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Member of Winans gospel singing family charged with operating $8M Ponzi scheme
Sep-15-2012 1124 0


A member of the Winans gospel music family has been charged with fraud after authorities uncovered a scam involving more than $8 million and bogus oil bonds.

Michael Winans Jr. plans to plead guilty, defense attorney William Hatchett said Thursday.

Winans knew the Saudi Arabian oil bonds weren't real, but he continued to accept money from more than 1,000 investors in 2007 and 2008, according to a filing this week in Detroit federal court.

He recycled the money among investors, a trait of Ponzi schemes, and also used cash for his personal use, the government said.

Michigan regulators in 2010 said Winans Jr. used connections in Detroit churches to lure investors.

"My client has told me it is his full intention to repay or somehow put these people back to where they were before they became involved," Hatchett said.

Winans is a third-generation member of one of gospel music's first families. He's the grandson of Delores "Mom" Winans and David "Pop" Winans Sr., and son of Michael Winans Sr., a member of The Winans, a quartet of brothers. His uncle, Marvin Winans, gave the eulogy at Whitney Houston's funeral.

"There are no other members of this great family implicated or involved in any fashion," Hatchett said. "This is a very difficult time for this bright and gifted young man. His family stands beside him and they intend to see him through this."

He said Winans likely would make a court appearance within 10 days.

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Nina Golgowski Sep-18-2014 82 0
Six days after a 14-year-old Florida boy shot himself in his school bathroom after allegedly suffering years of bullying, his 11-year-old friend penned a note saying he wants to die too, the child’s mom has revealed.

The heart-wrenching cry, written in blue marker, was slipped under the bedroom door of Jordan Gonzalez's mother on Tuesday after allegedly enduring the same cruel treatment as Lamar Hawkins III.

It read: "To mom. I am going to kill myself. No one understands me and I get abused. I can't even tell you how I feel. So what do I live for? - Jordan."

Jordan's mom, who said she's reported his abuse to officials at Greenwood Lakes Middle School multiple times — just like Lamar's parents claim — said she's beside herself on what to do.

Asked how she responded to her son's words while speaking with the Orlando Sentinel, she said: "I told him, 'If you leave mommy, I won't be able to live without you.'"

While publicly sharing a photo of the letter this week, she now vows: "I will make sure justice is served."

"I'm posting this [because] I have had it with that school and the kids who are bullying him," she wrote with its upload Tuesday.

Elaborating on the abuse her son allegedly sustained, she said a boy once stuck him in the neck with a sharp pencil as he was on the school bus.

Jordan, speaking with the Sentinel, also recalled the abuse he says Lamar endured.

"There was this one time where the kid just slapped him in the face and that's how the first fight happened. And the last fight was when he kept on getting bullied by the same person's friend and he just couldn't take it anymore, so he killed himself," he bravely recalled.

Gusaeff said that every day Jordan and Lamar would sit together at lunch, since the start of the school year.

"Everyday," she emphasized on her Instagram account. "We moved from the Bronx to avoid bullying. His family left Brooklyn. Now look what happened. Are we safe anywhere?"


Lamar's mother said they had reported her son's abuse by fellow students on multiple occassions. A Sheriff's spokesperson has said they never received any reports of bullying regarding Lamar.
WESH

Lamar's mother said they had reported her son's abuse by fellow students on multiple occassions. A Sheriff's spokesperson has said they never received any reports of bullying regarding Lamar.


Seminole County Public Schools, reached for comment by the Sentinel, have declined commenting on the ongoing investigation into Lamar's tragic suicide which took place on one of their school campuses.

A school spokesperson, speaking previously to the Sentinel, said they have a "comprehensive bullying policy that is fully enforced in all of our schools."

A Sheriff's spokesperson reached by the Daily News last week said they never received any reports of bullying regarding Lamar from his school.

Lamar's father, Lamar Hawkins Sr., has said that he reported the bulling to school officials, "multiple times," his attorney told The News.

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Thomas Tracy Sep-18-2014 137 0
Tracy Lewis knocked down every obstacle in her path to become only the second black woman promoted to the rank of lieutenant in FDNY history.

“You encounter resistance every day, but I can’t let that stop me from going forward,” Lewis said Wednesday during a promotion ceremony at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. “I worked very hard for this. I studied very hard for this. And it was just a matter of when this day would come.”

Lewis, a 17-year FDNY veteran from Engine Co. 222 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said she has overcome doubts from her male colleagues.

“They’re wondering whether or not you can do the job,” the 41-year-old trailblazer said. “But if you’ve been through the academy and you’ve proven yourself there, that should be enough. I come to the firehouse and I do what was taught to me.”

One man who never doubted Lewis is her bursting-with-pride dad, Clive Williams. He attended Wednesday’s ceremony.

“Tracy’s always been about helping others, so I’m not surprised that she made it to this point,” a beaming Williams said. “I hope she’ll continue to move on.”

There are just 41 women on the FDNY’s force of 10,500, officials said.

Lewis knows she’s standing on the shoulders of those who came before her.

“I feel that I owe it to them and the people coming after me to do the best I can to pave the way,” she said.

After being promoted Wednesday, she shared a joyous embrace with Ella McNair, who made history in 2002 when she became the first African-American woman to make lieutenant.

McNair retired in 2006, but that hasn’t stopped her from mentoring Lewis.

Lewis, a 17-year FDNY veteran from Engine Co. 222 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said she has overcome doubts from her male colleagues.

“This girl is more than deserving,” McNair said of Lewis’ rise. “And it’s about time. It’s about time. Long time overdue!”

In March, the FDNY settled a blockbuster discrimination lawsuit, agreeing to pay $98 million inback pay and benefits to minority firefighter hopefuls. The original suit was brought by the Justice Department in 2007, when the FDNY was about 90% white.

The force is still only about 5% black and 9% Hispanic, according to the FDNY. But 45% of the most recent graduating class, from June, were from minority groups.

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Oren Yaniv Sep-18-2014 125 0
Two men who’ve spent more than 15 years in prison after being convicted in 1993 of kidnapping a 16-year-old Brooklyn girl saw their guilty verdicts overturned Wednesday when a state appeals court ruled cops withheld evidence that might have cleared them and then lied about it.

Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor, both sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, had always maintained they were innocent in the kidnapping and death of Jennifer Negron.

The teenage girl’s bludgeoned body was found on New Year’s Day 1992 in East New York. A witness was produced by cops and used by prosecutors to link the two men to the crime, even though they had no link to Jennifer and no motive was ever established.

A judge dismissed the murder charges due to lack of evidence, but Wagstaffe and Conner were convicted of kidnapping. For the past 23 years, they’ve struggled to prove they weren’t guilty of any crime.

Cops had insisted that Wagstaffe and Connor weren’t suspects until the witness brought their names up. But based on evidence provided by defense lawyers, the Appellate Division ruled Wednesday that cops had been looking at the men before the witness appeared — and had lied about it in prior court hearings.

“The defendants were being investigated by the New York City Police Department prior to the detectives' interview of [the witness], a fact that was contrary to the testimony of one of the investigating detectives that the interview with [the witness] on Jan. 2, 1992, led the police to the defendants,” the ruling stated.

The defense lawyers had additional arguments attacking other police evidence as well, but the appeals court said it didn’t need to hear anymore and moved to overturn the convictions.

“Mr. Wagstaffe is in shock, he is trying to come to grips with this,” his attorney, Myron Beldock, said Wednesday.

The Appellate Division took the unusual step of not just overturning the convictions but also dismissing the original indictments — which Beldock said was an indication of how flagrantly the authorities had violated the law while pursuing the guilty verdicts.

“It is very rare (to do both), it indicates the great injustice that occurred when evidence was kept from the defense. As the court said, the verdict would probably have been different,” Beldock said.

His client, Wagstaffe, 45, is currently in the 23rd year of his 25-year sentence. Wagstaffe had refused to accept parole offers for early release that demanded he admit guilt.

Beldock hopes that Wagstaffe will be brought to the city from Greene Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Coxsackie, NY, as early as next week for a hearing on next steps in his case.

Connor, 46, served 15 years and was released on parole, said his attorney David Toscano.

As a condition of his release, he had to register as a sex offender, Toscano said. It’s been a “big obstacle” as Connor has tried to rebuild his life, the lawyer noted.

“This is great news, obviously he’s very happy today. He was wrongly convicted and even out on parole he continues to have restrictions on him,” Toscano said.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office still has an option to appeal, but the lawyers said they’d hoped not further litigation would be necessary.

“We would be very disappointed if this ruling were not the end of the matter ... It would be a very misguided use of prosecutorial resources,” said Toscano.

Jennifer Negron’s case was one of 100 being re-examined by Brooklyn prosecutors after information emerged about a tainted detective who allegedly fabricated evidence in some murder cases decades ago. The Conviction Review Unit is going over 71 cases tied to retired detective Louis Scarcella.

The questionable detective wasn’t involved in Jennifer Negron’s murder investigation, but the cops’ methods in identifying Wagstaffe and Connor fit the “pattern” of a Scarcella case because they relied on testimony from a sole witness, Toscano said.

As with many of the Scarcella convictions under examination, Wagstaffe and Connor were convicted on the word of a police informant — a crack-addicted prostitute who had to be forced to testify at trial. The woman, identified as Brunilda Capella in Wednesdays’ ruling, died many years ago. But she provided a key detail that prosecutors used to define their case. Capella said she saw Wagstaffe and Connor haul Jennifer Negron into a Buick known around the neighborhood. When cops found the car, they also found a headband on the backseat. It had belonged to the dead girl, prosecutors claimed.

Cops said they’d never suspected Wagstaffe, who’d been arrested on prior drug charges, or Connor, who’d been arrested for robberies, until Capella pointed them out.

But as it happened, it was the cops who fingered the men, and fed the information to their so-called witness, Beldock said.

“She did not disclose their names until [cops] told her who they wanted her to identify. They misrepresented it. It was fraud and misrepresentation,” he said.

Toscano and Beldock had plenty of other ammunition to bring to bear if they had needed it, including new DNA tests that proved hair and skin under the victim’s fingernails did not belong to Wagstaffe and Connor.

They also had found the woman who owned the Buick implicated in the crime.

The woman had testified that she’d taken her car to church the night of the girl’s murder, where it had stayed until 5 a.m. the next day. She said she’d told cops that in 1992, but they made no record of her statement.

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John Marzulli Sep-17-2014 175 0
A Brooklyn judge is weighing whether a 300-pound New York City firefighter is a racist brute or merely a bully.

Luke Schreiner, 50, is charged with a hate crime attack on black postal worker Rene Isidore. In Gerritsen Beach last November, he allegedly berated the victim with a torrent of racial epithets, slapped him in the face and snapped his sunglasses in half.

Schreiner, who strongly resembles bald boxer Butterbean, could face up to four years in prison if he's convicted by Judge John Ingram, who is presiding over a nonjury trial.

Defense lawyer Robert Gallo argued that the incident was road rage, not racism.

“This has nothing to do with race," Gallo said in his opening statement Tuesday. "He would have acted the same if Mr. Isidore was white, black, Asian or green."

"If he said the 'N' word it's reprehensible ... but the totality of the circumstances support fully that it was a traffic dispute," Gallo said.

Isidore, a mild-mannered mail carrier, broke down in tears and needed a brief recess to compose himself as he began to describe how the Nov. 13, 2013, incident allegedly began over nothing.

He said he was a car length behind Schreiner’s stopped pickup truck in the middle of a one-way street. Isidore said he did not honk his horn, but drove around the truck instead.

"I don't think it’s professional to be driving this government vehicle and constantly honking the horn," Isidore, 57, told Assistant District Attorney Damani Sims.

It's unclear what caused Schreiner to snap, but when Isidore pulled over at the corner of Plumb 2nd St. to empty the mailbox, the hulking firefighter was allegedly on him.

Isidore said he initially thought the man was going to ask him a question about the mail.

"He started yelling, 'Do you want to get smacked today?' and he slapped me in the face," Isidore said.

The blow knocked Isidore's Bluetooth earpiece to the pavement and Schreiner attempted to stomp on it, the postal worker testified.

"He grabbed me by my jacket and he removed the sun shades from my face and said, 'What the f--- are you gonna do?' He broke them in half and stuck the pieces in the hood of my jacket."

'"You're nothing but a f---ing n-----!'" Schreiner reportedly ranted, according to the victim. "'That's why you work for the postal service.'"

Schriener also allegedly called a black woman who had witnessed the confrontation a "n-----," Isidore said.

Cops charged Schreiner with criminal mischief, attempted assault, aggravated harassment and menacing as hate crimes. The 18-year-FDNY veteran has two prior arrests for assault, including a 2005 road rage incident.

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Jason Molinet Sep-17-2014 154 0
Adrian Peterson's tough love act has earned him a stinging, NFL-style timeout as the Minnesota Vikings placed the star running back on the league's exempt list until his child-abuse case is resolved.

That means Peterson, 29, just two seasons removed from climbing the Mount Rushmore of running backs by gaining 2,000 yards in a single season, has been indefinitely suspended from all team activities, the team announced Wednesday.

"While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian," Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and team president Mark Wilf said in a joint statement. "We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well."

Peterson was charged with injuring his son with a switch, a stripped tree branch that he used in dispensing corporal punishment. The 2012 league MVP surrendered Saturday in Texas on the stick-beating case and was arrested on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, a felony, then released on $15,000 bail.

He faces up to two years in prison if convicted, but the Vikings initially cleared him to play in this weekend’s game despite the disturbing allegations. That decision was blasted Tuesday by Minnesota Gov. Mark Drayton.

A Houston TV station reported Monday that Peterson violently disciplined another 4-year-old boy he had with a different woman, leaving the child with a scarred head.

"We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision," the Wilfs said. "We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision."

Peterson’s suspension comes one week after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lowered the boom on New Rochelle native Ray Rice, indefinitely suspending the running back who was also cut by the Baltimore Ravens after his domestic violence video went viral.

Peterson is the seventh back in league history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. He’s amassed 10,190 yards in an eight-year NFL career, including 75 yards in the Vikings' Week 1 win over St. Louis.

Peterson took to Twitter and offered up a spiritual retort to the suspension via @AdrianPeterson. It reads, in part: “Many people Doubted YOU! Now look at you! You didnt only Overcome Major Obstacles in your Life! You Identified who u were in Christ! If you only knew! If you could only see how God views you! Just understand that you are a Mighty Vessel that God Chose to do Great things!”

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Sep-16-2014 151 0
A New Jersey high school is alleging that its opponent last Friday taunted it with racially charged actions.

North Plainfield High School, which has a large African-American student contingent, claims that bananas were placed in its visitors locker room before a game with Summit High School.

Assistant superintendent of North Plainfield Schools Dr. Robert Rich told The Alternative Press an incident of alleged racism occurred prior to the Summit's 26-0 victory over North Plainfield. Rich also confirmed that there are internal and external investigations into the allegations.

"I have been working on the investigation of the incident with our staff and the Summit Superintendent," Rich said. "The incident has been turned over to New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) for an independent investigation.

A banana "was in the door and you could see through the door, because it didn't have no doorknobs, so you could see right through the hole," North Plainfield football player Anthony Lafond told CBS2 New York. "And they put the banana right through there."

"Right away, there was a banana in the door," North Plainfield football player J.T. Valley told CBS2. "And we told our coach, we're like, 'Coach, there's a banana in there.' So we took the banana, and then all of a sudden, they put another one. And we took the banana out, and there was another one in there. And they kept on putting them in there."

North Plainfield players told CBS2 tears were shed in the locker room before the game.

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Jordan Zakarin Sep-16-2014 136 0
Emmy-winning journalist Sheinelle Jones has joined NBC as the news anchor for the weekend edition of the "Today" Show, the network announced on Monday.

Jones most recently served as co-host of Fox's local "Good Day Philadelphia," where she spent nine years before resigning to spend time with her family in March.

Also from TheWrap: Jenna Wolfe Named 'Today' Show Lifestyle and Fitness Correspondent

"We are delighted to welcome Sheinelle Jones to NBC News," said NBC News President Deborah Turness. "She is an experienced journalist, a fantastic reporter and a dynamic interviewer who will bring so much to Weekend TODAY and the entire NBC News team."

The move comes a week after NBC named Jenna Wolfe the "Today" Show's Fitness and Lifestyle correspondent, opening up the new anchor position during the weekends.

Before her time in Philadelphia, Jones served as an evening news anchor and reporter for KOKI, the FOX affiliate in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and as a morning anchor and reporter for WICS-TV in Springfield, Illinois.

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Jason Molinet Sep-16-2014 197 0
'Baby Andres' was taken off life support Saturday, five days after the infant suffered a brutal beating at the hands of Antwan James Sawyer (right). Adolfo Bravo (inset) is distraught after losing his son.
.A Florida infant was taken off life support Saturday afternoon, five days after a brutal beating.

The 5-month-old boy suffered brain injuries, a lung contusion, bloody eyes and bruises to his buttocks at the hands of the mother's boyfriend, Miami-Dade police allege.

Antwan James Sawyer, 27, of Broward, was arrested Wednesday and charged with aggravated child abuse and attempted felony murder after police didn't buy his story that "Baby Andres" fell from his bed when the two were left alone, The Miami Herald reported.

Those charges could be upgraded to murder, prosecutors said, in the wake of the infant's death, according to Local10.com. Sawyer is jailed at Turner Guilford Knight correctional facility.

"I've been having rough days, seeing my son like that," the baby's father, Adolfo Bravo, 32, told NBC Miami while surrounded by family and friends holding vigil at the hospital. "But I have a certain relief today, he's in peace."

Andres’ father, 32-year-old Adolfo Bravo, has been at the hospital since Tuesday. He said doctors told him his son is brain dead, kept alive by life support.
Adolfo Bravo/via Facebook

Andres’ father, 32-year-old Adolfo Bravo, has been at the hospital since Tuesday. He said doctors told him his son is brain dead, kept alive by life support.

When mother Sascha Marie Garcia returned to her South Miami apartment from work Monday, she found her injured child, according to The Herald. The infant was transported to Miami Children's Hospital, where he was eventually declared brain dead.

"Our children are very fragile and look up to their care givers to show them protection and gentle love," read a message on the family's GoFundMe page seeking help with medical bills.

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reuters Sep-15-2014 300 0
Authorities in Florida are investigating the death of a 14-year-old boy whose mother on Monday said fatally shot himself in his middle school bathroom last week because he could no longer endure unrelenting bullying by fellow students.

"The hopelessness was overwhelming," Shaniqua Hawkins, the mother of Lamar "Shaq" Hawkins III, told a news conference.

The boy, a seventh grade student whose growth was stunted by a childhood illness, was found dead around midnight last Wednesday at Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Lake Mary, about 20 miles north of Orlando, authorities said.

The local sheriff's office that is investigating the death has not yet determined whether bullying was a factor, spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said.

The boy's parents met with the school administration about the bullying multiple times, including as recently as two to three weeks before the suicide, said Matt Morgan, a lawyer for the family. Lamar killed himself with his father’s gun, which Morgan said was properly stored.

Seminole County Public Schools Superintendent Walt Griffin said in a statement that he was aware that the family maintains that the boy killed himself after being bullied but could not comment while a sheriff’s investigation was underway.

"This is a very tragic circumstance and our hearts and prayers remain with the family during this difficult time. ... The school board has a comprehensive bullying policy that is fully enforced in all of our schools," Griffin said.

Shaniqua Hawkins said the family moved from New York City two years ago to get Lamar away from bullies who picked on him at his school there.

Morgan said the boy was about 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighed less than 80 pounds. The family nicknamed him after retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal for his big personality and grand outlook on life, Shaniqua Hawkins said.

Shaniqua Hawkins said bullies pushed Lamar down stairs and off his chair in the school cafeteria, and mocked him for his small stature.

“We now know that he was unable to continue his fight against the bullies. They won ... I believe he took his life at school to send a message to these bullies that they were to blame for his suffering,” Shaniqua Hawkins said at the news conference.

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