crime

Arrests have been made in Detroit and San Diego after a vehicle theft ring was uncovered.

From the Associated Press:

More than a dozen people have been arrested in the theft and transporting of luxury rental cars and sport utility vehicles from the United States to Canada for shipment and sale in the Middle East.

The U.S. attorney's office in Detroit says nine people were arrested in Michigan and four others in San Diego following a two-year investigation dubbed "Operation Hot Wheels."

An indictment unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit says members of an organization rented vehicles from national chains in Michigan and Ohio and drove them into Canada.

Police reports later were filed claiming the vehicles were carjacked or stolen in Detroit.

Five vehicles were found in containers at a Montreal port awaiting shipment to Iraq.

One man still was being sought by authorities.

user fizzgig and the sputnik sweetheart / Flickr

Former University of Michigan basketball player, NBA player, and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose was released from Oakland County Jail today after spending 16 days behind bars for drunken driving.

Rose apologized for the DUI and his lawyer said he shouldn't have been jailed.

When he pleaded guilty in May to driving while intoxicated, Rose told District Court Judge Kimberly Small he drank six martinis before crashing his SUV in March along a snowy road in West Bloomfield Township.

Small, who is known for coming down hard on drunken drivers, lectured Rose for 15 minutes before delivering her sentence. She told him that jail time was the "right punishment" in his case.

Small routinely sends first-time drunken drivers to jail, and has said she believes that sends a message that it is a serious crime. Under Michigan law, first-time drunken driving is a maximum 93-day misdemeanor, but there is no minimum mandatory jail time.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Update 4:43 p.m.:

The MDCH posted the submerged oil study on their website this afternoon (it was also presented at a public meeting last night in Marshall). You can read more about the report here.

10:35 a.m.

Report: No long term health effects from submerged oil

Results of a Michigan Department of Community Health toxicology study reaches this conclusion. The results of the study were released last night.

From the Associated Press:

A study says there are no long-term health effects of submerged oil from last year's spill in southern Michigan's Kalamazoo River.

The Battle Creek Enquirer and the Kalamazoo Gazette report results of the Michigan Department of Community Health toxicology study were released Wednesday evening at a community meeting in Marshall to discuss the progress of a cleanup related to the spill.

The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Officials say closed portions of the river could be reopened later this year or in 2012.

Big drug bust in Pontiac

The DEA and the Oakland County sheriff's department released details of one of the bigger drug busts in Michigan.

From the Associated Press:

Authorities in southeast Michigan say they've seized an estimated $150 million worth of heroin and
cocaine during a bust earlier this month.

The Oakland County sheriff's department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday announced details of last Friday's bust in Pontiac. Authorities say a search of a home found 69 kilograms of heroin and 10.5 kilograms of cocaine.

The agencies say it's the largest quantity of heroin ever discovered in Michigan. Sheriff Mike Bouchard says the sheer quantity of drugs is "startling."

Authorities say a traffic stop earlier in the day turned up 2 kilograms of suspected cocaine and led investigators to get a search warrant for the home. During the search of the home they found more than $560,000 in cash along with the heroin and cocaine.

Police called during protest a Huizenga's office

Police were called after some protesters entered the building where U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga's (R-Zeeland) office is located downtown Muskegon.

So far, there have been six recent attacks on women in Ann Arbor. The attacks caused Ann Arbor's Police Chief to declare that young women in the community should be cautious.

The police aren't sure if the attacks are being committed by one person.

Now, the FBI is assisting the Ann Arbor Police. From AnnArbor.com:

The FBI is assisting the Ann Arbor Police Department in the investigation into six recent attacks on women in Ann Arbor, including two rapes, FBI officials confirmed today.

FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold, a bureau spokeswoman in Detroit, said AAPD contacted the FBI for assistance, but she could not discuss specifics.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

A state Senate panel will hold hearings soon on whether Michigan should extend its 10-year statute of limitations for charging people with violent crimes such as kidnapping, assault, and murder.

Republican Senator Rick Jones says he understands that extending the statute of limitations does not mean every old crime will be solved.

“Well certainly the colder the case, the more difficult it is for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction. But if somebody comes forward, there’s evidence – whether it be scientific evidence or a confession, certainly they should be able to bring charges.”

Jones says he wanted to take up the issue after he learned the statute of limitations prevented the Ingham County prosecutor from filing charges in a manslaughter case.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings when lawmakers return to the Capitol later this summer. Jones chairs the committee.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A Michigan Supreme Court says homeless sex offenders must report their home address to the state even though they don’t actually have homes.  Paroled sex offenders are legally required to provide their home address to the state sex offender registry. But what if they’re homeless?   

Randall Lee Dowdy is a convicted rapist.  He was paroled in 2002. But he was arrested again a few years later after he gave the address of a Lansing non-profit as his ‘home address’. Dowdy was homeless at the time.  

Lower courts ruled Dowdy couldn’t be charged with violating the law since he didn’t have a home address to report. 

But the Michigan Supreme Court says homelessness is no excuse. In a 4 to 3 decision, the high court ruled the lower courts had not taken the ‘intent’ of the law into account, adding homelessness doesn’t prevent sex offenders from complying with the law requiring them to report their ‘home’ address to the state.

The dissenting justices describe the majority’s opinion as defying ‘common sense.’

The city of Grand Rapids experienced a series of tragic events yesterday. An alleged lone shooter murdered seven people, including two children, and engaged in a standoff with police before taking his life. As the events played out people in Grand Rapids turned to social media.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Cliff Lampe about the role of social media during this tragic event. Lampe is Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Telecommunication and Information Studies and Media.   

In the interview Lampe says:                                             

"Uncertainty can cause a lot of anxiety for people. So looking to social media for very up to date information can help reduce uncertainty and make them feel more comfortable. A lot of people were also reaching out to loved ones who lived in the affected area just, both to express concern about how they were doing and to make sure every body was okay, and then to find out more information about what was going on."

After an 8-hour manhunt and standoff, police say the suspect in the shooting deaths of 7 people in Grand Rapids yesterday killed himself while holding 3 people hostage. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith was on the scene in Grand Rapids into the night. She spoke this morning with Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley about what we know so far about the suspect, the victims, and what comes next in the police investigation.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Drag racing has become a serious problem in Flint.   But the city is taking steps to put the brakes on the illegal street racers.  

The Flint city council increased penalties last week on people caught drag racing.  Drag racers will now have to pay an administrative fee of up to $900 to get their vehicles out of the police impound lot.  

screen grab from YouTube video

Imagine being picked up by police for a crime you did not commit. You plead your innocence, but no one believes you.

Now imagine you're convicted and sentenced to prison for that crime.

For our What's Working series, Michigan Radio host Christina Shockley spoke with David Moran, the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

The Clinic, at the University of Michigan Law School, aims to overturn the convictions of people who were wrongfully convicted.

It's estimated that 1,500 people currently in Michigan prisons were wrongfully convicted.

You can hear the interview with David Moran above.

And here's a video from the Michigan Innocence Clinic on the case of Dwayne Provience who spent ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

USFWS

ROME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Federal authorities have filed charges and taken over the case of thousands of marijuana plants discovered in Lenawee County.

The government says more than 8,000 plants worth millions were found last week in Rome Township, 65 miles southwest of Detroit. Edwin and Linda Schmieding were charged in federal court Monday with conspiracy and growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

Agent Lloyd Hopkins says Linda Schmieding told police they were paid $500 a week for marijuana, and some pot was sold as medical marijuana.

The Schmiedings likely will appear this week in federal court in Detroit. They've been in the Lenawee County jail since June 6.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Kalamazoo authorities have developed a partnership to deal with the hazardous waste left behind by illegal methamphetamine production.

The Department of Public Safety says in a statement Monday that it worked with state officials and the city's Public Services Department to develop a methamphetamine remediation program that's modeled after one developed by Kentucky State Police.

Authorities collect the waste and it's transferred to a central location where the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration takes over disposal responsibility.

Kalamazoo says it's the first such Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant program in the state.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update 2:20 p.m.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy are auditing records from Flint City Hall, according to the Flint Journal. Reporter Kristin Longley writes a "city source" says the FBI accompanied the USDOE investigators:

The investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Energy is auditing the city's use of federal energy grant funds, a federal official confirmed today, following reports that federal officials are investigating Flint City Hall.

The DOE's Office of Inspector General has investigators in the city of Flint examining how a federal grant for weatherization of low-income housing is being spent, said Rick Hass, deputy inspector general for audits and inspections.

Update 11:56 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody said Mayor Walling's press conference lasted all of 30 seconds. Here's the Mayor's full statement:

The Mayor confirmed there were a "number of ongoing federal investigations" underway.

10:34 a.m.

There's a federal investigation underway at Flint City Hall today. We don't know what federal officials are looking for at this point. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody will be at an 11:00 a.m. press conference being held by Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and will have an update for us later.

Kristin Longley from the Flint Journal writes:

In the past, the city has been the subject of reports from the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development related to misspent grant funds.

It was unknown whether today's investigation was related to any of the OIG's previous findings.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint mayor Dayne Walling is not disputing new FBI data that shows his city had the highest violent crime rate in the nation in 2010.  Flint set a record for homicides last year.   The city’s arson rate also soared topping the FBI’s list in that category too.

The FBI released a preliminary Uniform Crime Report today that lists reported crimes in cities with more than 100,000 people.

Comparing this year's report with last year's - crime is down.

In the Midwest, violent crimes fell by 5.9%. From the FBI's report:

Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 5.5 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in 2010 when compared to figures reported for 2009. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Each city's law enforcement agency submits the number of reported crimes to the FBI. Each year, the agency compiles that data and releases it to the public.

When looking at the cities with the highest number of reported violent crimes per capita, Flint and Detroit are at the top. St. Louis, Missouri and New Haven, Connecticut follow the two Michigan cities.

The Detroit News reports:

Detroit enjoyed declines in murder, robbery and aggravated assault but bigger declines in large cities elsewhere pushed it second only to Flint in the overall violent crime rate. However, the FBI estimates Detroit's population at 899,447, while the 2010 Census put the city's population at 713,717. If the latter figure is used, Detroit's per capita rate exceeds Flint's, with 2,378 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Flint's 2010 rate was 2,210.

The FBI cautions against making judgments about a city's law enforcement agency based on these statistics, "since crime is a sociological phenomenon influenced by a variety of factors."

CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Two brothers whose Michigan company supplies parts to the auto industry have been charged with fraud in an investigation of the quality of plastic.

Orman and David Bernhardt of Davalor Mold are accused of using less expensive materials than required in seat belt assemblies and then covering it up through false reports.

The fraud charge was filed Monday. Their lawyer is Bob Sheehan, and he says a guilty plea is planned.

He says there's "absolutely no safety issue." Sheehan says the parts were tested by federal regulators.

Davalor Mold is in Macomb County's Chesterfield Township, about 30 miles northeast of Detroit. The company works for Tier I auto suppliers, which supply parts for automakers. The alleged scheme lasted for two years until spring 2010.

Kevin Spencer / Flickr

Five United States Postal Service supervisors were indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday in Detroit for conspiring to take bribes from  a private contractor in exchange for directing over $13 million in maintenance work on Postal Service vehicles.

From the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Michigan:

The USPS maintains Vehicle Maintenance Facilities around the country, including in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Akron, Ohio. The five Postal Service employees charged today worked at these facilities, and they had the responsibility to decide whether work on Postal vehicles would be performed by USPS employees or sent out to private contractors. They also had the responsibility to decide which private contractor would be used for work sent outside of the USPS.

Between 2004 and 2010, during the course of the conspiracies between the private contractor and the five USPS employees indicted today, the private contractor charged the USPS over $13 million for maintenance and repair work.

The bribes included things like tickets to sporting events, prostitution, drinks and lap dances at a strip club, Levitra (erectile dysfunction) pills, auto repair work, cars, and cash.

“U.S. government employees hold positions of public trust, and they are responsible for managing public funds," said United States Attorney Barbara McQuade. "Federal employees who personally profit by taking bribes in exchange for official acts will prosecuted.”

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Yesterday, we had a Batman in Petoskey.

Today, we have a faucet switcher in Flint.

As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. "

They're going pro in Flint.

This from the Flint Journal:

A man told police on Monday that someone mysteriously switched the faucet of his kitchen sink, according to a larceny report filed with Flint police.

The man told police he went into his kitchen at 9 p.m. Sunday and noticed a different faucet installed at the home on Colonial Drive near Fleming and West Carpenter Roads.

The man didn't know when or how the faucet was changed, but that it was a different one according to the report. The man told police he has insurance.

Staff here at Michigan Radio came to work this morning surprised to see that their faucet had been switched as well (see photo 1).

It now has one of those twisty-turny things screwed onto to the end.

Fortunately, we caught the copy-cat bandit red handed - Chief Engineer Bob Skon (see photo 2).

Skon said he was merely modifying the faucet so water would not flow onto the counter when people wash their hands.

Yea, right... save your story for the police.

Two embezzlement stories came the Associated Press wires this morning. One person was sentenced for embezzling money from a bank in Grand Rapids, and another investigation is beginning into possible embezzlement at Munson Healthcare.

From the Associated Press:

BANK EMBEZZLEMENT

Grand Rapids bank embezzler gets 3 years in prison

A woman who admitted embezzling about $600,000 from a Grand Rapids bank has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.

Joann Wierenga's lawyer says she needs help for a gambling addiction more than a long prison stay. Her sentence Monday was at the low end of the guidelines.

Wierenga pleaded guilty in February to embezzling from Huntington Bank for seven years. Her lawyer says she has repaid at least $132,000 and admitted the thefts when confronted by the bank in 2009.

Federal prosecutors say Wierenga took $1,600 from another employer last November, just three months before her guilty plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Borgula calls her an "irrepressible thief."

MUNSON HEALTH-EMBEZZLEMENT

More than $1 million stolen from Munson Healthcare
     
An accountant working for Munson Healthcare in Traverse City is accused of embezzling more than $1 million.

No charges have been filed, but the disclosure was made Friday in federal court in Grand Rapids. The Internal Revenue Service is asking a judge to order the seizure of personal bank accounts with $34,000 linked to the accountant.

In a court filing, IRS agent Brittany Hofstra says Munson's loss totals $1.1 million, and the accountant has been suspended. The accountant had access to accounts belonging to Munson and the Munson Foundation. The accountant was also responsible for paying payroll taxes and making deposits into employee retirement plans.

Munson is a health care provider serving 24 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. Its main hospital is in Traverse City.

user ka_tate / Flickr

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they will announce arrests in a "major internal drug smuggling conspiracy investigation" at Detroit Metro Airport.

They plan to hold a press conference this afternoon at 3:30 at the Homeland Security Investigations Office.

In the meantime, the Detroit Free Press is reporting 12 people were arrested:

Federal agents this morning arrested 12 individuals in an international drug smuggling investigation at Detroit Metro Airport, according to the U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcements.

All 12 arrestees are currently in federal custody. Of the 12, 10 are from Michigan; one is from Houston; another is from California, according to ICE officials.

The Detroit News reports that 10 of the 12 were baggage handlers who worked for Delta Airlines.

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