project365-gavel-5541804-lRam Hingorani and Ronald Waugh were charged with felony fraud last year for allegedly nabbing $23.4 million worth of government construction contracts that were meant for disabled war veterans. The case is now going to jury trial, and the two men could face lengthy prison sentences if convicted.

The two men entered not guilty pleas last year for 32 counts of felony fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors say the men bid on construction contracts through their company, Midwest Contracting, to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Des Moines, Iowa. Reports suggest that Midwest Contracting won contracts for 45 construction projects that were designed specifically for disabled veterans. In 1999, the U.S. Congress established a goal of making 3% of all government construction projects intended for disabled veterans.

Defense attorneys representing Hingorani and Waugh argue that the Veteran Affairs office was happy with the work conducted by its clients and there was no intent to disrupt, manipulate, or otherwise harm the government in any way, shape or form.

Midwest Contracting was founded by Hingorani and Waugh back in 2007. According to the federal indictment, Waugh submitted a claims form to the VA for hearing loss from his time as a servicemen in the Vietnam War.

The government intends to present evidence that (Midwest Contracting) and (Midwest Paving) have the same executive and employees and shared the same office space. In fact, the evidence will show that Midwest Contracting Inc. had little to no assets, employees or overhead. The sole purpose of [the company] was to secure government contracts that Hingorani, would not otherwise be entitled to,”  said prosecutors.

Defense attorneys, however, responded by saying that this case, at the very worst, is nothing more than a contractual dispute that found its way into a federal courtroom.

“This case is, at the very worst, an ordinary regulatory or contractual dispute that mistakenly found its way into a criminal courtroom. The VA’s verification corroborated the defendants’ well-supported and good-faith belief that [their company] complied with the [disabled veterans] program,” wrote defense attorneys in their clients’ brief.

Unfortunately, cases such as this are becoming all too common. Bogus companies are often created for the sole purpose of winning government contracts, but this case goes one step further by focusing on government contracts for disabled veterans. If claims that the VA were happy with the defendants’ work turns out to be true, however, it will be interesting to see how this case plays out.

fireforestBurning over a quarter of a million square miles, the Rim Fire was one of the largest and most devastating wildfires ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. It started on August 17, 2013 and burned until October 24, 2014, destroying 11 homes and 101 buildings. Well, authorities recently charged a bow hunter in connection with the Rim Fire.

A federal grand jury indicted 32-year-old Keith Matthew Emerald of Columbia, California for starting the devastating fire. Officials believe Emerald was on a solo bow hunting tip in the Clavey River basin, when he started a fire to cook some food. The ultra dry conditions and high wind gusts created a dangerous scenario, however, stirring the fire while sending burning embers uphill.

The fire quickly grew out of control, placing Emerald in direct danger. Thankfully, a rescue helicopter found the stranded bow hunter and was able to carry him off to safety about an hour after the fire was reported.

During the initial talks with investigators, Emerald said he started the fire on accident by slipping on some rocks which subsequently sparked nearby dry vegetation. In September, however, he changed his story, writing in a confession that he started the fire with some twigs and pine needles. He reported that some of the burning embers from his campfire blew uphill and started the fire.

But the story doesn’t end there. Just weeks later, Emerald said he was coerced into writing the confession. Court documents reveal that he even blamed the fire on marijuana growers in the region, who he said encroached on the national property.

Although no one died as a result of the fire, it destroyed over $127 million worth of property and injured dozens of residents and firefighters.

The Rim Fire was one of the largest in California history and caused tremendous economic and environmental harm. While those harms cannot be undone, today we have brought criminal charges relating to the cause of that fire. I want to commend the Forest Service agents for their diligent and extensive investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, whose eastern district includes the Sierra.

Emerald is being charged with one felony count of starting a forest fire while a ban is in place, one felony count of lying to  investigators about the incident, and a misdemeanor count of leaving a fire unattended. If convicted, Emerald faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Pistol-Revolver-Fire-12810-lDonna Drive of New Haven, Connecticut is normally a quaint part of town with little for residents to talk about. On August 2, however, it was a different story, as police responded to a shooting at the Donna Drive apartment complex.

Around 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 2, a 911 operator received a phone call from a man claiming to have shot someone who was attempting to stab him with a knife. The caller went back to his apartment following the incident to call 911, where he then waited for police to arrive.

When police arrived, they found 23-year-old Leroy Brown laying in the apartment building’s hallway with a gunshot wound to the head. Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals placed Brown on a stretcher and transported him to the nearby Yale New Haven Hospital where he remains in critical condition. Brown lives in an apartment complex at Donna Drive with his girlfriend and mother.

The shooter, 71-year-old Anthony Anamasi of 25 Donna Drive, cooperated with police, assisting them in their investigation. Although the investigation is still ongoing, authorities have since charged Anamasi with first-degree assault. Prosecutors may upgrade the charge to manslaughter, however, if Brown’s gunshot wound proves to be fatal. On the other hand, prosecutors may drop the charges altogether if they deem Anamasi fired his weapon in self defense.

The relationship between Anamasi and Brown remains unclear. Charlene Quinn, a long-time neighbor of Anamasi, said the 71-year-old man had always treated him with respect, while watching him being taken into custody.

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, Connecticut passed a series of gun laws — viewed as being some of the most restrictive in the country. With that said, gun ownership remains legal in Connecticut.

He’s always treated me with respect. We don’t have any more problems than any other neighborhood,” said 25-year-resident Charlene Quinn, who lives in an adjacent apartment complex.

It’s also unclear whether or not Brown was holding a knife at the time of the shooting. According to media reports, Anamasi told 911 operators that he had shot someone who was attempting to attack him with a knife. But police have yet to confirm the presence of a knife at the scene. If Brown did not in fact have knife, it could bolster the prosecution’s case against Anamasi. On the other hand, if he did have a knife, the case could turn in the opposite direction with Anamasi having a sound defense for self-protection.

project365-gavel-5541804-lA joint operation between Lafayette, Indiana police and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) led to the arrest of four doctors whom authorities say took advantage of their patients’ addictions by over-prescribing dangerous drugs, often without performing the proper medical exams beforehand.

Last month, authorities raided four separate medical clinics in the Lafayette area, arresting four doctors as well as seven people whom they believe participated in the drug trafficking operation. According to the police reports, the four doctors arrested in the drug bust operation were illegally prescribing suboxone — a synthetic variant of heroin — in exchange for cash. Patients would walk into the clinic with cash in hand, and walk out with the drugs. Authorities believe the patients at these practices rarely went through the normal examination procedure that’s required by state and federal law for doctors to prescribe controlled drugs.

The four doctors being accused of illegally prescribing drugs are:

  • Dr. Larry Ley, of Noblesville
  • Dr. George Agapios, of Fishers
  • Dr. Ronald Vierk, of Richmond
  • Dr. Luella Bangura, of Lafayette

Each doctor is facing multiple felony counts.

There were no physical or mental exams,” said Maj. Aaron Dietz of the Carmel Police Department. “Patients walked in, paid their cash and walked out with prescriptions.”

Dietz noted that the initial visit to these clinics typically cost patients (or drug addicts) $300. Follow-up refill appointments, however, were slightly cheaper at just $120-$160. It’s unclear how much money these “pill mills” earned during the course of their operation, but similar operations have yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So, how were local law enforcement officers and DEA agents able to uncover these operations? Police say it was a months-long investigation involving the use of undercover agents that ultimately spurred the doctors’ arrest. Undercover agents were able to purchase the suboxone on 27 different occasions throughout the course of the investigation.

Pill mills have become a growing problem not only in Indiana, but throughout the entire country. Doctors open practices with the sole purpose of prescribing pain killers and other addictive drugs to patients who may or may not need them. Rather than weening their patients off these potentially dangerous drugs, they continue to feed their addiction by selling them additional refills. It’s a viscous cycle that has spurred both state and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal sales of prescription drugs through clinics and medical offices.