- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Ex-Maryland official to lead tax office

Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi yesterday named a new head for the city’s troubled Office of Tax and Revenue.

Stephen M. Cordi, a Maryland government official for more than 30 years, was named deputy chief financial officer in charge of the tax office. He replaces Sheryl Hobbs Newman, who was forced to resign because of an embezzlement scandal in the office that cost the city at least $20 million.

Officials have said a manager in the tax office masterminded the scheme by approving phony property tax refund checks.

“I am completely confident that [Mr. Cordi] understands the challenges ahead and that he has the background needed to bring best practice to every aspect of the District’s tax administration,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Mr. Cordi began working in Maryland government as a special assistant attorney general in 1974, and retired as a deputy comptroller in 2005. He also is a past president of the national Federation of Tax Administrators.

Mr. Cordi last year argued as part of a private practice before the Maryland General Assembly on issues concerning tax legislation. He will start his job in the District on Jan. 22.

“We will do all that is needed to restore any lost confidence in the District’s tax system,” Mr. Cordi said.


Sex-assault suspect hangs self in jail

A suspect in a sex assault in Glen Burnie who was in a Louisiana jail awaiting extradition to Maryland died three days after he was found hanging in a cell, the Capital newspaper of Annapolis reported.

Ronald Lee Moore, 40, was pronounced dead early Saturday morning. Officials said he used a nylon string from a laundry bag to hang himself from a vent at Nelson Coleman Correctional Center in Hahnville, La. Jail officials said they had no indication he was suicidal.

Mr. Moore was wanted in Anne Arundel County, where he was accused of breaking into a woman’s Glen Burnie apartment in 1999, sexually assaulting her and shocking her with a cattle prod.

DNA samples linked Mr. Moore to the attack while he was in prison for a burglary conviction, but he was mistakenly released in November. He was arrested on Christmas Eve in Louisiana after authorities said he tried to burglarize a home.


Teens gets probation for acid on slide

A Baltimore County judge sentenced two 16-year-old boys yesterday for pouring a caustic chemical onto a playground slide that burned a little boy.

The judge sentenced them to home detention and supervised probation, WJZ-TV (Channel 13) reported. They also must perform 500 hours of community service and reimburse Baltimore County $700 each for the cost of the cleanup.

The two boys were found delinquent, the juvenile equivalent of guilty, for brushing an industrial-strength cleaner containing sulfuric acid over playground equipment in April.

Payton Potochney, 3, got second- and third-degree burns to his legs and lower back after going down a slide at the Middle River playground.

The teens also have to write a letter to Payton.


Doctor pleads guilty in drunken fatal crash

A former doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital pleaded guilty to driving drunk in the wrong direction on Interstate 83, causing an accident that killed a 22-year-old woman last summer.

Baltimore prosecutors said Todd Sheridan will be sentenced in April after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in the death of Letrice Smith.

Sheridan was driving the wrong way on I-83 about 2 a.m. when his vehicle hit Miss Smith’s car head-on.

Miss Smith was treated and released from Sinai Hospital but died of a blood clot two weeks later. Prosecutors said she got the blood clot because of her injuries from the accident.

Sheridan had worked in the department of pathology at Hopkins.


Employee sentenced for Goodwill theft

A Hagerstown woman was given a suspended sentence for stealing money from her employer to pay her son’s tuition at a private Christian school.

Kerri Sasse, 32, pleaded guilty Monday to a felony theft scheme charge.

She was ordered to serve three years’ probation and still faces a restitution hearing to determine the amount she owes.

Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Kessell said Sasse stole about $6,000 from Horizon Goodwill Industries. She said in court that she owes about half that amount because other people were involved in the scheme.


3 shot in drive-by near high school

Prince George’s County police are looking for the gunman in an apparent drive-by shooting yesterday that wounded three persons.

Police said the 4:50 p.m. shooting in the 9500 block of Ardwick Ardmore Road was about a quarter mile from C.H. Flowers High School.

Police said an 18-year-old girl was shot in the head and was in serious condition. A 17-year-old girl was shot in the leg and a man in his 30s was shot in the body. Their injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

“I’m angry and upset about this, and I want our community to be upset about this,” county police Chief Melvin C. High said. “This is not acceptable.”

He said police were looking for a tan vehicle carrying four or five persons. A second car may have been involved, he said.

There was no word on a motive, but Chief High said the male victim was hit by a stray bullet and was not targeted.

A Prince George’s County schools spokeswoman said the girls are students at Flowers.


Teenager stabbed in mall parking lot

A 17-year-old boy was in critical condition last night after he was stabbed outside the Mall in Columbia yesterday afternoon, Howard County police said.

Police said they think the stabbing was the result of a dispute just before 4 p.m. in the parking lot outside J.C. Penney.

The teen, whose name was not released, was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Police detained two teenage boys they think were involved.


Metro makes amends for fare-box error

A fare box programming error caused Metrobus riders to be overcharged when new fares went into effect this week, Metro said.

To make it up to riders, the transit agency will offer free rides Sunday and until noon Monday to passengers with SmarTrip cards.

Riders are supposed to be able to transfer from one bus to another free of charge, and people who transfer from rail to bus pay only 35 cents. But on Sunday and Monday, about 23,000 riders who made transfers using their SmarTrip cards were docked the full fare for each trip.

Metro has reprogrammed the fare boxes. The agency estimates that the free rides will cost it about $30,000.



Man sentenced in deputy-tied scheme

A man whose drug arrest sparked an investigation of corruption in the Henry County Sheriff’s Department was sentenced yesterday to a year and a day in prison.

William Randall Reed was one of seven civilians indicted in a scheme in which the sheriff was accused of looking the other way as his officers sold drugs and weapons seized from criminals. Former Sheriff H. Franklin Cassell is serving an eight-month term for lying to federal investigators.

U.S. District Judge James Turk rejected defense pleas for probation for Reed, who cooperated with prosecutors, but gave him less time than the 18 months recommended by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bassford.

Reed had pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in the Henry County case, but also was sentenced yesterday on three Philadelphia charges related to sales of the hallucinogen ketamine. Judge Turk gave him the same sentence for each charge and specified that they run concurrently.

Reed was arrested in March 2005 after a package of drugs for him was delivered to a house used for drug distribution that was owned by a sergeant in the department.

Eighteen persons have been convicted in the case. Only one officer, Sgt. Robert Keith Adams, remains to be sentenced.


Monticello sees drop in tourist numbers

The number of visitors to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home reached a three-decade low in 2007.

Monticello officials said higher gas prices and a mediocre foliage season probably were to blame for the decline. Monticello had 441,739 visitors, down more than 8,500 from 2006.

In 2002, visitation dipped below 500,000 for the first time since 1981, and the numbers have sputtered since then.

With the cost of a ticket averaging $11, Monticello will see about a $95,000 decline in revenue.

The nonprofit foundation raises revenue primarily through private fundraising and ticket and retail sales.


Ex-mayor sentenced for running brothel

The former mayor of Dumfries yesterday pleaded no contest to running a brothel out of a sports therapy clinic he owns in a Prince William County strip mall.

Melvin Bray was the small town’s first black mayor, serving from 2002 to 2006. He was charged with maintaining a bawdy house — a misdemeanor — after a police raid in July on Yorkshire Sports Therapy near Manassas. Police also seized about $20,000 in cash.

Mr. Bray received a 12-month suspended sentence with three years of probation.


Wildfires consume fewer acres in 2007

The number of wildfires in the state increased 16 percent from 2006 to 2007, but the number of acres burned dropped 19 percent, the Virginia Department of Forestry said.

Officials said about 1,500 wildfires burned 11,200 acres of forest in 2007. In 2006, 1,301 wildfires charred 13,763 acres. More than half of the burned acres are in Southwest Virginia. A department spokesman credited faster responses to the decrease in acres burned.

Damage to homes increased, with 20 homes sustaining damage in 2007 compared with 14 homes in 2006.

The department said Virginia’s expanding population, which is moving into wooded areas, is making homes more vulnerable to wildfire damage.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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