Sunday, November 23, 2014

STATE NEWS: Former Bank Employee Sentenced For Stealing More Than $2.5 Million from Bank

WICHITA, KAN.  ----- A former employee of a bank in Crawford County was sentenced Thursday to 70 months in federal prison for stealing more than $2.5 million from the bank, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

Cynthia Bright, 54, Girard, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud. In her plea, she admitted she stole the money over a period of 10 years while working as operations supervisor at Girard National Bank.

Bright used several different methods to steal the money. In some cases, she wrote checks on her own accounts and altered electronic bank records so the checks would clear but the money would not be taken out of her account. In other cases she removed paper checks and altered records to post checks to other accounts.

She diverted funds from the bank’s accounts to her own accounts, and she wrote large counter checks to conceal losses.
     
Grissom commended the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hart for their work on the case.

STATE NEWS: Topeka Man Sentenced To Robberies in Topeka, Manhattan

TOPEKA, KAN. – A Topeka man was sentenced Friday to 12 years in federal prison for committing robberies at businesses in Topeka and Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

Christopher James Wilhoite, 26, Topeka, Kan., pleaded guilty to two counts of commercial robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of a robbery. In his plea, Wilhoite admitted that on March 29, 2014, he robbed a clerk at Car Toyz, 5849 S.W. 21st in Topeka. The store sells mobile audio, video and vehicle security systems.

Wilhoite entered the store, browsed for a few minutes, and told the clerk: “I know what I want – the money.” He took money from the register and from the clerk’s wallet before loading some electronic items into a bag. When he noticed a surveillance camera, he forced the clerk to show him the recorder and threw that in the bag, too. Then he fled the store. Investigators later found his fingerprints in the store.

Wilhoite also admitted that on April 16, 2014, he robbed the Dollar General at 2321 Tuttle Creek Boulevard in Manhattan, Kan. He pointed a gun at a clerk and said: “Hey, I need money.” He put the clerk and another employee in a bathroom at gunpoint and told them to count to 200 while he fled the store.

Grissom commended the Topeka Police Department, the Riley County Police Department, the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Maag for their work on the case.


Residents welcomed to take KDOT survey on K-7, I-70 Interchange project


BONNER SPRINGS, KAN. ---- If you are a Bonner Springs or Wyandotte County resident, you may be interested in taking a survey from the Kansas Department of Transportation regarding construction work at K-7 and Interstate 70. 

More information:
Phases 1-3 of the K-7 and I-70 Interchange improvement project have begun in Bonner Springs. Phase 1 and 2A began during 2013; phase 2B during 2014.  
Phase 3 will begin spring of 2015. Thus far, crews have completed construction of Phase 2A, which involved realigning 122nd Street and Riverview Avenue and rebuilding the Riverview Bridge over I-70. T-WORKS dollars are funding construction.  
However, funding for the remaining phases has not been identified. Have you received enough information about the project? How have construction activities impacted your commute?  
Please take our survey and share your opinion now!

18th-ranked KCKCC women's team wins battle of unbeaten teams, 92-74

By ALAN HOSKINS

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Kansas City Kansas Community College’s unbeaten and nationally ranked women’s basketball team cleared its biggest hurdle yet Friday night, handing previously unbeaten Jefferson College its first setback 92-74.

It was the sixth straight win for the 18th ranked Lady Blue Devils, who are right back in action Saturday against Wentworth Military Academy and College at 4 p.m. Jefferson, which suffered its first loss in six games, will take on Labette at 2 p.m. in the first game of the KCKCC Classic.

While the Blue Devils maintained their 92.3 scoring average in the win, it was the Blue Devil defense and rebound domination that overcame sub-par shooting in the early going. Shooting just 22 percent the first 10 minutes, KCKCC trailed 26-19 against a Jefferson team that started out at a 66.7 percent clip.

“Our 3-2 zone defense really caused some problems,” said KCKCC Coach Valerie Stambersky. “It enabled us to get steals and defensive boards which in turn allowed us to get out and run and score in transition.”

From the 26-19 deficit, the Blue Devils exploded for a 44-36 lead by halftime as sophomore Julia Garrard scored nine points off the bench to go along with 12 by Erin Anderson and 9 each by Cheyenne North and Cierra Gaines.

Anderson finished with a double double, 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Cassidy Harbert was close to a second straight triple double with 11 assists, 9 points and 8 rebounds.

North led all scorers with 17 points while Gaines added 16, Janai Mitchell and Garrard 9 each and Ky’Ana French 8.

Even more impressive was a 53-29 Blue Devil advantage in rebounding. In addition to Anderson’s 10, Mitchell had 9, Harbert 8, North 7 and Gaines 6.

“It was good for us to face some adversity and figure out how to handle it,” said Stambersky. “The rebounding was especially outstanding against a team that thrives on getting on the offensive boards.”

KCKCC volleyball team wins consolation barcket of national tourney


By ALAN HOSKINS

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- If the Kansas City Kansas Community College team couldn’t bring home the NJCAA Division II volleyball championship, the Lady Blue Devils did the next best thing.

Knocked out of the championship round by a 3-0 opening round loss to Glendale, Ariz., the Lady Blue Devils rebounded to win their next three matches to claim consolation championship honors.

“I’m very proud, especially the way we responded after the opening loss,” said KCKCC Coach Mary Bruno after a 3-1 win over Iowa Central Saturday in the ninth place game in the tourney played in Phoenix, Ariz.    “It was wonderful to see the kids rewarded for all their hard work. After getting upset in the first round, it feels great.”

While coming into the national tourney seeded No. 10, Glendale followed its win over the No. 7 Blue Devils by shocking No. 2 Central Nebraska 3-2 in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Cowley College 3-2 in the semifinals to reach the championship game against No. 1 Parkland.

“Glendale was one of the best teams we’ve played all season and the best in the national,” said Bruno, whose Blue Devils dropped the first set 25-12 and could never quite recover, losing the second set 25-21 and the third 25-22 after leading 21-19. “They came out blazing we were not quite ready for it. We had our chances but just weren’t able to stop them.”

KCKCC breezed past Genesee 25-12, 25-9, 25-11 in the consolation quarterfinals and then ousted Sauk Valley 25-19, 21-25, 26-24, 25-11 in the semifinals. 

“The win in the third set was very big; a very emotional battle that went back and forth,” said Bruno

The Blue Devils jumped to a 2-0 lead over Iowa Central in the consolation finals, winning 25-23, 26-24 before Iowa Central took a 25-18 win. KCKCC then won the fourth set 26-24 behind the play of sophomore co-captain Blair Russell, who had 10 kills in the final game.

“Blair played well; Kailee Dudley came off a sprained ankle and played every match; and Jasdel Gonzalez played the best she’s played all season,” said Bruno.  “And we had stalwart performances by Lilly Thornberg and Andrea Aparacio. All in all it was a great team effort.”

Two years ago, the Blue Devils finished sixth in KCKCC’s first national tournament ever and finished the year 32-8.

This year they finished 32-10 playing arguably one of the nation’s toughest schedules – eight of the 15 teams in the national tournament including three of the four teams in the championship semifinals along with five Division I powers including No. 1 Iowa Western.

“I’m very happy,” said Bruno. “It proved we could play with the very best.”

------------------

PHOTO: There were smiles around as KCKCC won their final three games in the national volleyball tourney with a squad of (front row, from left) Lily Cullers, Lexi Nick, Andrea Aparicio, Janelle Fowler and Kimberly Martinez; (second row) assistant coaches Paloma Juarez and Cory Roberts, Carlyn Walsh, Kailee Dudley, Allyssa Lutgen, Blair Russell and Lily Thornberg; (third row) Peyton Pender, Cecelia Augustine, Jasdel Gonzalez, Junelie Irizarry, head coach Mary Bruno and assistant Dee Bruno.

KANSAS CITY METRO TRAFFIC ALERT: I-35 & I-435 Interchange now open


KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- The northbound I-35 to westbound I-435 loop ramp is NOW OPEN to unrestricted traffic.

The ramp reopened to all traffic at 2 a.m. on Saturday, November 22.

Updated daily traffic information for the #jocogateway interchange project can be viewed at: www.jocogateway.com and for the entire Kansas City Metro Area at: www.ksdot.org/kcmetro/laneclose.asp.

The Kansas Department of Transportation urges all motorists to be alert, obey the warning signs, and “Give ‘Em a Brake!” when approaching and driving through the project work zone.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Number of Kansas-grown turkeys has dropped over the years

By Mary Lou Peter
K-State Research and Extension

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Kansas ranks around 20th in the number of turkeys raised compared to other states. That doesn’t seem too bad until you realize that 20th is still far less than 1 percent of all the 235 million turkeys grown in the United States each year.

The leading states are Minnesota, North Carolina and Arkansas, according to data from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At one time, Kansas was considered by many in the poultry industry to be second in total poultry production, said Kansas State University animal scientist, Scott Beyer, In the 1930s about 10 percent of all Kansas farms raised turkeys. In the 1940s, live and dressed turkey competitions were held in Wichita.

Many of the birds were hatched in the state and grown in fields with protection by pole barns, said Beyer, who is a poultry specialist with K-State Research and Extension. If Kansans wanted a turkey grown in the state, in the early 1960s that was about the best time to find one.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, big changes came to the state and national turkey industries. Turkey growers became larger and fewer, Beyer said.

Many people saw similar changes in livestock production so to protect small farms, legislation was passed to slow the change to marketing alliances where turkey growers produced birds under contract.

As the turkey industry grew enormously in other states, he said, Kansas turkey growers lost the competitive edge they had as the industry modernized into integrated production models.

“Ironically, the model for integrated turkey production used today has saved many family farms by growing turkeys on contract – but in other states, not Kansas,” Beyer said. “Farms, feed mills, hatcheries, and processing plants once in Kansas were all closed and built in other states. And the jobs and farm diversification went with them.”

Other factors like market proximity and transportation over sparse farm roads were no doubt contributing factors, but the very regulations meant to save the farm actually closed many of the turkey farms in Kansas.

By the early 1980s, virtually no turkeys were grown in Kansas, Beyer added. Even the Central Kansas Hatchery, which at one time hatched 2 million to 3 million day-old-poults a year, shipped their turkeys to neighboring states. But the cost of moving all of those turkeys to other states for feeding and processing became too much and that hatchery closed as well.

In the late 1980s, a few commercial turkey farms, built to grow turkeys under contract with a large integrated turkey producer, opened in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas.

Other large farms soon followed in the same area and a feed mill was constructed. The turkeys grown in that area today are processed across the state line in Missouri.

“Kansas remains a potential state for significant turkey production,” Beyer said. “There are a small number of growers in Kansas that produce heritage breed turkeys and some are marketed nationally. With good roads, a strong agricultural base, and feed resources, the turkey industry could one day look to Kansas to grow birds again.”

Because the industry has become ensconced in other states, Beyer said, it would take a sustained and concerted effort by local farm groups, cites, counties and the state to show that Kansas should be considered when new growth occurs in the turkey industry.

“Perhaps rural areas in need of new jobs and business would see turkey production as a way to diversity farming and brings new jobs to Kansas,” he said.    

Kansas unemployment rate down to 4.4 percent

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- The State of Kansas' unemployment rate has decreased from 4.7 percent to 4.4 percent.

More information:
The state’s October seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, down from 4.7 percent in September and down from 5.2 percent in October 2013.

Kansas gained 13,900 seasonally adjusted private sector jobs, an increase of 1.2 percent since last year, and 13,800 nonfarm jobs, a 1 percent increase.
Since last month, Kansas gained 7,500 seasonally adjusted private sector jobs, a 0.7 percent increase. The state gained 8,400 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs, a 0.6 percent increase since last month.

“The private sector continues to lead Kansas’ comeback from the Great Recession. This month, employers boosted job levels to a new record high,” said Justin McFarland, Director, Labor Market Information Services. “Kansans also saw their earnings increase by 3.3 percent over the month. The increased income will continue to drive growth.”

Not seasonally adjusted figures show Kansas gained 13,900 private sector jobs since last year, or 1.2 percent, as well as 13,900 nonfarm jobs, an increase of 1 percent.

Since September, private sector jobs increased by 9,700, a 0.9 percent growth. The state gained 16,000 total nonfarm jobs over the month, a 1.1 percent increase.

“Labor market conditions improved with record high employment and a 0.3 percentage point decrease in the unemployment rate from 4.7 percent in September to 4.4 percent in October,” said Efua Afful, Labor Economist. “With higher consumption capacity, we expect greater demand for goods and services with benefits for consumers and businesses.”

The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in October was 3.8 percent, down from 4.3 percent in September and down from 4.9 percent last year.

There were 11,175 initial claims for unemployment benefits in October 2014, up from 10,978 in  September and down from 13,489 last year.

There were 66,959 continued claims in October, down from 68,335 the previous month and down from 93,184 in October 2013. These numbers include all available programs. Kansas labor market information for October is available here.

Information on procedures for producing Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) estimates is available on the BLS website here and procedures for producing Current Employment Statistics (CES) estimates is available on the BLS website here.
 

STATE NEWS: Jackson County Property Owner Pleads Guilty to Clean Water Act Violation

TOPEKA, KAN. – A man who owns property in Jackson County, Kan., pleaded guilty Friday to violating the federal Clean Water Act, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

Rodney Heinen, 38, Dawson, Neb., pleaded guilty to one count of discharging pollutants into a stream without a permit. In his plea, he admitted he caused earthen fill and wood debris to be placed in streams flowing through properties he owns in Jackson County.

A regulatory specialist with the Corps of Engineers discovered the violations on one of Heinen’s properties on Feb. 2, 2012. Heinen refused to allow the Corps of Engineers access to the property to make an environmental assessment. The violation affected several unnamed tributaries to Straight Creek, which drains into the Delaware River, which is classified as a Traditionally Navigable Water.

In 2013, the Corps of Engineers found a similar violation on another property in Jackson County owned by Heinen. The violation affected two unnamed tributaries to North Cedar Creek, which drains into the Delaware River.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 6. The government is recommending a sentence of five years supervised probation and a fine between $20,000 and $150,000. The Environmental Protection Agency investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Hathaway is prosecuting.

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger receives national association award

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Sandy Praeger, Commissioner of Insurance, received the President’s Award earlier this week from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The award is for Distinguished NAIC Member Leadership.

In making the award, current NAIC President Adam Hamm, insurance commissioner from North Dakota, said of Commissioner Praeger, “During her 12 years in office, she has shaped policy, built consensus and been a friend to all of us in this room.

As NAIC President, she set a vision for collaboration and cooperation and navigated this body through some of the most contentious policy debates.  Her ability to work through tough issues is matched only by her compassion and respect for her colleagues.”

Commissioner Praeger received the award at the NAIC Fall meeting in Washington, D.C on Sunday, Nov. 16. The NAIC has representatives from each of the insurance departments in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.

“I am deeply humbled by the recognition my fellow commissioners have given me,” Commissioner Praeger said.  “It is truly an honor to work with them on behalf of insurance consumers throughout the United States.”

Commissioner Praeger was president of NAIC in 2008, and has been Chair of the NAIC Health and Managed Care Committee numerous times during her tenure as commissioner.

She is a three-term, elected statewide official who is retiring in January 2015.

  

KCKCC rebounds from opening loss in national volleyball tourney

By ALAN HOSKINS

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Kansas City Kansas Community College stayed alive in the NJCAA Division II national tournament today with a decisive 3-0 win over Genesee, N.Y.

The win sends the 7th seeded Lady Blue Devils (30-10) into the semifinals of the loser’s bracket against either No. 11 Sauk Valley (36-7) or No. 14 Northern Virginia (23-9) today at 5:30 p.m. (Kansas City time). The Blue Devils made quick work of 15th seeded Genesee, winning 25-12, 25-9, 25-11.

A win in the semifinals would send the Blue Devils into the 9th place championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. All games can be seen on-line on the NJCAA website and clicking on Division II and NJCAA TV.

No. 10 Glendale, Ariz., dealt KCKCC a 3-0 setback in Thursday’s opening round, jumping to a 25-12 first set win. Glendale had 19 kills in a 25-23 second set win before coming from behind in the third set. KCKCC led 21-19 only to have Glendale score the next five points on the way to a 25-22 win.

Glendale followed its win over KCKCC with a 3-2 upset of No. 2 seeded Central Nebraska while No. 6 Cowley knocked off No. 3 Illinois Central 3-1. Those two teams will collide in the championship semifinals tonight with No. 1 Parkland and No. 5 Columbus State clashing in other semifinal.

Three indicted on food stamp fraud, wire fraud charges

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- -Sajjad S. Chaudhry, 46; Saima Sajjad, 38; and Brian D. Parker, 47, are charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, food stamp fraud counts and wire fraud counts. Chaudhry also is charged with aggravated identity theft counts.

The crimes are alleged to have occurred from May 2011 to March 2014 at the KC Gas Mart, 2859 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kan. Chaudhry and his wife, Saima Sajjad, operated and managed the store.

The indictment alleges the defendants took part in fraudulent transactions in which employees of the store gave food stamp recipients cash instead of authorized food items at a rate of about 50 cents on the dollar.

Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:
  • Conspiracy: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Food stamp fraud: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Wire fraud: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Aggravated identity theft: A mandatory two years consecutive to other imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture - Office of Inspector General investigated. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Tomasic is prosecuting.