Friday, August 13, 2010
An unidentified man's body was discovered in a trash compactor in the 200 block of N. Charles St. at about 10:15 a.m. Thursday by building employees, said Anthony Guglielmi, the police department's chief spokesman.
Guglielmi said a preliminary review showed no obvious signs of foul play or trauma, but detectives were awaiting the results of an autopsy by the state medical examiner's office.
The trash compactor appeared to be on the parking lot level of the Park Charles apartments. A resident said he observed police dusting a trash chute for fingerprints, and that a fire alarm had twice gone off earlier in the morning.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
A company investigator entered the stores over a two-day period in June and bought counterfeit handbags, wallets and accessories for prices ranging from $20 to $75, according to the lawsuits, which were filed Monday in federal court in Baltimore. Authentic Coach handbags in a similar style are typically priced at around $300, according to Coach's website.
Coach's lawsuits against the Ocean City shops come amidst its nationwide campaign, now in its second year, to crack down on the sale of imitation products. Last May, the company kicked off "Operation Turnlock," a zero-tolerance civil litigation program targeting producers, wholesalers and retailers of Coach fakes.
The New York-based company is now actively fighting the illegal trade of knock-offs of its brand in dozens of lawsuits against stores across the country, from Los Angeles to New York, this year, according to federal court records.
A Coach spokeswoman was preparing a response for later this afternoon to questions from The Baltimore Sun. Coach and other big-name brands, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton, routinely work with federal and local law enforcement to fight a brisk trade in counterfeit luxury goods, many of which originate from China. But in at least one case this year, Coach decided to sue a municipality – Chicago – for not doing enough to crack down on street vendors selling Coach counterfeit goods at a city-run public market.
According to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, a nonprofit based in Washington, the worldwide trade in counterfeit goods amounts to about $600 billion a year. In the U.S. last year, Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year seized $260 million worth of counterfeit goods.
The top categories of seized counterfeit goods included footwear, consumer electronics, apparel, computer hardware, pharmaceuticals, and toys and electronic games, according to the federal agencies.
In its investigation in Ocean City, Coach alleges that the shops sold handbags, wallets, key chains and wristlets.
The shops named in the lawsuits include: Maytalk; Beach Break; Hot Topik; Ocean Reef; Summer Breeze; Surf Beachwear; The Fashion Shop; Ocean Waves; Sunset Beachwear; New York New York; Jewel of the Ocean; Oceanfashion Boutique; and Sunglass City.
The Baltimore Sun left messages for management at the locations. A manager at Oceanfashion Boutique, who declined to give her name, denied that the shop sold Coach counterfeit products.
Coach is seeking $2 million in damages for each counterfeit violation at each store or, alternatively, a court order for the store owners to pay Coach all of the profits earned from the sale of the items.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Now there are two.
Volunteers in kayaks, a small boat and a canoe towed a "floating wetland island" from Fells Point — where it took form — to the waters alongside Baltimore's World Trade Center on Sunday. Tourists stopped to gawk and snap photographs as the environmentally friendly flotilla made its slow way along the harbor, the cargo more eye-catching in its greenery than anything else in the crowded waterway.
"It's going to take all of us rolling in the same direction, but we believe it is possible," said Laurie Schwartz, executive director of the partnership.
It took a lot of people just to create the floating wetlands, which will soak up pollutants, produce the oxygen that's critical for healthy water and provide a place for crabs and other aquatic critters to live.
The Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, a water-quality watchdog group, paid the $50,000 cost from an air-pollution settlement fund. Biohabitats, a Baltimore-based ecological restoration firm, designed the wetlands — 11 separate rectangular structures made of plastic bottles plucked from the harbor, mesh and wood. Then, students with the Living Classrooms Foundation in Fells Point built the structures and planted them with marsh grass and flowers.
For weeks, the manmade wetlands floated beside the one other example left alongside the harbor — Living Classrooms' own marsh. Sunday morning, they headed off by boat and kayak to their permanent destination in tourist-heavy waters.
"Oh, here it comes — here it comes!" cried Schwartz, catching sight of the motorboat towing the first few pieces of wetlands toward the World Trade Center. She waved her arms and grinned, saying later that she felt just like an excited relative seeing a long-awaited baby for the first time. Mary and Jerry Nonnemacher, who live in Reading, Pa. and sailed into Baltimore for the weekend, watched this unusual parade and wondered what it was all about. Katie Bradbury, a 24-year-old from Fells Point, caught sight of the wetlands leaving Living Classrooms and followed them to find out where they were going. And Donna Davis, who works at the World Trade Center, dropped by to take pictures of kayakers pushing the structures into place alongside her building's pylons and roping them together.
Davis, an administrative assistant, knew the goal was better water quality. She hopes it works.
"If it helps, that's fantastic," she said.
Aquatic life is already responding. The underside of the wetlands is a hang-out spot for baby crabs.
But it would take a lot more than a marshy island the size of a bedroom to turn Inner Harbor water — which come from rivers rated "F" by an annual University of Maryland report card — into a safe place to take a dip or catch a fish. So much of the trash and pollutants that damage the water start off far upstream, from oil washed off roads to fertilizers running off suburban lawns.
That's why organizers hope the wetlands act as a conversation starter for passersby, making them think how their ordinary activities hurt or help the harbor.
And the newly installed floating island won't be by itself for long. The National Aquarium, just around the corner, is assembling its own on Wednesday. More might follow.
"It's a very small island in … a fairly big body of water," said Laura Bankey, the aquarium's manager of conservation. "We really only expect to see local changes. But that'll give us an idea, if we scale up this project, what kind of an effect could we have."
Authorities say two family members have been killed and third seriously injured when a car plowed into a group gathered on the side of the road after a church service in northern Maryland.
Cpl. Jennifer Bailey of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office says a 63-year-old driver was trying to park her Mercury Mountaineer along the roadway late Sunday morning. She says the car accelerated and backed into the people who were crossing the road in Emmitsburg. The driver also hit two cars.
Bailey says 64-year-old Patricia Mauro-Cillo died on the road and 53-year-old John Cillo died sometime after he was taken away. Eighty-nine-year-old Marian Derosa is being treated at Shock Trauma in Baltimore. All three lived in Emmitsburg, which is near the Pennsylvania border.
Friday, August 6, 2010
The department released a redacted version of the police report of the shooting of the dog, named Bear-Bear. Department officials released a statement Friday saying that after further investigation, the officer's "legal authority to carry a firearm became questionable."
The department still has not named the officer, who they said fired his personal weapon in the shooting.
Police said they initially closed the incident, and that the State's Attorney's Office, after reviewing the case, instructed the officers not to file charges.
The officer's attorney, David Putzi, said this week that his 32-year-old client was acting in self-defense in an attempt to stop an attack on his dog, a German shepherd named Asia.
But Rachel Rettaliata, the husky's owner, said the dog has a history of being friendly. Her brother had taken 3-year-old Bear-Bear for their daily trip to Quail Run community dog park when the husky was shot.
Rettaliata said her brother told her that the dogs began to play roughly and that the off-duty officer asked him to call off the dog. But before he could move, the officer shot Bear-Bear, she said.
The investigation is ongoing.
Leggs stood accused of breaking into the apartment of a woman who turned him down for an overnight stay after a boozy cab ride home.
Pamela Sima, 24, testified in Circuit Court that Sept. 11, 2009, she awoke at about 4 a.m. to find Leggs standing over her bed -- shirtless, undoing his belt and taking his pants down to his knees.
"After it happened, it really affected my life," she told Judge Thomas C. Groton III prior to Leggs' sentencing. "For the rest of my time there, I slept with a knife by my side and a phone in my hand."
Sima also testified she had rejected his romantic advances on a date one week earlier.
A Worcester County Circuit Court jury deliberated for 20 minutes before reaching a guilty verdict Thursday. The jury found Leggs not guilty on a related charge of property destruction.
Worcester County State's Attorney Joel Todd sought the maximum sentence of three years incarceration on the burglary charge, citing Leggs' criminal record and his being on the Maryland and Delaware sex offender registries.
Sima said she was unaware of any of his criminal history while they were dating. Leggs was not accused of committing any sex offenses against her.
They first met in late August 2009, Sima said, and had gone on at least one dinner date before meeting for drinks Sept. 2 at Pickles Pub. That night, Leggs walked her home.
She later told police the two kissed, but he had come on too strong and was trying to take her clothes off "with me saying no plenty of times."
According to Sima's testimony, a week later they ran into each other at the Cork Bar. Leggs apologized for his behavior. When she flagged a taxi home, Leggs joined her in the car, uninvited.
Once at her house, he asked to stay over, repeatedly telling her that his roommates weren't letting him stay at his place, she testified. She said no, went inside and locked the door behind her.
Hours later, when she found him at her beside, she yelled at him to get out. She heard the front door open and close. But when she got out of bed to make sure he was gone, she found him standing in her living room.
"The fact that he would try to trick her into thinking he had left shows just how criminal his intentions were," Todd said. "The defendant is a dangerous individual. The best the criminal justice system can do is warehouse (him) for as long as we can for the good of the citizens of the state of Maryland."
When Leggs did leave, Sima called 911. Responding police officers found two window screens removed outside the first-floor apartment, one of which was bent out of shape.
A wooden window frame was damaged, police said, as if someone had pried away the screen. They also found scuff marks on the exterior beneath one of the windows. This evidence was the basis for a charge of malicious destruction of property, police said.
A warrant was issued for his arrest Sept. 29. He was arrested Oct. 29, and posted $10,000 bond the same day.
In the courtroom, Leggs wore a lime-green polo shirt, blue pants and black sneakers. He sported a bushy goatee and short-cropped hair. He often turned to comment into the ear of his attorney.
Leggs wore no handcuffs or leg braces of any kind because Todd wanted the jury to decide the case on the facts presented, not on the biases that shackles inevitably bring, he said.
Wicomico County sheriff's deputies escorted Leggs to the Snow Hill courtroom from Salisbury, where he is being held on charges of kidnapping, abusing and killing sixth-grader Sarah Haley Foxwell.
Her family reported her missing Dec. 22. Leggs was arrested Dec. 23. After a search that involved thousands of volunteers, her burned remains were found Dec. 25 in a wooded area by a team of investigators.
Leggs was indicted on murder and sex offense charges in February in Wicomico County, where the killing took place. In May, court officials announced his death penalty trial on those charges will be moved to Cecil County.
Leggs did not testify during Thursday's trial. At sentencing, he declined to make any comments to the judge following the vigorous advice of his attorney, Arch McFadden.
"Where's the corroborating evidence?" he said. "I submit to you: zero. Were there fingerprints taken? Was there eyewitnesses?"
McFadden -- who declined reporters' requests for comment -- was also critical of a lack of photographic evidence from the scene. He said he would file an immediate appeal.
Ocean City Police Officer Nicole Thornes, who responded to Sima's 911 call, testified that photographs taken at the scene were submitted to the department's forensics unit. However, when prosecutors went to retrieve the photos to be used as evidence, "they were misplaced somehow," according to Todd.
Ocean City Police spokesman Mike Levy said "there could be any number of reasons for that," and any cause would not be clear unless an internal investigation was conducted.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
A two-hour search on Monday evening by Natural Resources Police failed to find a trace of the critter. But Eric Hammack Jr., the 16-year-old fisherman who first reported the reptile on Sunday, returned to the pond off Belle Grove Road in Patapsco Valley State Park on Tuesday. He had decided to try luring the gator with a hunk of chicken on a string.
"I fished for, like, an hour and a half," he said. Then he had to leave for a while. And when he came back, there was a 21/2-to-3-foot caiman on the line. Caimans are close relatives of alligators.
The critter was hooked. Hammack had come with a net and a container to put it in, but the animal by then was snagged under a fallen tree.
So Hammack called the Department of Natural Resources Police and Anne Arundel County animal control officers, who were on the scene in about 45 minutes.
The animal control folks "are looking for somebody to take control of it, either a zoo or someone who has the proper permits to take care of it," said Sgt. Art Windemuth, a spokesman for the DNR Police.
Even so, DNR officials say they encounter one or two cases like this each year. Travelers acquire a caiman or a small alligator somewhere, bring it back to Maryland and then release it when it grows too big to handle.
And Hammack can go back to regular fishing. Still, it was pretty exciting along the Patapsco for a while, he said. "It was fun. I could do it again."
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Though a child on board was wearing a life preserver, none of the other passengers were. The boaters broke no laws, but state officials said the incident should serve as a reminder that everyone is safer when wearing a life vest.
Jose Reyes and four others were aboard the 1967 Appleby returning to Sandy Point State Park when a large wave caught their boat, causing it to flip around 9 p.m. Saturday, said Sgt. Art Windemuth of the Department of Natural Resources Police.
Reyes, 12-year-old Oscar Flores, and his father, Oscar Samuel Flores, 32, all of Silver Spring, were able to cling to the overturned boat and keep their heads above water. But two other passengers, Anna Daci Garcia, 36 and Carlos Eskabar, 31, of Hyattsville were not able to make it back to the boat and instead clutched a cooler, Windemuth said.
Only the 12-year-old was wearing a life vest, Windemuth said. He said Reyes told rescuers that the abrupt wave hit before the adults could grab vests. The law requires only children under 13 to wear one, but Windemuth said adults should always do the same.
In the 17 boating fatalities last year, 16 people were not wearing life vests and eight fatalities were the result of alcohol or drug use while boating. In Saturday's incident, Windemuth said, no alcohol was involved. But even though Reyes had some boating experience, Windemuth said that "part of boating is knowing how to operate a vessel in certain sea conditions."
Windemuth said Reyes used a battery-operated light to attract passing vessels. He was unsuccessful until Captain Larry Vazzano and four crew members aboard the Wharf Rat, a CS 40 sailboat returning from the Eastport Yacht Club's Solomons Island Invitational race, came across the capsized boat around 11 p.m.
Vazzano, 59, a retired teacher from Mt. Airy, said his crew was passing the Magothy River and the Baltimore Light lighthouse when he and several others heard faint cries.
"We heard, 'Help. Help. Help us,'" Vazzano recalled, saying at first they thought the sound might have been a bird in the distance. Then, Vazzano said, he saw the flashes of light. "We motored over and saw three people clinging to a small overturned boat," Vazzano said. The crew on the Wharf Rat called mayday, alerting the Coast Guard of the capsized boat near the Bay Bridge. They then threw a "man overboard line," a U-shaped ring with a nylon rope. The boat circled the three stranded boaters, picking them up.
After Reyes was pulled aboard, he told Vazzano that Eskabar and Garcia were still in the water and had drifted away from the boat.
"I thought, 'These folks are done for it,'" Vazzano said. But after offering the three blankets, food and water, Vazzano said they heard that Garcia and Eskabar were rescued by Department of Natural Resources Police.
Cpl. Aaron Parker with the Maryland Natural Resources Police was the first to find the pair who had been buoyed by the cooler for close to three hours and called another patrol boat to assist with the rescue. They were taken to Gibson Island Marina, where they were then taken to Baltimore Washington Medical Center and treated for shock and chills, Windemuth said.
Each year, the Natural Resources Police receive close to 3,000 maritime-related calls, according to Windemuth. Of those calls, 301 required boating assists with 201 serious enough that they caused more than $200,000 in damage or required more than first aid treatment to boaters involved.
"I've never done a real rescue," said Vazzano, who belongs to the Rock Creek Racing Association and is a licensed Coast Guard captain who owns the Atlantic Sailing Experience LLC. The 25-year veteran sailor said he regularly attends safety seminars, including one this past spring, practicing the technique the crew used to pick up the group Saturday.
"It was a textbook case," he said. "I imagine they would've lasted another hour."
He said that when the crew returned to shore, the rescued boaters gave them hugs.
"We were ecstatic that we were in the right place at the right time," Vazzano said.
For safety tips, Windemuth said boaters should check out http://www.dnr.state.md.us/boating.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
A British citizen is being held on charges that he obtained a U.S. passort and a Maryland driver’s license in the name of dead man from Washington and tried to use the documents to fly out of BWI Airport, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
John Skelton, 41, was arrested Monday night at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and charged in U.S. District Court with identity theft and using a fraudulently obtained social security number.
Authorties said Skelton, of Yorkshire, assumed the identity of Washington resident Kurt Branham, who died in 1994. Court documents stated that Skelton told investigators that he was barred from traveling to the U.S. because of medical issues, and obtained the Washington’s man name from a friend.
U.S. officials had been monitoring the use of Branham’s name and social security number, saying it had been used twice before by people applying for passports. How Sekton allegedly obtained his passport was not divulged, but court documents say the name and number were on a watchlist since 2005.
Customs officials notified the U.S. State Department after Skelton few out of BWI on July 2 for a trip to London, according to court documents. An investigation ensued and Skelton was arrested when authorities say he used the fradulent passport to return to Baltimore on Monday.
Authorities said Skelton told them he lived on Wheeling Street in Federal Hill.
“Stealing another person’s identity is a very serious crime, but stealing the identity of a deceased citizen is despicable,” Stephen Dearborn, the acting director of the Port of Baltimore said in a statement. “We are very pleased to end Mr. Skelton’s charade.”Here is a news release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
Death Match Snares Brit Impostor at BWI
Feds Arrest Baltimore Resident For Allegedly Stealing Dead American’s Identity
BALTIMORE – Federal authorities arrested British citizen John Skelton at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Monday night on charges of identity fraud, false statements, and being an impostor to a U.S. citizen.
U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) officials discovered that Skelton41, of Yorkshire, England, allegedly stole the identity of U.S. citizen Kurt Branham, who died in 1994.
DSS teamed with Customs and Border Protection officers to apprehend Skelton after the Brit presented a fraudulently obtained U.S. passport to re-enter the country after a trip to the United Kingdom.
Skelton, who resides in Baltimore, will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. The specific charges Skelton faces are for violations of 18 USC 1028, 18 USC 1542 and 18 USC 911.
“Stealing another person’s identity is a very serious crime, but stealing the identity of a deceased citizen is despicable,” said Stephen Dearborn, CBP Acting Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. “CBP and Diplomatic Security Service officials work vigorously to bring impostors to justice and to protect American citizens’ identities. We are very pleased to end Mr. Skelton’s charade.”
DSS detected the potential fraud using investigative techniques employed during Operation “Death Match.” A passport had been issued in 2005 in the name of Kurt Branham, who died more than 10 years before, a cross match of records indicated.
More than 150 individuals have been charged with federal passport fraud and related offenses as a result of Death Match investigations.
Todd Brown, Special Agent in Charge of the DSS Washington Field office said, “The U.S. passport is one of the most coveted travel documents in the world, and those who have acquired passports fraudulently could perpetrate further illegal acts. I am pleased that the collaboration between our agents, the Customs and Border Protection professionals, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland has been so successful in this case.”
CBP, DSS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were at BWI when Skelton disembarked his flight from London at 7:45 p.m. Monday. During questioning, Skelton allegedly admitted he was a United Kingdom citizen and that he obtained Branham’s identity.
CBP officers paroled Skelton into the United States for prosecution and turned him over to DSS agents. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute Skelton. CBP issued a detainer on Skelton to be returned to CBP at the adjudication of his charges.
Baltimore Crime Beat/Peter Hermann
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Lt. Robert McCullough said the bear, thought to weigh about 50 pounds, has been seen in the area of Bond Avenue and Timber Grove Road. It was most recently seen Thursday morning in the 900 block of Timber Run Road.
“This is the time of year when bears become more active and venture out, looking for a free meal,” McCullough said.
Police do not believe the bear poses a public safety hazard.
“When they see people, they typically run away,’ McCullough said.
Police are asking residents to not feed or approach the animal and to make sure all food sources and trash containers are secured inside yards or other enclosed areas.
Police ask anyone seeing the bear to call 911 or the county animal control agency at 410-887-5961.