- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

Plea deal reached in identity theft

MIAMI | A computer hacker accused of masterminding one of the largest cases of identity theft in U.S. history agreed Friday to plead guilty and serve up to 25 years in federal prison for his crimes.

Albert Gonzalez of Miami was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in federal courts in New York and Boston. Court documents filed in federal court in Boston indicate Gonzalez, 28, agreed to plead guilty to 19 counts and combine the two cases in federal court in Massachusetts.

Additional charges against Gonzalez are pending in New Jersey, but not currently part of the plea deal.

Gonzalez is accused of swiping the credit and debit card numbers of more than 170 million accounts; officials said Gonzalez was the ringleader of a group that targeted large companies including T.J. Maxx, Barnes and Noble, Sports Authority and OfficeMax among others.

Gonzalez’s Miami attorney, Rene Palomino Jr., could not be reached Friday for comment. He told the Associated Press on Thursday that his client was “extremely remorseful as to what has happened.”

Friday’s plea deal on the New York and Massachusetts charges ensures that he will be behind bars for 15 to 25 years. If convicted of all the charges in the plea agreement - and if he had been sentenced to the maximum- he would have received a sentence of several hundred years.

Coroner: Jackson death homicide

LOS ANGELES | Michael Jackson’s death was a homicide caused primarily by the powerful anesthetic propofol and another sedative, the coroner confirmed Friday in a highly anticipated ruling that increases the likelihood of criminal charges against the pop star’s doctor.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office determined the cause of death was “acute propofol intoxication.” Lorazepam, another sedative, sold under the brand name Ativan, contributed to the death.

Additional drugs detected in Mr. Jackson’s system were the sedatives midazolam and diazepam, the painkiller lidocaine and the stimulant ephedrine.

The coroner did not release Mr. Jackson’s full autopsy report, citing a security hold requested by Los Angeles authorities investigating the case, and he declined to comment beyond a short statement announcing the manner and cause of death.

Mr. Jackson, 50, died June 25 at his rented Los Angeles mansion. Dr. Conrad Murray, the Las Vegas cardiologist who was the pop star’s personal physician, told police he gave Mr. Jackson propofol that morning after a series of sedatives failed to help the pop star sleep.

Dr. Murray has not been charged with any crime but is the target of what police term a manslaughter investigation.

Also Friday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown said his office will open an independent investigation of several doctors whose names have come up in connection with the probe into Mr. Jackson’s death.

Drugstore chain founder dies

HARRISBURG | Rite Aid Corp. founder Alex Grass has died at age 82.

Mr. Grass’ daughter, Elizabeth Weese, said he died Thursday night in Harrisburg, Pa., after a 10-year struggle with lung cancer.

He helped build Rite Aid into one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains and was a philanthropist who gave to civic, health and educational organizations in the Harrisburg area.

Mr. Grass was educated as a lawyer, but his business career took off when he opened a health and beauty aids store in Scranton in 1962. He stepped down as chairman and chief executive officer in 1995.

His son, Martin Grass, later ran the Camp Hill-based company but was ousted in 1999. He is in prison for conspiracy stemming from an overstatement of Rite Aid’s earnings in the late 1990s.

Board fires 3 in gay-bar raid

FORT WORTH, Texas | The state’s liquor board fired two agents and a supervisor, disciplined two other supervisors and changed several policies in the wake of a raid at a gay bar that left a customer with a serious head injury, officials announced Friday.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said agent Christopher Aller and agent trainee Jason Chapman, who participated in the June 28 raid at the Rainbow Lounge, were fired Friday. Their supervisor, Sgt. Terry Parsons, was not at the Fort Worth bar that night but also was fired, effective Wednesday.

Mr. Aller and Mr. Chapman failed to report they used force when arresting the customer or that he was seriously injured, according to a report on the agency’s investigation released earlier this month.

They also were accused of participating in the raid without their supervisor’s approval, disrupting the business during the raid and wearing improper attire, the report states.

The commission said Sgt. Parsons’ direct supervisor, Lt. Gene Anderson, would be suspended without pay for three days and be on probation for six months for inadequate monitoring of the training of new agents and inadequate oversight of his employees and their activities.

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