Hazleton City Police units responded to a residence along Jason Drive in Birch Knoll Estates after a report of a possible hostage situation and a report of shots fired inside the home.
The information was relayed through a third party out of the state that individuals were being held inside the home by a man armed with a gun.
Police, at the time of writing this, have the house surrounded with only the man potentially armed with a gun inside.
Upon arriving, all occupants of the home came out to the police except the man. It was confirmed that no shots were fired prior to police arrival.
This situation is still developing at this time.
An amber alert was issued for 15 year old Samara Derwin, a white non-hispanic female, with brown hair with red highlights, blue eyes, wearing a white hooded sweatshirt and black yoga pants.
She was last seen today in the area of Nanticoke High School, Luzerne County, PA .
She was reported abducted by John Oliver age 20, white non-hispanic male, unknown clothing description, driving a stolen marked 2014 Ford Interceptor utility Nanticoke police cruiser bearing PA registration MG5473H-PA.
Anyone with information about the abduction should immediately contact the police by calling 911.
Very limited details are available with this developing story. It all began at the Hanover Township High School where a large police presence was confirmed earlier today.
Unconfirmed reports state that a male in his 20's armed with a knife took a female in her 20's hostage, stealing a Nanticoke City Police vehicle in the process.
Area departments have shared the above image of a Nanticoke City Police SUV stating that if the vehicle is seen to call 911 immediately. The vehicle is marked as car #7 on the front.
No further information is available at this time.
Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 97 and Senate Bill 473, which amends tobacco legislation to prohibit the sale of any tobacco, nicotine or related item to anyone under 21 years of age. The legislation also expands the definition of a tobacco product to include e-cigarettes and other vaping products, and expressly prohibits the possession of these items on school grounds.
“Numerous studies have shown tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, are particularly harmful and addictive to youths and young adults,” said Gov. Wolf. “Raising the age to 21 in combination with barring e-cigarettes at our schools will help us prevent young Pennsylvanians from engaging in this dangerous behavior.”
Gov. Wolf further supported public health by signing Senate Bill 314, which establishes the Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund. The authority and fund will support the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, a program unrolled in March that supports the financial stability of hospitals in rural communities by transitioning them from fee-for-service to global budget payments.
“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality health care within a reasonable distance from home,” said Gov. Wolf. “The Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund will help ensure the hospitals that serve rural Pennsylvanians can provide necessary services even with a lower patient volume.”
The governor also signed Senate Bill 147, which lifts the prohibition on hunting for three Sundays in Pennsylvania.
“This legislation carefully balances the needs of landowners with an expanded opportunity for hunters who work or attend school during weekdays,” said Gov. Wolf.
Gov. Wolf also signed the following bills:
House Bill 17, which establishes a 10-year collection window for assessed personal income taxes.
House Bill 49, which includes school safety amendments and allows public school students to earn credits toward graduation by taking courses in personal financial literacy.
House Bill 57, which abolishes various boards, commissions, committees and other entities and makes related repeals.
House Bill 227, which amends the election code to require 10 petition signers to nominate a candidate for school director in a primary race, eliminate ballot stubs and add provisions for privacy.
House Bill 754, which amends the state lottery law to extend the cost of living adjustment moratorium to Dec. 31, 2021.
House Bill 917, which repeals a law passed in 1929 containing guidelines for municipal-funded hospitals.
House Bill 956, which sets the rate of return for the state lottery to 20 percent until June 30, 2024.
House Bill 1016, which amends the Insurance Company Law of 1921 providing for solvency and further providing for benefit contract and for injunction, liquidation and receivership of domestic society.
House Bill 1203, which amends existing law regarding auditing municipal authorities.
House Bill 1402, which establishes sexual extortion as a crime.
House Bill 1410, which establishes a Military Installation Remediation Program providing funding to remediate areas affected by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and related substances.
House Bill 1547, which names numerous bridges and roadway segments.
House Bill 1772, which allows landowners to identify property as no trespassing by painting purple stripes on trees or posts.
House Bill 1896, which allows real estate to be transferred from the Owen J. Roberts School District to the Pennsylvania American Water Company.
House Bill 1982, which allows employers participating for the State Employee Retirement System to pre-fund all or a portion of their pension liability.
Senate Bill 146, which allows online training for firefighters.
Senate Bill 317, which makes changes to the timeline for a Second Class Township to pass its annual budget.
Senate Bill 456, which allows branch campuses of private licensed schools to operate in multiple counties.
Senate Bill 572, which requires patients beginning a new opioid prescription to sign an agreement with their prescribers ensuring they understand the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose. The legislation also requires new patients to undergo baseline drug testing.
Senate Bill 733, which directs $2 million per year for 10 years be paid from the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund to fund debt service on the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown.
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Hodgson Mill of Effingham, IL, announced today a voluntary national recall of specific lots of its Unbleached All-Purpose White Wheat Flour (5 lb.)
"We are taking this voluntary precautionary step because of the potential presence of pathogenic E. coli which was discovered through sampling raw uncooked flour. Hodgson Mill has not received any confirmed reports of illnesses related to this product." Hodgson Mill said in an announcement.
The only product affected by this voluntary recall is:
Unbleached All-Purpose White Wheat Flour (5 lb.) UPC 0-71518-05009-2
Best By Date 10-01-2020 and 10-02-2020 with lot codes listed Lot# 001042 & 005517
Use By and Lot Code information can be found on the bottom back panel of the 5 lb. Bag. Used By date and Lot Code, along with their location on the bag, must all match in order to represent flour affected by this recall.
Consumer safety is our top priority. Hodgson Mill package states "do not eat raw flour, dough or batter". The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns consumers to not consume raw flour or uncooked raw dough.
E. coli is killed by heat through baking, frying, sautéing, or boiling products made with flour. For more information, refer to the following: https://www.cdc.gov/features/no-raw-dough/index.html. Symptoms of pathogenic E. coli illness include acute, often bloody diarrheal illness and abdominal cramps. Most people recover within a week. However, children, the elderly, and immunosuppressed individuals may develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe illness which may cause the kidneys to fail.
Consumers are reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products or flour, and to never eat raw dough or batter.
This lot of flour was milled at an ADM Milling Facility in St Louis, MO and repacked at Hodgson Mill, Inc. facility in Effingham, IL and was distributed by Hodgson Mill through retailers and distribution nationwide and sold through our website www.hodgsonmill.comExternal Link Disclaimer.
Consumers who have purchased 5 lb packages of Unbleached All-Purpose White Wheat Flour with specific lot codes are urged to stop using the product immediately and return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company customer service M-F 9am to 3pm at 1-888-417-9343 x 1.
Any consumers concerned about an illness should contact a physician.
UGI Utilities, Inc. will consolidate and update its purchased gas cost rates for all Pennsylvania residential heating customers on December 1, 2019. This consolidation was part of the base rate case settlement approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission earlier this year. With this action, all UGI residential heating customers will be billed under the same rate structure and no longer billed under separate rate districts.
In addition, UGI has re-calculated the average annual usage to be consistent across its service area. Average usage is now based on all residential heating customers across the Commonwealth.
As a result of these changes, average residential heating customers of the former UGI -South District using 89.2 Ccf annually will see their monthly bill decrease from $84.33 to $78.98 or by 6.3 percent.
Average residential heating customers of the former UGI – Central District using 89.2 Ccf annually will see their monthly bill increase from $75.72 to $78.98 or by 4.3 percent.
Average residential heating customers of the former UGI – North District using 89.2 Ccf annually will see their monthly bill increase from $78.03 to $78.98 or by 1.2 percent.
“Natural gas continues to be an economical, reliable and responsible source of energy for our customers and our communities,” Chris Brown, Vice President and General Manager of Rates and Supply said. “Going forward, the ability for UGI to serve all of our customers under a single rate structure will offer a consistent and efficient means of ensuring the best value for all those who trust UGI as their energy supplier of choice.”
By law, utilities are required to pass the cost of the natural gas they purchase directly through to customers without any markup.
UGI recognizes some customers may have difficulty paying their utility bill. All customers are encouraged to sign up for UGI’s free budget billing program, which spreads billing amounts out evenly over a 12-month period.
In addition, customers with a limited or fixed income should call UGI at 1-800-UGI-WARM to determine if they are eligible for one of several energy assistance programs. In addition to company-sponsored programs, UGI can assist eligible customers in applying for federally-funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grants. Finally, any customer who is behind on their gas bills should contact the utility as soon as possible to discuss a payment arrangement.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on November 25, 2019, Shavonne Saxon, age 32, of Kingston, Pennsylvania, received a sentence of 72 months’ imprisonment and three years of supervised release, by United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion, for distributing crack cocaine, and for possessing a firearm in furtherance of her drug trafficking.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Saxon admitted to working as a drug dealer in 2016 and 2017, and to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute at least 60 grams of crack cocaine and at least 165 grams of cocaine. Saxon also admitted to possessing a firearm in furtherance of her trafficking activities, and the United States seized from her and forfeited a Ruger LCP .380.
Saxon was one of 16 individuals charged in 2017 with various drug trafficking and firearms offenses. All of the defendants have pleaded guilty, with 13 others having already been sentenced:
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that former Ashley Borough Police Officer, Mark Icker, age 30, pleaded guilty today before United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion to violating the civil rights of two females in his custody whom he sexually assaulted.
According U.S. Attorney David J. Freed, the criminal information alleges that Icker worked as a police officer for the Ashley Borough Police Department in December 2018. On December 3, 2018 and December 10, 2018, Icker, while acting under color of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, willfully deprived two women of their liberty without due process of law, which includes the right to bodily integrity, by coercing the women into engaging in unwanted sexual contact with him.
In a plea agreement filed with the Court, the Government and Icker agreed to jointly recommend a twelve year sentence of imprisonment. Sentencing was deferred pending the preparation of a pre-sentence report.
“The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute law enforcement officers who exploit their authority to sexually abuse individuals in their custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.
“We count on law enforcement officers at all levels to uphold their oaths, and to serve and protect the public,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed. “When a line is crossed, and a protector becomes a predator, we must act – swiftly and with certainty. While I am extremely proud of the cooperative efforts of law enforcement in this case, especially my colleagues and partners in the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, we are only able to pursue this prosecution because of the bravery of the victims. In a case where one of us in law enforcement did something so very wrong, the innocent victims stood up for what is right. We are proud to seek justice on their behalf.”
"A police officer using his position of authority to sexually exploit women is utterly contemptible,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Mark Icker felt entitled enough to coerce his victims into sex acts. He clearly expected to get away with violating their bodies and their civil rights. The public corruption and civil rights squad at our Scranton Resident Agency was determined to seek justice for the women involved, and keep Icker from harming anyone else in this way.”
“The actions of this former officer are in no way indicative of law enforcement of Luzerne County,” said District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis. “Many great men and women have died doing what is right while wearing the badge Mr. Icker has tarnished. As adamant as this office is about standing by police when they pursue justice, we are as determined to defend the Constitution when a sworn officer violates the God-given rights that make this country so great.
On behalf of our office and the people of Luzerne County, we would like to thank U.S. Attorney David Freed, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Olshefski, St. John and Patel, along with the FBI agents whom not only agreed with our assessment of the egregious nature of these offenses, but also worked so closely with us to bring this matter to a swift and just resolution.”
Icker was terminated from his position with the Ashley Borough P.D. in December 2018. Icker was also terminated from part-time positions he held with the Sugar Notch and Jessup Police Departments.
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar congratulated county officials on the great progress made in the transition to new voting systems and updated them on the funding available and election reforms being implemented under newly passed Act 77, in an address today at the annual County Commissioners Association of PA (CCAP) fall conference in Hershey.
"We have seen exciting, historic changes take place this year in Pennsylvania with respect to new voting systems and the new election law," Secretary Boockvar said. "The Department of State is committed to working with CCAP and all 67 counties in Pennsylvania to ensure that these updates to the ways we vote – from new machines to mail-in ballots to extended registration deadlines – are implemented smoothly so that voters can be confident in both the process and the results when they cast their ballots in 2020 and beyond."
Boockvar shared with the county commissioners the collaborative work of the Act 77 Workgroup, which includes representatives from CCAP, county commissioners, county election directors, and Department of State staff. Planning and working together with the election officials who are responsible for delivering these reforms to voters will ensure smooth, thoughtful implementation of the changes in Act 77. Boockvar also informed the commissioners about the additional resources and support that the department will be directing toward these efforts.
Boockvar gave the county commissioners more details about a timely issue: the funding available through Act 77 for new voting machines, which counties are required to select by December 31, 2019. The new voting systems provide a paper record that voters will verify before casting their ballots. These new systems must be implemented no later than the 2020 primary.
Act 77, signed into law by Governor Wolf on October 31, allocates $90 million to reimburse counties for up to 60 percent of their allowable costs for new voting systems. These funds are in addition to $14.15 million in federal funding and a state match that Gov. Wolf set aside in 2018 for distribution to counties for new voting systems. So far, at least 53 counties, or 79 percent, have taken official action toward selecting a new voting system, and 45 counties used their new voting systems in the general election earlier this month.
Secretary Boockvar also discussed how Act 77 will make voting easier and more accessible to millions of Pennsylvanians. The new law authorizes 15 additional days for Pennsylvanians to register to vote; no-excuse mail-in voting; permanent mail-in and absentee voting lists; and extended voting time with ballots due by 8 p.m. on Election Day, among other updates.
"Over the past 18 months, county election officials and their teams have been incredibly dedicated and diligent in choosing the best voting systems for their voters. They are now working closely with us to ensure Act 77 is implemented effectively," Secretary Boockvar said. "The Department of State is committed to working together with CCAP and the counties and is dedicating significant resources to supporting them and to public education, to ensure the smooth implementation of these reforms for 2020."
Secretary Boockvar also discussed the many election security resources and tools available to counties at no cost to them. For example, the state offers comprehensive phishing and social engineering email exercises to provide testing and security awareness training for all county employees. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers a range of cybersecurity services that evaluate and advise on operational resilience and cybersecurity practices without cost to state and local election jurisdictions.
Secretary Boockvar also gave an overview of Pennsylvania's first risk-limiting post-election pilot audits, which took place in Mercer County and Philadelphia last week. She praised the counties for their leadership on this cutting-edge security measure to confirm the accuracy of election outcomes.
"The Department of State takes election security very seriously because any attempts to attack free, fair elections undermine our democracy," Secretary Boockvar said. "By taking advantage of the many no-cost election security resources available to counties, and advancing tools such as risk-limiting audits, we will boost voters' confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, so that they know their vote will count and be counted accurately."
A string of multiple motor vehicle accidents involving at least two tractor trailers and two passenger vehicles closed Interstate 81 Northbound at the West Hazleton exit today.
Entrapment was confirmed in an SUV where passengers needed to be freed from the vehicle. two tractor trailers rolled over in the accident, one carrying a load of ice cream, the other empty.
Injuries are unknown at this time. Interstate 81 is reopened as of publication.
Today the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement warned Pennsylvania dog owners looking to purchase new or renewal licenses of a fraudulent website selling dog licenses online.
“The Department of Agriculture works with Pennsylvania’s county treasurers for the sale of dog licenses,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “The best way to ensure that you’re completing an official transaction is to start on licenseyourdogpa.pa.gov.”
Most recently, the department has identified www.padoglicense.online as selling fake PA dog licenses and even paying search engines to appear at the top of search results pages for common terms, like “Pennsylvania dog license” or “renew PA dog license”.
Here are some tips to help customers ensure that they are on an official website:
If you have a concern about a third-party website, contact the PA Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.
Joel Rodriguez Correa, 30, Hazleton was Charged with 2 Felony Counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, 2 Felony Counts of Criminal Use of a Communication Facility.
The Hazleton City Police Department, Narcotics Division issued an arrest warrant for Correa following a Narcotics Investigation throughout August and September of 2019, where Correa sold Fentanyl on several occasions.
The Narcotics Unit was assisted by the Luzerne County Drug Task Force along with the West Hazleton Police Department.
Correa is a Hispanic male, 30 years of age, stands 5-11, 185 lbs, short black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone that sees Correa or knows of his whereabouts is asked to call 911.
The Hazleton Police also urge Correa to turn himself in at Hazleton Police.
VALOR Clinic Foundation is planning their next Stand Down Sunday December 1st from 10am until 1pm in the parking lot of the old Ollies on West Broad Street in Hazleton.
"We set up our clothing closet, we set up our mess hall, our toiletries, our veteran's trailers, and we're out here helping the community." Jeff Sullivan, Pathfinder and Veteran's Advocate with VALOR said in an interview with Hazleton News 1.
Volunteers provide a warm meal and help the homeless and less fortunate browse through donated items such as clothing, shoes, food, and more.
"Hazleton does have a homeless problem" Volunteer Judy Yurcho said. "People don't believe it, but they're out there." Yurcho, among others, helped serve meals to those in need during the event. Yurcho says she began helping out because her father was a vet who served in WWII and Korea.
Via the Pennsylvania State Police:
Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the Pennsylvania State Police - Troop N would like
to remind the public to drive safe, allow extra time to travel, and obey all laws of the
With more vehicles traveling on the road, Trooper’s will be vigilantly patrolling for all
traffic violations to ensure safe travel for everyone. When approaching an emergency
vehicle on the side of the road, remember to always move over to the adjacent lane, if
possible, and if not, slow down and move over within your lane. This is a state law and
referred to as the “Steer Clear” Law.
When driving, maintain eyes on the road and avoid distractions – including cell phones.
Texting while driving is illegal and a distraction. Please pull over if you need to utilize
the phone. Remember – It Can Wait!
From all of Troop N, have a great and Safe Holiday!
The White Haven Borough Police Department is investigating an instance of illegal dumping.
Kyle Etzle of Kyle's Tile and Flooring is wanted for questioning in relation to illegal dumping of flooring materials on private property in the Borough.
Any information regarding Etzle can be relayed to the WHPD by calling 570-443-8888.
Authorities are attempting to locate the owner of a car that was found sunken in the Susquehanna River around 2am.
Police doing a routive patrol at the Hanover Township Boat Launch saw headlights shining under the water and called it in.
The vehicle was under approximately 3 feet of muddy water and about 30 yards from the shore.
Boats and dive teams responded, but there was no one found in the vehicle or in the area around the vehicle.
The vehicle was removed around 6:30am. Police are investigating how the vehicle got into the water a whether anyone is missing.
President Trump is planning a campaign rally in Hershey next month.
The president’s campaign announcing Thursday he will be holding a rally in Hershey on December 10th. The "Keep America Great" rally will be held at the Giant Center at 7PM.
Pennsylvania was seen as vital to Trump’s election victory in 2016 and with 20 electoral college votes it is widely seen as one of the key battlegrounds for 2020, as well.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today hosted PennPIRG for the release of its 34th annual Trouble in Toyland report on toys that could be hazardous to children, and again called for efforts to get recalled toys quickly removed from store shelves.
“With the holiday shopping season underway, I urge toy shoppers across Pennsylvania to look beyond the colorful packaging and carefully consider whether the toy inside is safe and age appropriate,” DePasquale said. “Federal authorities reported more than 251,000 toy-related injuries were treated by hospitals in 2017.”
The U.S. PIRG Education fund has identified three categories of toys that consumers should be on the lookout for: hidden toxics and hazards, detectable dangers, and recalled toys. The tested toys showcase only a small portion of the thousands of toys available for sale in stores and online. Over the past three decades, the group’s testing has led to more than 150 toy recalls and other regulatory actions.
“Toys have become safer over the last three decades, but dangerous and toxic toys are still on store shelves,” said Emma Horst-Martz of the PennPIRG Education Fund. “With that in mind, parents need to be vigilant to keep their kids healthy and safe. Manufacturers and regulators must do more to ensure all toys are safe before they end up in a child’s hands.”
Toy safety standards are enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced 12 recalls of toys and children’s products this year. Because manufacturers are not required to inform the public how many recalled toys were returned or repaired, it is impossible to know how many of them might still be in homes.
DePasquale encouraged parents and other caregivers to check to see if any toys they already own have been subject to a safety recall. He noted that whenever a toy or children’s product is recalled, state law should require that these items be quickly removed from sale.
“While serving in the state House, I introduced legislation to require dangerous toys to be immediately taken off of store shelves. This topic will always be important and I’m again calling on the General Assembly to act on common-sense legislation to protect our vulnerable children,” he added.
PennPIRG is the Pennsylvania affiliate of U.S. PIRG, a federation of independent, state-based, citizen-funded organizations that advocate for the public interest. To review the 2019 report, visit www.ToySafetyTips.org.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Christopher Johnson, age 31, previously residing in Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty before Chief United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner to one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; three counts of use of a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death; one count of interstate travel to commit a murder for hire; one count of conspiracy to kill a witness to a federal offense to prevent communication to a federal law enforcement officer; three counts of killing a witness to a federal offense to prevent communication to a federal law enforcement officer; and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the charges were the result of a two and a half year investigation into three murders that occurred in a barn on June 25, 2016, on a property along Welsh Run Road in Mercersburg, Franklin County. The murders were drug related and one of the victims was providing information regarding several of the defendants and others to federal/state law enforcement drug task forces in Maryland. The individuals involved in the murders also joined with others to obstruct the grand jury’s investigation and to locate and kill an individual believed to be assisting federal investigators with the murder investigation.
Johnson, along with ten coconspirators, were charged in a superseding indictment on December 20, 2018, with murder, drug trafficking, and obstruction of justice.
Charged in the superseding indictment were:
Joshua Davis, age 30, previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy to locate and kill an individual believed to be cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation of the triple murders. Davis was recently sentenced by United States District Court Judge John E. Jones, III to 100 months’ imprisonment. Several other individuals who were separately indicted on charges of obstructing the federal investigation into the triple murders have also pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
The following federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation: Drug Enforcement Administration Harrisburg Resident Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania State Police, Troop H, Franklin County Drug Task Force, Franklin County Adult Probation, Pennsylvania State Probation and Parole, Hagerstown Police Department Criminal Investigation Division, Drug Enforcement Administration Hagerstown Resident Office, Washington County Narcotics Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration Baltimore District Office, Strike Force Group 1, Maryland State Police Homicide Unit, Baltimore Police Department Narcotics, Fugitive And Homicide Units, Baltimore County Police Department Narcotics and Gang Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Evidence Management Unit, Quantico, VA, US Marshal’s Service Harrisburg, PA and Phoenix, AZ, Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, United States Attorney’s Office, District Of Maryland, and The Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorney William A. Behe, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and Senior Litigation Counsel Michael Consiglio are prosecuting the case.
This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.
This case was also brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.
At Broad Street Market today, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and his wife, Nina, bought everything on their Thanksgiving dinner grocery list from local, PA Preferred® vendors. It was a demonstration of how with intentional choices, it’s easy to buy local and support Pennsylvania farmers around the holidays and year-round.
Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 321.
The governor’s full veto message:
TO THE HONORABLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
“Pursuant to Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, I am returning herewith, without my approval, House Bill 321, Printer’s Number 1404.
“This legislation is a restriction on women and medical professionals and interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians. Physicians and their patients must be able to make choices about medical procedures based on best practices and standards of care. The prohibitions under this bill are not consistent with the fundamental rights vested by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
“There is no evidence that this bill is needed in Pennsylvania. I have significant concerns that enforcement of this legislation would upend the doctor-patient relationship and impede on patient confidentiality.
“Further, I am not aware of a single disability rights group that supports this bill. I support continuing the bipartisan work that’s been done to help people with disabilities. I also believe there is much more Pennsylvania could do to help women and families facing complex pregnancies. However, this bill does not aid in either of these efforts.
“For the reasons set forth above, I must withhold my signature from House Bill 321, Printer’s Number 1404.”
Hanover Township Police are searching for 37 year old Robert Kennedy of St. John Street in Plains.
Kennedy is wanted for felony Flight to Avoid Apprehension, Reckless Driving, and Fleeing & Eluding. The date of the offense was August 29th 2019. Warrant issued September 5th 2019.
Any information on the whereabouts of Kennedy can be relayed to the Hanover Township Police by calling 911.
Middletown Borough Council in Dauphin County voted Tuesday night to get rid of a shed that served as a Santa house after victims stated that sexual molestation occurred inside the structure.
A previous owner of the building, Keith Allen Hoffa, of Londonderry Township, was charged in 2018 with 24 counts of sexual assault, including rape of minors over a 20 year period.
Council members voted 3-2 Tuesday night to sell the building as a municipal property.
Authorities said he assaulted girls, some as young as 7 or 8 years old, in the basement, the bathroom and the shed-type building on the property.
The grand jury report details how Hoffa did what is known as grooming, buying his victims gifts, and showering them with attention to allow the abuse to continue. He also is accused of threatening them.
Auditor General DePasquale: Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board Failing to Properly Control Runaway Travel Costs
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools has failed in its responsibility to control runaway travel costs, a conclusion he reached after a five-month review of district-provided records.
“Fiscal oversight by Pittsburgh’s school board appears to be practically nonexistent when it comes to the superintendent’s penchant for travel,” DePasquale said. “There’s been a 179 percent increase in the district’s travel budget in only three years – which I find to be outrageous, especially for a district with a nearly $30 million operating deficit,” he said, noting that a previous audit showed the district had the highest fund balance in the state only five years ago.
DePasquale said that reining in travel spending might help to offset the need for some of the proposed 2.3 percent increase in the district’s property tax.
DePasquale’s analysis found that Pittsburgh’s 2019 travel budget of $453,231 is more than double the School District of Philadelphia’s $217,906 travel budget, although Philadelphia has roughly 10 times more students. Pittsburgh’s travel spending amounts to approximately $19.43 per student, compared with about $1.07 per pupil in Philadelphia.
“If the purpose of administrator travel is to improve the quality of education – as Pittsburgh officials have claimed in the past – students there should be performing 19 times better than students in Philadelphia,” DePasquale said. “None of the other districts we talked to even come close to spending what Pittsburgh does on administrator and staff travel.”
DePasquale noted that several Pittsburgh Public Schools administrators, including Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and former Deputy Superintendent Anthony Anderson, travel well beyond their allotted days per year for professional development, spending thousands of dollars on trips to places including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Nashville without clearly demonstrating any benefit for students.
Much of Anderson’s travel was to take part in a continuing education program designed to train individuals to become superintendents. However, his employment contract did not specify that the district would pay for Anderson’s attendance at these monthly training sessions or for his membership in the program. Anderson received at least $7,500 in travel reimbursements in the 2018-19 school year.
DePasquale launched his review following media reports that several district officials, including the superintendent, reportedly visited Cuba in April as an offshoot of a trip to Florida for professional development purposes. It appears that the two-day trip to Cuba was arranged and paid for by a former district contractor, The Flying Classroom, and was not approved in advance by the school board.
“The district could provide no documentation related to the Cuba side trip, and the official contract with The Flying Classroom – which ended months before the trip happened – did not specifically detail any expeditions for administrators as part of the deal,” DePasquale said. “Regardless of how the trip was funded, the school board must enforce its own policies regarding advance approval of such travel.”
He also questioned why the district has been storing a jet engine, donated by The Flying Classroom, in a warehouse for three years. District officials said the engine, which is valued at almost $500,000, is too big to fit in any of the district’s schools.
“What are the district’s plans for that jet engine? If there’s no practical way for students to benefit from it, then perhaps it should be auctioned to help reduce the district’s huge operating deficit,” he added.
The Auditor General also noted that his department’s next performance audit of Pittsburgh Public Schools will include a closer look at the district’s so-called “ed-tech” contracts.
“Because there is no standard definition of what constitutes an ‘ed-tech’ contract, I was unable to compare Pittsburgh’s spending in this area to other districts,” DePasquale said. “The best remedy is for my department’s next audit to review every single contract.”
DePasquale thanked the district for complying with his three official requests for information and documentation, noting that Chief Financial Officer Ron Joseph and Solicitor Ira Weiss were particularly helpful.
DePasquale said he will refer the results of his review to the State Ethics Commission.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Juan Rivera Marrero a/k/a “Viejo” a/k/a “Charlie,”, age 57, currently residing in Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was sentenced on November 13, 2019, to 60 months’ imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release, by United States District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo, for drug trafficking and money laundering.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Marrero previously pleaded guilty to money laundering and to conspiring with others to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine in the York County, Pennsylvania area between May 2015 and May 2017. Marrero admitted to purchasing bulk quantities of cocaine from Luis D. Baez-Sierra, who was obtaining narcotics through the United States mail sent from Puerto Rico to York, Pennsylvania.
Marrero was originally charged in May 2017, with seven codefendants. The following codefendants were sentenced:
The following codefendants are awaiting sentencing:
The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. Assistant United States Attorney Daryl F. Bloom is prosecuting the case.