Immigration agents arrest 114 at Ohio landscaper
By JOHN MINCHILLO and ELLIOT SPAGAT
Wednesday, June 6
SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — More than 100 workers at an Ohio gardening and landscaping company were arrested Tuesday when about 200 federal officers descended on the business and carried out one of the largest workplace immigration raids in recent years.
The operation was part of the White House’s increasing focus on businesses that hire people in the country illegally amid a broad range of immigration crackdowns under President Donald Trump that include stepped-up deportations, targeting of sanctuary cities and zero-tolerance border policies.
The 114 arrests occurred at two locations of Corso’s Flower & Garden Center, one in Sandusky, a resort city on Lake Erie, and another in nearby Castalia. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it expected criminal charges including identity theft and tax evasion.
No criminal charges were filed against the company, but the employer is under investigation, authorities said. Two locations were searched, and Khaalid Walls, an agency spokesman, said “a large volume of business documents” were seized.
The operation drew criticism over its heavy show of force that involved aircraft surveillance and a large contingent of federal agents to round up workers at a family business. It also highlights a tightrope President Donald Trump’s administration is walking as it seeks to please immigration hawks but risks alienating business-friendly Republicans struggling to find enough workers in a tight job market.
In April, agents made about 100 worker arrests at a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee, another high-profile show of force reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s administration. No criminal charges have been filed against the employer.
Tuesday’s operation was carried out with quiet efficiency. At the Castalia facility — covered with trees, flowers and greenhouse tarps — no workers were seen running as about 100 law enforcement officials established a perimeter. A voice on a radio called attention to specific employees who might try to flee, but none did.
Corso’s did not return a message seeking comment on the operation.
Corso’s describes itself as a family-owned company that serves seven states with a 160,000-square-foot (15,000-square-meter) greenhouse and additional 200,000 square feet (19,000 square meters) to grow perennials. Its Sandusky facility is on the city’s busiest road amid hotels and fast-food joints that cater to tourists who drive by in the summer on their way to Lake Erie and Cedar Point amusement park.
Securing such sprawling facilities typically involves an enormous law enforcement presence to secure the perimeters.
Josie Gonzalez, a Los Angeles attorney who represents businesses on immigration matters, questioned why the arrests couldn’t have been made with fewer resources, perhaps by visiting worker homes based on addresses Corso’s provided to authorities. She suspects the government wanted publicity.
“Government is overreaching and trying to make a big splash, instill fear in the business community and immigrant communities and make the headlines,” she said. “It’s a tremendous use of resources to accomplish that purpose.”
The investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 when the U.S. Border Patrol arrested a woman who gave stolen identity documents to job applicants in the country illegally, said Steve Francis, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Detroit.
The document vendor led investigators to the landscaping company, where they examined documents in its files for irregularities, Francis said. Some Social Security numbers belonged to dead people.
Of the 313 employees whose records were examined, 123 were found suspicious and targeted for arrest and criminal charges of identity theft and, in nearly all cases, tax evasion. Francis said the identity theft targeted U.S. citizens who had no idea their information was being used at the Ohio business.
“We verified that a lot of U.S. persons were obviously unaware of this. It’s caused them a lot of hardship,” Francis said.
Immigration officials have sharply increased audits of companies to verify their employees are authorized to work in the country. There were 2,282 employer audits opened between Oct. 1 and May 4, nearly a 60 percent jump from the 1,360 audits opened between October 2016 and September 2017. Many of those reviews were launched after audits began at 100 7-Eleven franchises in 17 states in January.
Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Teen charged in accidental fatal shooting of brother, 2
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities say a 13-year-old Ohio boy who accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old brother while playing with a gun has been charged with reckless homicide.
The Dayton Daily News reports the toddler killed Monday afternoon at a home in Harrison Township was Jvonte (jay-VON-tay) Johnston. His brother had a denial plea entered on his behalf Tuesday during a juvenile court hearing.
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer says Tuesday that Jvonte’s father, 34-year-old Jamahl (jah-MAL’) Evans, has been charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a gun. Evans has appeared in court, telling a judge he wouldn’t be hiring his own attorney.
Plummer says investigators found two guns and marijuana prepared for sale inside Evans’ home.
Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com
BBB Study: Sweepstakes, Lottery, Prize Schemes Devastate Older Victims with Evolving Tactics
Columbus, OH (June 6, 2018) – A new report by BBB says sweepstakes, lottery and prize schemes are devastating victims financially and emotionally with ever-evolving methods. These frauds concentrate on seniors, targeting them by direct mail, cold calling, social media, even text messages and smartphone pop-ups. BBB warns consumers to be on guard against these serious and pervasive frauds and their perpetrators.
The report – “Sweepstakes, Lottery and Prize Scams: A Better Business Bureau Study of How ‘Winners’ Lose Millions Through an Evolving Fraud” – notes these scams bilked $117 million out of half a million Americans and Canadians in 2017 alone, with actual victims and losses likely numbering much higher. BBB received 2,820 sweepstakes and lottery scam reports in Scam Tracker in 2017, with a median loss of $500. Seniors are the most frequent target and suffer the largest losses by far in these scams, which the report found commonly originate in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Nigeria.
The report recommends stronger law enforcement efforts on three fronts — in Jamaica, which has seen an upswing in violence related to lottery fraud profits; in the U.S., where law enforcement is urged to step up extraditions and prosecutions of overseas fraudsters operating in the U.S.; and globally, as law enforcement agencies worldwide are encouraged to take steps toward holding deceptive mailing organizations accountable and stopping fraudulent mail. It also urges Facebook and other social media platforms to take steps to weed out fake, fraudulent profiles and make fraud reporting easier.
Among the report’s key findings:
The majority of lottery or sweepstakes scam victims are between 65 and 74 years old. Among that age group, people who recently experienced a serious negative life event, and who expect their income in the near future to remain steady or decline, are even more likely to be victimized.
Sweepstakes/lottery fraud can strike through many channels – phone calls, text messages, pop-ups on a smartphone’s Internet browser, social media and mailings.
In 2017, 2,820 individuals reported sweepstakes and lottery scams to BBB Scam Tracker. These reports show a median loss of $500, with wire transfer as the most frequent method of payment.
Jamaica is a major source of “cold calls” to victims who are told they have won money. Although similar calls come from Costa Rica, the scam has had a major impact in Jamaica, where the amount of money generated by lottery fraud has resulted in gang wars between rival fraud groups, leading to a dramatic spike in violence. More than 95 percent of reported fraud in Jamaica involves lottery or sweepstakes scams.
BBB offers the following tips for consumers to avoid being caught in lottery or sweepstakes fraud:
True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does have a sweepstakes but does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.
Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
Law enforcement does not call and award prizes.
Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure.
For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.
SWACO ENCOURAGES FRANKLIN COUNTY RESIDENTS TO MANAGE YARD WASTE THE RIGHT WAY
Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio
Residents Can Participate in Curbside Pickup Program, Drop Off at Certain Locations or Compost at Home
Columbus, OH — June 6, 2018 — As the yard care season gets into full swing, SWACO is reminding residents that properly disposing of yard waste can save money and make a difference for our environment.
Residents with yards and gardens generate yard waste, such as leaves, grass clippings, weeds and unwanted brush, shrubs, twigs and small branches. These items are not accepted at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill and should not be placed in the trash. Instead, residents can manage these yard waste materials through Franklin County’s curbside yard waste pickup program, which is available in most communities. Yard waste can also be dropped off at a participating local business or easily composted at home.
To keep yard waste out of the landfill and provide residents with a convenient way to manage their yard waste, SWACO partners with various compost facilities to accept these materials from Franklin County residents, free of charge. These companies turn the yard waste into mulch and composting material for resale. As a result, SWACO helps Franklin County residents and businesses divert nearly 200,000 tons of organic lawn and yard waste from the landfill each year.
Yard waste materials accepted in the curbside program include:
• Grass clippings
• Weeds and Brush
• Twigs and small branches (less than four inches in diameter)
Most local communities provide curbside collection of yard waste to their residents. To participate in one of these programs, residents should put yard waste in biodegradable paper bags, available at most grocery and hardware stores, or place it in a container clearly marked “yard waste” and set it on the curb. Contact your local community to find out the collection day and other details of your local program.
Backyard composting is also an option for residents who want an easy and inexpensive way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich compost for their lawns and gardens. SWACO offers tips to help residents learn how to compost.
“Franklin County residents have many easy and effective ways to manage their yard waste and reduce their environmental footprint,” said Hanna Greer-Brown, communications manager for SWACO. “But it’s crucial that residents know what types of yard waste are accepted. Litter sometimes found in bushes and yards, like plastic bags, bottles, and fast food bags, should be kept out of yard waste bags because they don’t break down and actually prevent yard waste from being processed into compost.”
Properly disposing of yard waste offers several benefits:
• It saves space in the landfill.
• It reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being generated.
• It promotes the use of natural, renewable resources.
Franklin County residents are encouraged to take advantage of the curbside yard waste pickup program or the free drop-off locations. For more information, visit www.swaco.org.
Ohioans reminded to take simple steps to stay health at fairs
Ohio Department of Agriculture
REYNOLDSBURG (June 6, 2018) As millions of Ohioans prepare to visit any of Ohio’s 94 county and independent fairs, leaders at the Ohio Departments of Agriculture (ODA) and Health (ODH) want to encourage guests to practice good hygiene when visiting livestock exhibits this summer.
“Ohio’s fairs are wonderful events that promote our state’s next generation of leaders and highlight the strength of food and agriculture as Ohio’s largest industry,” said ODA Director David T. Daniels. “We want to ensure that guests and animals at our fairs stay healthy and it’s so important that patrons follow posted signs and make healthy decisions when visiting the fair.”
Visitors should always wash their hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal. Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in animal areas. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to leave strollers outside the animal exhibits and carry small children. Older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems should consider avoiding animal areas.
“Simply washing your hands can help ensure your visit to a fair is fun and safe,” said ODH Director Lance Himes. “While not common, some illnesses can be directly transmitted between animals and humans, and fairgoers need to keep that in mind this summer.”
ODA works with fairboards to increase access to hand sanitizers and hand-washing stations and provides educational signage for posting at barns. Frequent hand-washing can lower the risk of getting sick from influenza, salmonella, e. Coli and other illnesses. Ohio’s fair veterinarians are trained to closely monitor fair livestock and poultry for clinical signs of illness.
Exhibitors who believe their animal may be sick should immediately contact their barn manager and fair veterinarian. Fair guests who experience illness should contact a medical professional, and their local health district.