BP Clerk shot during robbery

January 16, 2009 by  
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LAKE PARK, FL — Detectives are searching for two suspects after they entered a BP gas station on Northlake Blvd and shot a store clerk.

According to detectives, the suspects pointed handguns at the clerk and demanded cash from the register.

Detectives say the clerk gave the suspects cash.

Detectives say one of the suspects began pulling the clerk toward the door when a struggle ensued. The clerk was then shot in the leg.

Both suspects then fled in a silver older model Buick with a hubcap missing from the left rear wheel.

The suspects are described as:

Suspect #1, B/M, approximately 5’8”, thin, wearing a black hooded jacket, armed with a black handgun.

Suspect #2, B/M, approximately 5’3”, thin, wearing a burgundy hooded jacket, armed with a silver handgun.

If anyone has information regarding this Armed Robbery/Shooting they are urged to contact Detective John Connor at 688-4711, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS or email to tips@cspbc.net.

Source: wptv.com

Palm Springs Murder victim tortured and shot

January 8, 2009 by  
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The two brothers thought Jose Gonzalez had their money.

So, they stormed the 37-year-old’s Palm Springs apartment and kidnapped him and his girlfriend, authorities say. They took them to a garage, tied them to chairs, beat Jose with a cord and doused him in gasoline.

When they were done, detectives say they put a plastic bag over Jose’s head and shot a bullet through it. Then they buried him in the back yard.

Two days later, they dug him up to bury him elsewhere.

The harrowing torture-and-murder scene unfolded over a half-hour or more at a house near Greenacres in late August, detectives say.

But it wasn’t until the discovery of a body Tuesday in a roadside grave off Lantana Road that investigators pieced together the evidence necessary to make arrests in what they said appeared to be a vicious attempt to recover $15,000 in stolen drug money.

“It does sound like something you’d read in a book or see in a movie,” said Lt. Michael Wallace, head of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force. “It’s extremely violent, and unfortunately we are dealing with people who are extremely violent.”

On Wednesday, one of the two alleged torturers and killers was arrested, along with two other men whom officials say helped dispose of the body.

Investigators from the Violent Crimes Task Force said Wednesday they were still looking for the second brother, identified in an arrest report as John Gonzalez, wanted in connection with the abduction and killing.

The brother already arrested was identified as Jose Ramon Ramirez, 28, of Greenacres, who officials say will face felony murder and armed kidnapping charges. Also arrested were Pedro Luis Santiago-Vega, 40, and Freddy Silvagnoli, 44, both of western Lake Worth.

Detectives had suspected Jose Gonzalez had been killed because he’d been reported missing by his cousin in late August.

But it wasn’t until an informant came forward claiming to know where he was buried that the case broke.

After three searches of a construction site at the corner of Haverhill and Lantana roads, investigators unearthed a skeleton. They now believe the skeleton is Jose Gonzalez’s remains, although they say an autopsy is needed to confirm the identity.

Detectives’ interviews with the informant, and later with some of the suspects themselves, paint a grisly picture that started with the kidnapping of the man and a woman at gunpoint in the early morning hours of that August day.

Those charged say the two brothers dragged Jose Gonzalez and his girlfriend, Jiselle Woolley, 36, to Silvagnoli’s home at 4763 Bertha St. near Greenacres.

Silvagnoli was there and so was his wife and Santiago-Vega. The two men caused such a commotion that they woke Silvagnoli’s wife, who started yelling, Santiago-Vega told police.

According to interviews with Silvagnoli, Santiago-Vega and Woolley, the brothers were angry and accused Gonzalez of stealing $15,000. .

Silvagnoli eventually left for work; he says he admonished the brothers not to commit any violence at his house.

Instead, Jose Gonzales and Woolley were taken to the garage, where Gonzalez was tortured, beaten and shot, according to police summaries of their interviews.

Gonzalez’s screams were so loud, Santiago-Vega told police, that someone turned on an air compressor to muffle the noise.

He said he later scouted the area to see if anyone heard the ruckus. And the scene was so bloody, Santiago-Vega told police, that he “sanitized” it.

While they tortured Gonzalez, the brothers allegedly kept asking where the money was. Detectives say Gonzalez repeated that he didn’t have it but could take them to get it.

After Gonzalez was killed, Woolley was taken to the apartment of one of the brothers, a hoodie covering her face, she told investigators.

On Wednesday, Jose Gonzalez’s cousin, Carmen Cortes, said her family was still shocked and saddened by the death, even though they had suspected for a long time that he was dead.

Cortes said Gonzalez, who moved to Palm Beach County from Trenton, N.J., a few years ago, had battled drug addiction.

She said that although the two alleged killers must have thought he had played a role in robbing them, she said it was more likely that a friend of Jose Gonzalez did the robbery.

“I’m crying all the time,” Cortes said. “He was more like a brother to me than a cousin.”

Staff writer Christine Denardo and staff researcher Niels Heimeriks contributed to this story.

How your travels are tracked

January 7, 2009 by  
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A rare peek at Homeland Security’s files on travelers

The oversize white envelope bore the blue logo of the Department of Homeland Security. Inside, I found 20 photocopies of the government’s records on my international travels. Every overseas trip I’ve taken since 2001 was noted.

I had requested the files after I had heard that the government tracks “passenger activity.” Starting in the mid-1990s, many airlines handed over passenger records. Since 2002, the government has mandated that the commercial airlines deliver this information routinely and electronically.

A passenger record typically includes the name of the person traveling, the name of the person who submitted the information while arranging the trip, and details about how the ticket was bought, according to documents published by the Department of Homeland Security. Records are made for citizens and non-citizens who cross our borders. An agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection can generate a travel history for any traveler with a few keystrokes on a computer. Officials use the information to prevent terrorism, acts of organized crime, and other illegal activity.

I had been curious about what’s in my travel dossier, so I made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a copy.

My biggest surprise was that the Internet Protocol (I.P.) address of the computer used to buy my tickets via a Web agency was noted. On the first document image posted here, I’ve circled in red the I.P. address of the computer used to buy my pair of airline tickets.

(An I.P. address is assigned to every computer on the Internet. Each time that computer sends an e-mail—or is used to make a purchase via a Web browser — it has to reveal its I.P. address, which tells its geographic location.)

The rest of my file contained details about my ticketed itineraries, the amount I paid for tickets, and the airports I passed through overseas. My credit card number was not listed, nor were any hotels I’ve visited. In two cases, the basic identifying information about my traveling companion (whose ticket was part of the same purchase as mine) was included in the file. Perhaps that information was included by mistake.

Some sections of my documents were blacked out by an official. Presumably, this information contains material that is classified because it would reveal the inner workings of law enforcement.

Here’s the lowdown on the records.

The commercial airlines send these passenger records to Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Computers match the information with the databases of federal departments, such as Treasury, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. Computers uncover links between known and previously unidentified terrorists or terrorist suspects, as well as suspicious or irregular travel patterns. Some of this information comes from foreign governments and law enforcement agencies. The data is also crosschecked with American state and local law enforcement agencies, which are tracking persons who have warrants out for their arrest or who are under restraining orders. The data is used not only to fight terrorism but also to prevent and combat acts of organized crime and other illegal activity.

Officials use the information to help decide if a passenger needs to have additional screening. Case in point: After overseas trips, I’ve stood in lines at U.S. border checkpoints and had my passport swiped and my electronic file examined. A few times, something in my record has prompted officers to pull me over to a side room, where I have been asked additional questions. Sometimes I’ve had to clarify a missing middle initial. Other times, I have been referred to a secondary examination. (I’ve blogged about this before.)

When did this electronic data collection start? In 1999, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (then known as the U.S. Customs Service) began receiving passenger identification information electronically from certain air carriers on a voluntary basis, though some paper records were shared prior to that. A mandatory, automated program began about 6 years ago. Congress funds this Automated Targeting System’s Passenger Screening Program to the tune of about $30 million a year.

How safe is your information? Regulations prohibit officials from sharing the records of any traveler — or the government’s risk assessment of any traveler — with airlines or private companies. A record is kept for 15 years—unless it is linked to an investigation, in which case it can be kept indefinitely. Agency computers do not encrypt the data, but officials insist that other measures — both physical and electronic — safeguard our records.

I wonder if the government’s data collecting is relevant and necessary to accomplish the agency’s purpose in protecting our borders. The volume of data collected, and the rate at which the records is growing and being shared with officials nationwide, suggests that the potential for misuse could soar out of hand. Others may wonder if the efforts are effective. For instance, I asked security expert Bruce Schneier Schneider about the Feds’ efforts to track passenger activity, and he responded by e-mail:

“I think it’s a waste of time. There’s this myth that we can pick terrorists out of the crowd if we only knew more information.”

On the other hand, some people may find it reassuring that the government is using technology to keep our borders safe.

Oh, one more thing: Are your records worth seeing? Maybe not, unless you’ve been experiencing a problem crossing our nation’s borders. For one thing, the records are a bit dull. In my file, for instance, officials had blacked out the (presumably) most fascinating parts, which were about how officials assessed my risk profile. What’s more, the records are mainly limited to information that airline and passport control officials have collected, so you probably won’t be surprised by anything you read in them. Lastly, there may be a cost. While there was no charge to me when I requested my records, you might charged a fee of up to $50 if there is difficulty in obtaining your records. Of course, there’s a cost to taxpayers and to our nation’s security resources whenever a request is filed, too.

However, if you are being detained at the border or if you suspect a problem with your records, then by all means request a copy. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is required by law to make your records available to you, with some exceptions. Your request must be made in writing on paper and be signed by you. Ask to see the “information relating to me in the Automated Targeting System.” Say that your request is “made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. 552).” Add that you wish to have a copy of your records made and mailed to you without first inspecting them. Your letter should, obviously, give reasonably sufficient detail to enable an official to find your record. So supply your passport number and mailing address. Put a date on your letter and make a copy for your own records. On your envelope, you should conspicuously print the words “FOIA Request.” It should be addressed to “Freedom of Information Act Request,” U.S. Customs Service, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20229. Be patient. I had wait for up to a year to receive a copy of my records. Then if you believe there’s an error in your record, ask for a correction by writing a letter to the Customer Satisfaction Unit, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Room 5.5C, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20229

Is the TSA violating your privacy with its new body scanning machines?

Former officer, teen arrested after Ga. standoff

January 5, 2009 by  
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MADISON, Ga. – A 13-hour hostage standoff at a Georgia motel ended peacefully Monday when a former South Carolina police officer and a teenage girl surrendered, freeing his estranged wife and infant son.

FBI spokesman Steve Lazarus said 25-year-old David Dietz surrendered around 9:15 a.m. at the Red Roof Inn off Interstate 20 about 60 miles east of Atlanta. Jamie Lynn Burgess, 17, was also taken into custody at the time.

The two had been holed up in a second floor room with the infant, Allim David Dietz, and Dietz’s estranged wife, 29-year-old Eva Arce-Perez. Two shots were fired at law enforcement agents from the room Sunday night.

The next morning, Dietz stepped onto the walkway outside the motel room holding the baby in his arms as he surrendered. Burgess exited the room with her hands in the air.

Burgess helped Dietz in the kidnapping, West Columbia, S.C., Police Major Jackie Brothers said.

“It’s our understanding they arrived together, they waited together and when the family and friends arrived home, she actively participated in the abduction,” Brothers said.

Police said Burgess and Dietz were acquaintances but wouldn’t elaborate on their relationship.

Burgess was set to return to South Carolina Monday night, where she would be charged with kidnapping, carjacking and assault with intent to kill, Brothers said. She won’t face federal charges because she’s a minor, Lazarus said.

Dietz, who wore a black uniform emblazoned with the word “police” during the abduction, was being held in federal custody in Macon and would face federal charges of kidnapping in South Carolina and federal charges of assaulting a federal officer in Georgia since shots were fired at FBI agents, Lazarus said. He said they hoped to bring Dietz before a federal magistrate on Tuesday.

He also faces state charges including kidnapping, assault with intent to kill and carjacking in South Carolina and five counts of aggravated assault in Georgia, authorities said.

Police said Arce-Perez and the baby were abducted from their home in Columbia, S.C., Saturday evening. A missing child alert was issued, and authorities learned Dietz might be headed toward Atlanta.

The standoff started Sunday night after Georgia State Patrol officers spotted the car mentioned in the alert in the motel parking lot.

It wasn’t the former police officer‘s first run-in with the law. South Carolina police reports showed authorities were called twice last year to domestic disturbances between Dietz and Arce-Perez.

Police in West Columbia were called to the home where Arce-Perez lived in December after the woman claimed Dietz threatened her.

“She stated that he called her wanting to see the baby even if he had to kick the door in,” West Columbia chief Dennis Tyndall said.

An incident report filed in May by the Richland County, S.C. Sheriff’s Department says Dietz was arrested for criminal domestic violence after he tried to force then-pregnant Arce-Perez to leave her apartment with him and pointed a gun at her brother, threatening to shoot if he tried to intervene. A judge dismissed charges in that case when Arce-Perez didn’t show up for a hearing, said department spokesman Chris Cowan.

Columbia police spokesman Brick Lewis said Dietz was hired by the department in June 2006 but resigned in October 2006 without giving a reason and on good terms.

Dietz also worked as a probation officer until August 2007, said Pete O’Boyle, a spokesman for the state’s probation department.

Chevy on 28 inch wheels roll over crash

January 3, 2009 by  
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West Palm Beach –
Chevy on 28 inch wheels rolls over in Palm Beach County Florida. The accident happened just after 4:00am, on Okeechobee blvd near I-95.

No one was injured, but the vehicle sustained major damage. No other vehicles were involved.

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Bitter cold, snow put chill on end of 2008

December 31, 2008 by  
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NEW YORK – Winter storm warnings and plummeting temperatures put a chill on New Year’s Eve plans for hundreds of thousands of revelers. Thousands of homes and businesses in the Midwest had no electric lights for the holiday because of wind damage. Temperatures in the teens — with wind chills below zero — were forecast for midnight and the annual ball drop in New York’s Times Square and for the First Night celebration in Boston, where up to 11 inches of snow was forecast with wind gusting to 45 mph.

However, that was almost mild compared to the upper Midwest, which started the day with temperatures as low as 33 below zero at Wahpeton, N.D., and 24 below at Brainerd, Minn.

Up to a million revelers, jammed tightly together by intense security, were expected to hunker down against the icy wind in Times Square to watch a five-minute blizzard of balloons and more than a ton of confetti.

But the weather put a crimp in the festivities for some. New Bedford, Mass., put its fireworks display off until Jan. 8 because of the wind, but said other New Year’s Eve activities would go on as planned.

The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings and advisories for parts of New England, upstate New York, northern Ohio, northern Minnesota and North Dakota, and sections of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

In western New York state, at least 8 inches of snow had fallen by midday in the Buffalo and Rochester areas, and morning rush hour traffic crept at a near standstill on the New York State Thruway south of Albany.

“It’s really affecting the entire state,” said weather service meteorologist Dave Zaff in Buffalo.

Single-digit temperatures and sustained wind of up to 20 mph were expected to combine to produce wind chills as low as 25 below zero during the night in parts of New York state, meteorologists said.

More snow fell Wednesday in parts of Michigan as utility crews endured morning temperatures in the teens to restore power to customers still without service since a weekend wind storm knocked down trees and power lines. The state’s major utilities said about 13,200 homes and businesses were still blacked out Wednesday.

In the Ohio Valley, Duke Energy said nearly 11,700 homes and business were blacked out by wind damage during the night in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky, but most were back on line Wednesday morning.

Up to 5 inches of snow was likely Wednesday in northern sections of North Dakota and Minnesota, on top of the foot or more that fell Tuesday, the weather service said.

December was already a record month for snow in North Dakota, with 33.3 inches at Bismarck. In Minnesota, Tuesday was the 16th day in December in which measurable snow had fallen at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Juanita Grosz didn’t even bother to measure the snow at her home in Garrison, N.D., northwest of Bismarck.

“It doesn’t matter — I just know that it’s a lot,” Grosz said Tuesday. “Everything is solid white; there isn’t a track anywhere.”

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