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News in Brief

Alaska: Three men, including now-retired Missoula, Montana, police officer Casey Richardson, were sentenced at an Anchorage court hearing in January 2019 for their roles in hunting-related crimes within the Wrangell Saint Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska during 2014 and 2015, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The alleged scheme of Richardson, along with Dale Lackner and Jeffrey Harris, involved poisoning wolves to control the predator population, which reportedly ensured more targets for lodge guests to shoot. Richardson allegedly placed an artificial sweetener into rabbit carcasses. The men worked at the Ptarmigan Lake Lodge of guide Urban Rahoi, an unindicted co-conspirator who reportedly bought 15 pounds of xylitol and was cited but not charged with running an illegal bear-baiting station. Richardson was sentenced, along with Jeffrey Harris of Washington, to three months in a halfway house, followed by three months of home confinement, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. “All three men are prohibited from hunting or assisting with hunting during a five-month probation period. Richardson is also ordered to pay $14,000 in restitution,” according to the Missoulian. The newspaper reports that “Richardson pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a conservation law established in 1900 criminalizing the illegal taking of wildlife, fish and plants.”

Connecticut: The host of the former sting-operation TV series To Catch a Predator has been accused of bouncing checks and failing to pay for nearly $13,000 worth of marketing materials he received” from Promotional Sales Limited of Summer Street, according to The Connecticut Post (ctpost.com). Stamford Police told the newspaper that Chris Hansen, 59, faces a charge of issuing a bad check and was released after signing a promise to appear in court. Hansen’s order included 355 mugs, 288 T-shirts and 650 decals, which he intended to use at marketing events, the arrest affidavit said. Although one of Hansen’s employees wrote a check for the bill via Hansen News LLC in response to three months of invoices, police report the check bounced. Vendor Peter Psichopaidas told police he refused Hansen’s offer to make four partial payments. “I told Chris that I understood that he may have trouble, but that nearly $13,000 is a lot of money to a ‘mom-and-pop’ business and it is not fair that he accepted the material but hasn’t paid for it,” the affidavit said. Hansen sought more time and said he’d sold a boat to cover the bill. Hansen turned himself in and was released without bond. To Catch a Predator featured a hidden camera to catch would-be sex offenders. The show, which began as a Dateline NBC segment, was canceled in 2008. 

Florida: Majid Dedihban, a computer engineer under contract for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, was reportedly caught in a sex sting after he allegedly exchanged sexual messages in December 2018 with a sheriff’s deputy posing as a 15-year-old girl. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says Dedihban purchased air fare for the imposter teen to travel from Florida to California, according to palmbeachpost.com. Dedihban, 35, faces charges of “attempted enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity and attempted transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity,” the news site reports. Each charge is punishable by a maximum 10-year prison sentence. “Hi! I’m looking for a girl to roleplay daddy/daughter ... if u like?” he wrote in his dating-app initial text. Phone calls and thousands of text messages followed. “Dedihban is being held without bond while waiting to be transported across the country to answer the charges,” palmbeachpost.com reports.

Florida: A police sergeant was videotaped by a bystander kicking a handcuffed, just-arrested teen in the head while the boy was on the ground in February 2018 in Miami-Dade County, according to miamiherald.com. “The footage was released [January 3, 2019] as part of the criminal case against Sergeant Gustavo De Los Rios, 38, who was charged with misdemeanor battery in August,” the website reports. The incident occurred after the teen, identified as D.B., was pulled over with his mother. D.B. was wanted in connection with a burglary. “When the teen began to run, one of the officers fired his Taser stun gun and struck D.B. in the back, according to his arrest report. On the ground, the report says, D.B. punched and kicked, striking De Los Rios several times in the chest and on the arm. He was taken into custody and charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with and without violence. He was also charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling …” The sergeant, on the other hand, drew the ire of the police director. “His actions are disappointing and do not reflect our agency’s core values,” stated Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez. “I assure our community that the allegations of misconduct involving our personnel will be vigorously investigated. No one is above the law.”

Louisiana: The Harahan Police Department Facebook site spread misinformation to lure methamphetamine users to have their drug tested, but no readers apparently took the bait, reason.com reports. The December 29, 2018, post, which has since been removed, read: “***WARNING: ***If you have recently purchased meth in any area of Louisiana it may be contaminated with the Zika Virus.” The department then urged meth users to bring their drugs to the police for free testing or to ask for a home visit from them. Harahan Police Chief Tim Walker talked to The New Orelans Advocate. The Facebook “post was just a stunt to raise awareness of drug abuse and that it’s not actually possible to have Zika virus in methamphetamine. Walker said his department got the idea for the post from other law enforcement agencies that made essentially the same announcement over the past year, with police in Alabama, Ohio and New Jersey all doing so, according to media reports.”

New Jersey: An investigation is underway after a retired Newark police lieutenant committed suicide inside the Bloomfield Police Department headquarters after he was arrested in January 2019 over a domestic violence incident, according to officials and nypost.com. The 58-year-old Patrick Montella “was in the process of being released when he lunged for his old service weapon — which had been collected during his arrest — and shot himself,” sources told nbcnewyork.com. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Investigators are now reviewing all the facts and footage from cameras to determine how this occurred even as policies are in place to ensure such tragedies don’t happen, said Bloomfield Police Director Samuel DeMaio. “The president of the Newark police union FOP Lodge 12 said the incident ‘has shaken the Newark Police Department to its core.’” Officials said “it was the second time in seven months that a detainee in a New Jersey police station shot himself,” the news site reports. “In June [2018], 41-year-old Jermaine Covington, a suspect in an attempted carjacking, grabbed a gun from an officer and fatally shot himself at the Hillside Police Department.”

New Hampshire: In a plea deal, disgraced Claremont cop Ian Kibbe was sentenced in January 2019 to 90 days in jail for performing an illegal search and falsifying a report about how it happened, according to the Concord Monitor. The agreement also calls for Kibbe to give up his state police credentials for two years. The former sergeant seemed to say he was sorry but offered such excuses as he “was working with ‘inexperienced officers,’ had a ‘busy shift’ and ‘couldn’t spare the manpower’” to obtain a warrant Feb. 24, 2018, to legally search the bedroom of convicted felon Christopher Ratcliffe, who was under investigation, according to concordmonitor.com.  After returning to the police station, Kibbe reported he had seen weapons in the room—a baton and a firearm in plain sight—when, in fact, they were uncovered in a bag and a suitcase, concordmonitor.com reports. Kibbe signed an affidavit attesting to the erroneous information in order to hold Ratcliffe. “Kibbe originally faced a total of six charges, including two felonies. He took a plea agreement in December [2018] and pleaded guilty to one count of unsworn falsification and one count of obstructing government administration, both misdemeanors,” concordmonitor.com reports. The incident came to light from a state trooper who was at the scene. Said Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward: “(To) see what this defendant did here, so casually, so easily lie about how evidence was found ... it’s not an understatement to say it shakes one’s faith in the system.”

Montana: After pleading guilty in 2018, former forensic scientist Derek Lee Thrush was sentenced in January to six months in jail for stealing methamphetamine from the evidence supply at a state crime lab where he once worked. Thrush pleaded guilty “to three felony drug possession charges and two misdemeanors, theft and official misconduct, after accepting a plea deal in August,” according to forensicmag.com. In addition, he must pay $18,000 in restitution. “Missoula Deputy County Attorney James McCubbin said the prosecutor’s office had dismissed 26 cases, declined 13 and expunged another four directly because of Thrush’s conduct at the state crime lab. He added Thrush’s case has caused a ‘very significant backlog’ at the state crime lab, as well,” reports missoulian.com. Additionally: In February 2018, the former lab worker was allegedly on meth in a trial in Great Falls. “After it was uncovered Thrush had ingested meth before testifying, District Judge John Parker reversed the Great Falls man’s conviction and issued a grave rebuke of Thrush’s actions,” missoulian.com reports. The judge wrote: “The manifest hypocrisy in this situation — when a Montana Department of Justice employee with meth in his system testified and helped secure another man’s meth possession conviction — is abhorrent.”

New York: An off-duty New York City police officer was charged with driving while impaired after crashing a car as he traveled the wrong way down a one-way street November 4, 2018, nypost.com reports. “Officer Harry Sepulveda, 31, slammed into the unoccupied car at Wythe Avenue and North 12th Street, in Greenpoint, around 2 a.m.,” the website reports, quoting authorities. While he is under investigation as to whether he was drunk or on drugs, there will be no breathalyzer results. Sepulveda refused to take the test, authorities said.

New York:  A New York Police Department sergeant was suspended and placed under house arrest in Amityville after being charged with dealing heroin, nydailynews.com reports. “Arlicia Robinson, 48, was indicted in November (2018) and charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute.” At the time of her indictment, nydailynews.com says, “Robinson was assigned to a Housing Bureau command in Brooklyn that covered 22 projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn.” She was asked to surrender a passport and any possible firearms. A pretrial conference had been set for Feb. 22.

New York: A romantic conflict among four New York Police Department officers led to their bosses to impound their guns, according to nypost.com. One live-in girlfriend found incriminating photos on her boyfriend’s cellphone. In one image, another female officer is gazing into his eyes and yet another photo shows him “nuzzling” her face and “kissing her cheek,” the news site reports. The scorned officer then allegedly posted the photos to his Instagram account. According to nypost.com: “The NYPD report says a total of nine handguns were seized from all four cops under a section of the Patrol Guide that permits impounding firearms in ‘non-disciplinary cases,’ including those involving ‘stress as a result of family or other situations.’ A law-enforcement source said the circumstances raised ‘the potential for violent outcomes due to the sensitive nature of infidelity and everyone having access to guns.’”

Texas: Sergeant Jamie L. McDonald, a Dallas police officer who allegedly beat her 8-year-old daughter for posting a video to YouTube showing her crying over the loss of her pet cat, has been charged with felony injury to a child, according to newsmaven.io. The allegation surfaced when McDonald’s ex-husband picked up his children and noticed bruises. Photos by police revealed bruises to the child’s right cheek and arms and a hand imprint on the left cheek. The arrest affidavit said the mother sat on the girl’s stomach and slapped her face and arms. The girl’s brother was drawn in as a witness after he heard her scream. He also told Royse City police that he recalled his mother pinning him to the wall choking him. McDonald was placed on paid leave.

Texas:  A Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District police officer faces charges of aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl he reportedly stalked her via the smartphone dating app MeetMe in which he went by the name “Jay,” according to click2houston.com. Police said Jorge Luis Bastida, 22, sent an Uber in October 2018 to pick up the child at her home in Deer Park and take her to an apartment in Cypress before he drove her to the GuestHouse Inn, where he raped her. He reportedly recorded it on his phone, houstonchronicle.com reports. Her injuries were consistent with an assault, medical authorities told police. She was located about six hours after her family reported her missing when she didn’t come home at night. The app was discovered on her school iPad although the school district disagrees. The school resource officer-in-training was removed from school grounds and arrested before resigning.

Texas: Tanya L. Richard, 43, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $166,250 in restitution for her role in a six-year scheme to scam federal prisoners and their families while she was an administrative employee at the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, according to kfdm.com. Richard pleaded guilty in June 2018 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition, six co-defendants, “some of whom were former federal inmates, pleaded guilty to a similar charge last year in the same scheme and are currently serving federal prison sentences for their involvement,” kfdm.com reports. The countrywide “scheme defrauded the relatives of federal inmates by falsely representing that they could obtain reductions in their relatives’ sentences in exchange for the payment of cash and wire transfers of funds. The payments were falsely represented to be for the payment for a network of confidential informants who would make undercover drug transactions under the direction of the courts and prosecutors, which would allow the incarcerated inmates to ask the court for reductions of sentences for providing substantial assistance to the government under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In reality, the money was spent for the personal benefit of the defendants and there was never any network of informants or undercover transactions.”

Washington: Spokane’s police department can no longer have an auction house sell its confiscated firearms because some of the guns, it turns out, were used to commit new crimes. A November 2018 city ordinance makes it official. The decision follows an investigation by the Associated Press that discovered the sales were putting assault weapons “back into the community.” Prior to the ordinance, the department had sold 311 guns since 2011, according to spokesman Officer John O’Brien, and more than a dozen of those were assault weapons. “The AP investigation went back to 2010, which included 25, bringing Spokane’s total to 336 since 2010,” apnews.com reports. In fact, more than a dozen guns sold by area law enforcement agencies “later became evidence in new criminal investigations.”

West Yorkshire, England: Ex-police officer David Lomax, who four decades ago blackmailed a woman who couldn’t pay a fine into having sex, has been sentenced to eight years, according to telegraph.com.co.uk, possibly closing Britain’s “oldest cold case.” The case reopened because of scientific advances and the DNA found on a towel in the victim’s home, where she was raped.  Back in 1978, Lomax was a warrant officer with West Yorkshire Police when he attempted to collect a fine from a woman at her home in Leeds, but she couldn’t pay.  “You threatened her with custody and her daughter being taken into care, and offered an escape route,” the judge said. “That escape route was to satisfy your sexual needs.” Lomax, 83, was convicted by jury of “single counts of rape and misconduct in a public office.” 

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