Brown helps get vest funding

Brown secures funding to keep Ohio law enforcement officers safe

Brown Led Bipartisan Efforts with Help from State, National Law Enforcement to Secure Funding for Bulletproof Vest Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $22.5 million in grant funding for the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, a program through the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) that provides funding for local and state law enforcement to acquire bulletproof vests for officers. The grant funding was included in the Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, which the committee approved by a 30-1 vote. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration. Brown led the bipartisan effort to secure full funding for the program with support from state and national law enforcement organizations.

“While the rest of us run away from danger, law enforcement runs toward it,” said Brown on July 28. “Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each day to protect us, and this funding is an important investment that will help protect those who work every day to keep Ohio communities safe.”

The funding will be administered by OJP to local law enforcement agencies in order to purchase bulletproof vests for officers. According to OJP, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership has helped more than 13,000 jurisdictions purchase more than one million vests.

Brown worked with several Ohio and national law enforcement organizations including, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, National Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Tactical Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Major Cities Chief’s Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, and the National Narcotics Officers’ Association.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved more than $400 million in funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG), which Brown helped secure. The Byrne JAG program provides grant funding for local law enforcement agencies to fund various programs including, drug treatment and enforcement programs, crime prevention and education programs, and crime victim and witness programs. The funding is administered through DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Brown has taken the lead on bipartisan legislation in support of law enforcement officers and their families and has been a vocal proponent of providing federal resources necessary to protect officers as they work to keep Ohio communities safe.

As law enforcement work to stop the flow of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States, the Ohio FOP along with several state and national law enforcement organizations have endorsed Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan legislation, the INTERDICT Act, to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep fentanyl out of the country.

In May, following an Ohio police officer’s accidental overdose after coming into contact with fentanyl in the field, Brown wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging the agency to speed up the distribution of federal funding for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant Program, which provides funding to police departments to train first-responders as they deal with opioid related incidents. The program was created as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which Brown supported.

Additionally, Brown has several bipartisan bills to provide new support to law enforcement officers and their families.

Brown’s bills would:

  • Put pressure on the Department of Justice to speed up claims processing so families of disabled officers or fallen officers get the benefits they are owed more quickly.
  • Authorize police departments to use certain federal grant funding to hire veterans as law enforcement officers.
  • Help law enforcement agencies establish or enhance mental health care services, like peer mentoring pilot programs and crisis hotlines, for their officers.
  • Increase access to federal scholarship dollars for the children of public safety officers killed in the line of duty.

Federal Court Approves Class Action on Ohio City’s Illegal Home Inspections

Legal Center: Fees that City’s homeowners were forced to pay to fund unconstitutional “point of sale” inspections must now be returned

Cleveland — A federal court late Friday (July 31) certified a class action lawsuit against the City of Bedford, Ohio, explaining that all homeowners who were forced to endure government searches as a precondition to the sale of their homes are entitled to demand refunds of illegal “Point of Sale” inspection fees.

This ruling paves the way for the return of inspections fees to all affected homeowners, rather than just those who filed the lawsuit.

The Order, made by Judge Benita Pearson of the Northern District of Ohio, confirms class action lawsuits may be maintained against city governments who extort their citizens and businesses in a widespread manner, such as through violating their Fourth Amendment rights through sweeping city-wide home inspection requirements.

Specifically, Judge Pearson certified classes of all individuals or businesses that have been subject to the inspections and paid inspection fees to the City of Bedford in conjunction with the inspections, explaining that “Citizens are entitled to “return of Point of Sale and Rental Inspection fees illegal paid to [the City of Bedford].”

“Class action litigation is an excellent method for average citizens to even the playing field when fighting back against their corrupt and otherwise indifferent local governments. This ruling confirms that Ohio cities must be held just as responsible to their citizens as big corporations are to their customers,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

In May of 2016, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law moved to immediately enjoin Ohio cities, and the Cities of Bedford and Oakwood in particular, from enforcing “point of sale” and “presale” programs that require citizens to endure and pass arbitrary and warrant-less government inspections before they could sell their homes to even the most informed and willing buyers.

In each case, the Cities had threatened to criminally prosecute and even imprison homeowners who sold their homes without first submitting to and passing city inspections. In Bedford, the City also claimed the power to block home sales on account of “architectural style and detail,” “color,” and lack of “orderly appearance.”

Within days of the 1851 Center’s lawsuits, each city rescinded its policies. However each has refused to return illegal inspection fees.

Such municipal ordinances, in addition to restricting Ohioans’ property rights, subject homeowners to open-ended warrant-less searches of every interior and exterior space of a home, violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14, Article I of the Ohio Constitution.

“Local governments do not have unlimited authority to force entry into Ohioans’ homes or businesses. To the contrary ‘houses’ are one of the types of property specifically mentioned by the Fourth Amendment; and Ohioans have every moral and constitutional entitlement to exclude others, even government agents, from their property,” adds Thompson. “The right to own property in Ohio has little value if local governments can continuously chip away at one’s right to actually make use of that property, requiring government permission slips for basic arrangements such as the sale of one’s home to a willing buyer.”

The legal action against Bedford is filed on behalf of area landlord Ken Pund, who is forbidden from selling to his daughter a home that he owns and she already resides in, and John Diezic who was prohibited from selling his Bedford home due to minor cracks in the asphalt of his driveway.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures.

This lawsuit is brought in partnership with the Ohio Real Estate Investors Association (“OREIA”), the Finney Law Firm in Cincinnati, and the law firm of Berns, Ockner & Greenberger in Cleveland.

Former Treasurer Accused of Theft from Pike County Firefighters’ Association

WAVERLY — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today (Aug. 1) that the former treasurer of the Pike County Firefighters’ Association is now facing charges related to the theft of organization funds.

A Pike County Grand Jury indicted James “Jason” Fields, 42, of Beaver, on the following felony charges:

  • One count of money laundering, a felony of the third degree
  • One count of telecommunications fraud, a felony of the fourth degree
  • One count of theft, a felony of the fifth degree

Fields is accused of transferring more than $3,500 from the association’s bank account to his personal bank account between April 20, 2016 and August 30, 2016. He then allegedly spent the funds on personal expenses.

“The Pike County Firefighters’ Association trusted the defendant to safeguard the funds that he is now accused of stealing,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “The funds should have been used to support the work of firefighters in Pike County, but instead the defendant allegedly spent the money on himself.”

The case was investigated by agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Attorney General DeWine’s Special Prosecutions Section.

Suspect Wanted for Grand Theft, Telecommunications Fraud

CLEVELAND — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined the Cleveland Division of Police today (July 31) to seek the public’s help in locating Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, 23, of Cleveland, who is wanted for multiple counts of grand theft and telecommunications fraud.

In the spring of 2017, victims began contacting the Cleveland Division of Police Financial Crimes Unit reporting that they had been scammed by the same woman. Sbeih-Maddox is accused of creating a Facebook page which she allegedly used to entice potential buyers with discounted baby and toddler items. According to investigators, Sbeih-Maddox mainly targeted new mothers and investigators believe she has scammed over 150 victims with a total loss of approximately $200,000.

Felony warrants for grand theft and telecommunications fraud have been issued for Zienup Sbeih-Maddox.

Agents with the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) are assisting in the ongoing investigation. Both agencies continue to investigate cases of interstate fraudulent activity as they are filed, and victims have been located as far away as Hawaii.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Zienup Sbeih-Maddox is asked to contact Cleveland Police at 216-621-1234. Anonymous information can be given to Crime Stoppers by calling 216-252-7463 or via text message: text TIP657 plus your message to Crimes (274637). Those with information can also call the BCI tip line at 855-BCI-OHIO (855-224-6446).

Home Health Aide Pleads Guilty to Identity Fraud, Theft from Elderly Client

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ross County Prosecutor Matthew S. Schmidt announced that a Chillicothe woman has pleaded guilty to identity fraud and stealing from an elderly woman with a disability while serving as the elderly woman’s home health aide.

Beth Meyers, 34, of Chillicothe, pleaded guilty in the Ross County Common Pleas Court to one count of identity fraud, one count of theft from a person in a protected class, and one count of misuse of a credit card.

According to investigators, Meyers used the elderly woman’s Social Security number and address to open and use several lines of credit in the victim’s name between July 2015 and August 2015, while Meyers worked as her home health care provider. Meyers also used the victim’s ATM card to steal cash. In all, investigators found that Meyers took over $3,000, which she used to pay for a vacation and car repairs.

“The defendant was in a position of trust, and she took advantage of it,” Attorney General DeWine said. “It’s a very sad situation. She stole from a woman who relied on her for care.”

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s Office partnering with Ross County to obtain justice for a vulnerable member of our community,” said Ross County Prosecutor Schmidt.

The case is being prosecuted by an attorney with the Ohio Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit, who was appointed as a special prosecutor by the Ross County Prosecutor. The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit with the Ross County Sheriff’s Department.

Meyers is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 22, 2017.

Attorney General DeWine Seeks Restitution from Toledo-Area Home Improvement Contractor

TOLEDO —Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a home improvement contractor accused of taking money for services he never provided to consumers in northwest Ohio.

The lawsuit accuses United Roofing & Remodeling LLC and owner Josh Gardner, of Toledo, of violating Ohio consumer protection laws.

“Many home improvement contractors do a great job, but some people just don’t complete the work they were paid to do,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Our goal is to protect consumers and to hold people accountable.”

According to the lawsuit, Gardner and his company offered roof installations and other home improvement services to consumers in northwest Ohio, but after taking money from consumers, they failed to begin or to complete the work, did work that was shoddy, or in some cases caused damage to consumers’ property.

Among six unresolved complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or Better Business Bureau, estimated consumer losses total about $25,000.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, accuses Gardner and United Roofing & Remodeling of violating Ohio’s Consumers Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act. Counts include failure to deliver, performing shoddy work, failure to honor a warranty, and failure to properly notify consumers of their cancellation rights.

The Attorney General seeks reimbursement for consumers, an injunction to prevent further violations, and civil penalties.

Attorney General DeWine reminded consumers to research home improvement contractors in advance by checking for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or Better Business Bureau and by talking to past customers to learn about their experiences with the contractor.

Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.

Attorney General DeWine Awards $2.7 Million in Grants for Drug Use Prevention Education

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today (Aug. 2) that he is awarding more than $2.7 million in grant funds to a number of law enforcement agencies across the state for drug use prevention education programs in public schools.

A total of 130 sheriffs’ offices and police departments will receive a portion of the $2,742,649 in Drug Use Prevention Grant funds announced today. The funds must be used to establish or maintain drug abuse prevention education and awareness programs for students during the 2017 – 2018 school year.

Grant recipients are required to include over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse prevention education in their programs.

“The abuse of prescription drugs is one of the primary reasons behind the current opiate epidemic in Ohio, which is why it’s important that students receive age-appropriate lessons about the dangers of these and other drugs at an early age,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

A full list of the 130 award recipients can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

D.A.R.E. programs and school resource officer drug use prevention programs were eligible to apply for the grants, and all programs must be conducted in cooperation with the public school superintendent of each school district where the programming will take place.

The Drug Use Prevention Grant Fund supports programs such as Botvin LifeSkills, D.A.R.E. – Keepin’ It Real, PALS – Prevention through Alternative Learning Styles, I’m Special, Too Good For Drugs, Reach Out Now, and Stay on Track.

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