City is home to a fast-growing Hispanic population.

According to a 2013 study conducted by the University of California Berkeley, Kansas City is number 45 on the list of the 60 Largest Metropolitan Areas in the United State with a Hispanic population.

The median age of people who are living in Kansas City and that are Hispanic is 24, which is around my age. About 37 percent of the Hispanic population is foreign born.

In my opinion, Hispanics are often marginalized in media. I feel that at times whenever there is a Hispanic news story on television, magazines, or on the radio, Hispanics are always seen as just immigrants or criminals.

The Kansas City Kansan does not highlight the Hispanic community a whole lot throughout the publication, but it does not depict the Hispanic population in Kansas City in a negative light like other publications throughout the Kansas City area do.

Don’t believe me? Just type in Hispanic on the Fox 4 News website and approximately over 75 percent of those results will be about a Hispanic and crime or immigration.

Publications across KC rarely touch on Hispanic victories across the metro area. Aside from the
Kansas City Hispanic News, not one publication highlighted the accomplishments of Daniel Contreras during Veterans Day; Contreras is a Kansas City Hispanic resident who served in Vietnam War.

It is not okay that when I type in Hispanic on any news site, I am bombarded with stories mainly about illegal immigration and crime. This leads me to believe that the Hispanic community is marginalized and stereotyped in today’s media and it is time to change this.

I hope that one day the media will begin to add more diversity to their programming. There is more to Hispanics than just crime and illegal immigration. Hispanics are victorious and influential just like their white counterparts. There also needs to be more diversity in the newsroom. Diversity in the newsroom will hopefully lead to a more balanced portrayal of different races in the media.

It is time to reclaim what it means to be Hispanic in America and it is time to change today’s media.

Sporting KC announces roster moves for 2015 season

SportingKC.com

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City announced on Tuesday that the following four players will be out of contract with the club as of Dec. 31, 2014: Aurelien Collin, Kevin Ellis, Jacob Peterson and Soony Saad. Sporting Kansas City will extend offers to each of those four individuals and contract negotiations are ongoing.

Additionally, Sporting Kansas City and midfielder Lawrence Olum have mutually agreed to terminate his contract pending League approval. Sporting Kansas City will retain rights to Olum within Major League Soccer, per MLS roster rules and regulations.

The club has also declined contract options for Antonio Dovale, Andy Gruenebaum, Michael Kafari, Eric Kronberg, Victor Munoz and Sal Zizzo. Kafari and Munoz will be eligible for selection in the MLS Waiver Draft on Dec. 10.

Gruenebaum, Kronberg and Zizzo will all be eligible to participate in Major League Soccer's Re-Entry Process. Phase One of the Re-Entry Draft will take place on Dec. 12; Phase Two will occur on Dec. 18.

STATE NEWS: Former Manager Ordered to Pay $173,000+ For Embezzling from a Lawrence Credit Union

TOPEKA, KAN. – A former manager of a credit union in Lawrence was sentenced Tuesday to three years on supervised release for embezzling from the company, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. She was ordered to pay more than $173,600 in restitution.

Karolyn J. Stattelman, 43, Topeka, pleaded guilty to one count of theft from a credit union. In her plea, she admitted the crime took place while she was manager of the Jayhawk Federal Credit Union at 2901 Lakeview Road in Lawrence, Kan.

She manipulated credit union accounts for money orders, share drafts, ATM and returned checks in order to conceal the thefts.

She also allowed co-defendant Christi Marie Hout, who was a teller, to write checks on Hout’s personal and business accounts when Hout did not have sufficient funds to cover them.

Hout pleaded guilty to one count of theft of credit union funds. She is set for sentencing Jan. 7.

Grissom commended the Lawrence Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Kenney for their work on the case.

Schmidt, federal authorities crack down on home health care fraud in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Inspector General have joined forces to crack down on home health care fraud in Kansas and have obtained their first criminal conviction from the joint operation, both offices announced today.

For several months, the offices have worked together on “Operation No Show,” the cooperative investigation of fraudulent billing to Medicaid for personal care services provided in Medicaid beneficiaries’ homes.

The focus of the multiple investigations has been on abuse of Medicaid’s Home and Community Based Services program that pays personal care attendants to assist qualifying Medicaid recipients with general household activities and personal care.

The joint enforcement effort led to the conviction last week of Doris Betts, 55, Kansas City, Kan., who pleaded guilty to health care fraud in U.S. District Court. Both parties agreed to recommend a sentence of 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and restitution to the Kansas Medicaid program in the amount of $251,573.32.

The investigation revealed that between January 2008 and December 2013, Betts falsely billed for providing in-home services to two or more clients at the same time in different locations, while the client was hospitalized, and while Betts was instead at her own medical appointments. During this period, Betts billed for more than 750 work days that exceeded 24 hours, the highest of which topped out at 39.5 hours.

Betts billed for a variety of services, including personal care services, sleep cycle support, day support and residential support. By using multiple billing agencies, Betts was able to bill for services that overlapped. Sentencing has been scheduled for February 6, 2015.

“The personal care attendant program provides important in-home services for Medicaid recipients who need help to remain in their homes,” Schmidt said. “When the program is abused and taxpayers are defrauded, vital resources are taken away from Kansans who are truly in need. We are working cooperatively with our federal partners to protect this joint federal-state program, and we intend to remain focused on finding and prosecuting those who defraud taxpayers by lying about the work they have done and submitting false bills.”

Gerald Roy, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations for Region 7, Kansas City, coordinated the federal part of the joint operations.

“The Office of Inspector General has built a strong partnership with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, and the Medicaid fraud and abuse division to keep the Kansas Medicaid program free from fraud, waste and abuse,” Roy said.  “Unfortunately, criminals often prey on Medicaid and target programs such as Home and Community Based Services for personal gain with shameless disregard of the consequences. Their fraudulent activities are adversely impacting the state’s budget, straining critical, limited resources, and putting our vulnerable beneficiaries at risk. These 12 prosecutions send a clear and concise message that the actions of those who steal from our programs will not be tolerated. Kansans can expect our joint efforts to continue, with ‘Operation No Show,’ and future initiatives demonstrating that federal and state administered healthcare programs are off limits to fraud perpetrators.”

 Nationwide, the personal care attendant program has been the number-one source of fraud complaints to state Medicaid fraud units.

In addition to the Betts case, “Operation No Show” has led to 11 other criminal cases being filed by Schmidt's office. Examples of the fraud alleged in pending cases charged in Wyandotte, Nemaha, Johnson, Sedgwick, Neosho, Ford and Shawnee counties include:

  • Personal care attendant and consumer conspired to claim provision of home health services at times when the care attendant was working for another employer, and then split the proceeds of the home health services claims.
  • Consumer decreased the times services were reportedly provided by the personal care attendant in order to report more time provided by his/her mother so that the mother would receive more money.
  • Personal care attendant claimed to be providing home health services while the consumer(s) were in the hospital. Care attendant also claimed services were provided after a consumer died, and during a period of time while the care attendant was incarcerated.
  • Personal care attendant claimed to provide more than 1,600 hours of care to two different consumers at the same time, using two different billing agencies which made it difficult for the billing agencies to identify the fraudulent claims.
  • Charges are merely accusations. Individuals are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Other joint investigations are ongoing. The cases are being jointly investigated by federal and state authorities and prosecuted by the attorney general’s Medicaid fraud and abuse division.

Wyandotte County students awarded scholarships from Kansas State University

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- More than 12,000 academic scholarships have been awarded to Kansas State University students for the 2014-2015 school year.

Overall, students have earned more than $25.6 million in scholarships for the current academic year — $6.4 million more than the previous year.

Most of the scholarships are made possible through donations and gifts to the Kansas State University Foundation. Information on the university's student financial assistance is available at http://www.k-state.edu/sfa.

Wyandotte County students receiving scholarships include:

Schmidt asks FTC to tighten rules against telemarketing scams

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt yesterday asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to make it harder for scammers to collect money from telemarketing victims.

Schmidt and a bipartisan group of 37 other state attorneys general submitted comments asking the FTC to crack down on telemarketing scams by strengthening the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).  The TSR is the main federal regulation that sets nationwide rules for telemarketers.

“Protecting Kansas consumers from scams, telemarketing fraud and other deceptive practices is a priority for our office,” Schmidt said.  "Whenever possible, we work closely with federal authorities since the vast majority of telemarketing scams targeting Kansans originate outside the state and many originate offshore."

In their comments, Schmidt and the other attorneys general say that changes in the marketplace and the continued prevalence of specific types of fraud and abuse require a tougher federal rule.  A principal focus of the request is to combat common scams, such as the "grandparent scam," that target senior citizens and try to collect money through wire transfers and other types of instant payment methods commonly used in telemarketing fraud.  In addition to asking the FTC to tighten its rules to restrict certain payment methods commonly used by scammers, the attorneys general also address the use of pre-acquired account information, the use of negative option features, and requiring telemarketers to create and maintain call records.

“The 'grandparent scam' and many others that target senior citizens and vulnerable Kansans continue to be a top source of consumer complaints filed with our office," Schmidt said.  "We continue to vigorously enforce Kansas law, and changes such as these we are recommending would improve our ability to protect Kansas consumers when they are targeted by scammers from out of state or even overseas. Of course, consumers should not give out bank account information when called by a telemarketer and never should agree to wire money to a telemarketer for any purpose."

Kansans with concerns about questionable sales or marketing practices can contact the Kansas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-432-2310 or visit www.InYourCornerKansas.org  for more information.