Dallas police officer arrested for scamming tip bureau

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A Dallas police officer, Senior Cpl. Theadora Ross, who was in charge of a popular tip hotline called Crime Stoppers, was arrested on Thursday for teaming up with another woman to defraud the unit out of over $250,000.

Prosecutors say Ross, 50, who ran the program since 2005, passed phony tip information to her accomplice, Malva Delley, 36, who would then claim rewards. They were each indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

This is the way the tip program worked:

Informants would call a hotline with an anonymous tip about a crime. After providing the information to an operator, they would be given a tip number and password. Tipsters would call back periodically with their numbers to see if their tips resulted in a reward.

If they earned a reward, the tipster would go to a local bank, and using the case number and password, claim a reward of up to $5,000.

Ross was responsible for preparing the list of tips that were eligible for rewards, and sending the information to the bank. “These lists would include tip numbers and code words for tips that had been tampered with or altered by Ross together with legitimate cash reward tip numbers and code words,” according to court papers.

Prosecutors claim that the couple would “divide the cash, per Ross’ instructions, and deliver Ross’ share of the illegally obtained money by either directly depositing cash into Ross’ Bank of America bank account or by giving cash directly to Ross.”

The Dallas Police Department issued a statement saying that the alleged action was a “major breach of public trust.” An internal affairs investigation in the near future is expected to result in her firing.

Police official said no false arrests were made as a result of the scheme.

The Dallas Morning News

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Dallas politician blocks release of police record of disturbance at his home

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City hall lawyers in Dallas have blocked a public records request, from The Dallas Morning News, for records and documents relating to the police department’s visit to the home of Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, saying that they might be “highly intimate or embarrassing” and are “no interest to the public.”

City attorneys instead ordered the police department to refrain from releasing the files, and asked the Texas Attorney General’s office for an opinion on whether they should comply with the request.

The newspaper earlier requested and received a copy of basic police report that provided little in the way of details about why the police were called on Jan. 2 to a disturbance at the home of Caraway and his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, although the report said it was a “marital disturbance.”

Later, Caraway said that the incident had nothing to do with him and his wife, but instead was caused by a disagreement between two friends, identified as “Arthur and Archie,” who were arguing over the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game.

Caraway briefly addressed the issue once again at a city council meeting, saying that police responded to a marital dispute, contradicting his earlier statement.

City lawyers, in seeking to withhold release of the records are citing common law rights of privacy, contending the information could be withheld if it contains “highly intimate or embarrassing facts” and is “no legitimate concern to the public.”

The DMN, in a letter to the state’s attorney general, argued that the matter is of legitimate concern to the general public, because Caraway is in line for the mayor’s office, if current Mayor Tom Leppert decides to step down and run for the U.S. Senate. Should Caraway become mayor, the public would have the right to expect that a person in that position would act with honesty and integrity.

The letter points out that Caraway did not handle the matter as a private citizen, but as an official of city hall. Instead of placing a call to the police department like any ordinary citizen, he made a direct call to the Chief of Police. And instead of patrol officers responding, a team of elite special investigators were sent.

Later, when a public records request was made for the police documents, instead of acting on his own as a private citizen, Caraway ordered city lawyers to intercede. He also used time at a city council meeting to attempt to dismiss the matter.

For all these reasons, the incident is no longer a personal one, but one in which he involved the city from the very beginning, according to Joel White, a First Amendment attorney for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

“Either this is a public matter or it’s an entirely personal matter, and he’s trying to make it both,” White said. “No. 1, you lied about it. That clearly reflects on his qualifications to hold public office. And second, if he didn’t think that, then why is he making it an issue at a City Council meeting?”

The Dallas Morning News

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Dallas schools officials want to spend $1 million on consultants to explain to teachers how to earn bonuses

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The school board in Dallas is considering a request from school officials that the district spend $1 million to hire outside consultants to explain to teachers how its performance pay plan works.

Chief of Staff Arnold Viramontes and Leng Fritsche, the district’s executive director of performance management and accountability, told the board that the consultants were necessary to explain the Classroom Effectiveness Index, a statistical analysis that scores teachers on their performance.

The $1 million would come from Washington, in the form of grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

While one might think that teachers could understand the program, apparently it’s too complicated for them to understand without help. Another rationale for taking the grant, according to Fritsche, is that if not used, it would simply “go away.”

The Dallas Morning News

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Dallas County constables indicted for forcing deputies to sell raffle tickets

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Forced employees to finance his election campaign

Constables and their top deputies in two Dallas county precincts were indicted today on corruption charges, stemming from their demands that subordinates sell raffle tickets or provide cash to fund their re-election campaigns.

Precinct 1 Constable Derick Evans and former Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes, along with two of Evans top deputies, Tracey Gulley and Kelvin Holder, were indicted on a range of crimes including engaging in criminal activity, tampering with government records for not reporting campaign contributions and felony counts of accepting cash contributions of greater than $100.

Texas law provides that raffles cannot be operated for political fundraising. Special prosecutor Ted Lyon said that the illegal activity had been going on for years. “They forced deputies who were under their control, who worked for them, to either raise or contribute $250 towards this so-called raffle, which was for his (Evans) campaign,” Lyon said.

The two top deputies, Holder and Gurley, acted as enforcers for Evans according to Lyons. Department deputies were told that if they didn’t sell the raffle tickets or contribute the $250 themselves, they would suffer consequences, including being cut out of getting off-duty jobs and other perks.

Lyon said that “people know that this is wrong.  You can’t do that to your employees. There’s nobody that naïve, I don’t believe.”

Cortes lucked out and was charged only with failing to file campaign contribution reports, since a two-year statute of limitations had run out and prevented the more serious charges from being filed against him.

The Dallas Morning News broke the story in November 2009 alleging that Evans and Cortes pressured employees to finance their election campaigns. In 2008, more that 85 percent of monies raised by Evans for his campaign coffers came from department deputies. Most of the donations were the same: $250.

Former deputy Beau Burt, who was fired in early 2009, told the county that there was a lot of pressure on deputies to provide the constables with campaign cash, and that most of them were scared to speak up for fear of being fired.

The Dallas Morning News

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Two Dallas Narcotics Cops Suspended After Brawl

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Two Dallas narcotics detectives, both black, got into a fight on Friday after one made racial slurs about the other. Both officers have been placed on restrictive duty.

The incident occurred when a white officer asked one of the black officers, Dennis Malone, for help in transporting a man arrested on drug charges to jail. The other black officer, Charles Palmer, began yelling at Malone for helping the white officer. Malone told supervisors that Palmer was using the n-word and calling him an “Uncle Tom.”

“We’re waiting on the public integrity investigation to determine what actions will be taken,” said Acting Assistant Chief Julian Bernal. “The whole issue is problematic — using those kinds of names whether you’re talking to another officer or not. It kind of transcends into the public. If you’re using that terminology with another officer, you’re probably using that terminology with the public.”

The Dallas Morning News

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Final Defendant Faces Trial in Dallas City Hall Corruption Scandal

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The final case in the 2007 massive public corruption scandal centered on former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, began Monday. Builder Ron Slovacek is accused of being part of a scheme to funnel bribes to Hill and former Plan Commissioner D’Angelo Lee.

According to authorities, Slovacek, who is white, is accused of secretly partnering with Andrea Spencer, who is black, and using her minority business certificate to solicit construction contracts from wealthy Dallas developer Brian Potashnik, one of two developers  being shaken down by the Hill and Lee. The two officials pressured Potashnik and another developer, James R. Fisher into paying bribes for favorable votes to secure contracts for public housing projects. Fisher notified the FBI and became an informant.

Prosecutors charge that Slovacek was a knowing participant, who handled the work on framing contracts won by Spencer, which were billed at inflated prices. Some of those monies found their way back to Hill and Lee, by way of a phony consulting firm set up by Hill’s wife, Sheila Hill.

Thirteen people have so far been convicted or have pleaded guilty, including Hill who is serving 18 years in prison and Lee who is serving 14 years.

The Dallas Morning News

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Texas DA’s Office Admits to Altering Time Cards-After Accusing District Clerks of Same Offense

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Falsified Attendance Records and Made Employees work on Crigger's (upper left) Election Campaign

In a strange and embarrassing case, the Collin County District Attorney’s office has recused itself from prosecuting a felony case against six district clerk supervisors accused of falsifying employee attendance records and time cards. The reason? The DA’s office has admitted to its own practice of improperly altering time records starting in 2003, and affecting about 40 of its own departmental employees.

“As a result of newly discovered evidence … the State of Texas now agrees that the Criminal District Attorney of Collin County and the Collin County District Attorney’s Office is disqualified in this case,” according to a filing Tuesday signed by First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis. Davis’ affidavit asks the judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case.

The DA’s office has characterized its own practice of falsifying time cards as rewarding employees with time off for “meritorious conduct” according to Davis. However, in the case against the six district clerk supervisors, the defendants are accused of falsifying attendance records so that employees could work on the election campaign of Chief Deputy District Clerk Patricia Wysong Crigger.

Crigger and the five other defendants were charged with organized criminal activity, a second-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and from two to twenty years in prison. Crigger won the Republican primary, and faces two write-in candidates and no Democratic opponent in the November election. The trial was to have commenced on November 15, but is now scheduled to begin after the first of the year, presumably around the time that Crigger takes office.

The Dallas Morning News

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