- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008


Maryland woman charged in tax scam

A real estate agent from Prince George’s County has been charged in a scheme that prosecutors think defrauded the D.C. tax office out of nearly $50 million.

Alethia Grooms, 52, of Clinton, was charged in federal court Thursday with possession of stolen property and money laundering. She was charged in a “criminal information,” a document that can only be filed with the defendant’s consent and usually signals a plea deal is near.

Court documents state Miss Grooms became friends with the scheme’s purported ringleader, Harriette Walters, in the 1980s while both were taking classes at the University of the District of Columbia.

The documents state Miss Grooms received fraudulent tax refund checks from Miss Walters as early as June 1989. Prosecutors are seeking to have Miss Grooms repay about $650,000.



Federal detainees increasing at prison

Baltimore’s Supermax prison is getting more federal defendants awaiting trial.

State corrections officials have agreed to house another 96 detainees, bringing the total of federal prisoners at Supermax to 240, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said increasing federal prosecutions has led to more defendants being held without bail. Mr. Rosenstein said the number of detainees rose from an average of 253 a day in 1999 to 532 in May.

The prosecutor said the area does not have a federal pretrial detention center, and the U.S. Marshals Service must transport detainees to court from as many as 20 state, local and county facilities around the state.

Mr. Rosenstein said keeping defendants at Supermax makes it easier for attorneys and families to visit and easier for defendants to testify and cooperate with law enforcement.


Inmate strangled, autopsy shows

An autopsy has concluded that a state prison inmate found dead in his cell at Western Correctional Institution near Cumberland four months ago was strangled.

Investigators have identified a suspect in the homicide of Mark Capano, Allegany County State’s Attorney Michael Twigg told the Cumberland Times-News.

Mr. Twigg said he is awaiting further reports before proceeding with prosecution. Maryland State Police said they are investigating the case.

The Division of Correction said in April that Capano’s cellmate told authorities he found him unresponsive in their cell on the morning of March 28. Capano, 23, was serving a 14-year sentence for a second-degree murder conviction in Cecil County in 2003.


Suspect in rapes kills self

A Suitland man suspected of raping at least nine women died Wednesday after shooting himself in the head, Prince George’s County police said.

Police said Mark Antonio Humphries, 33, shot himself Wednesday afternoon while barricaded inside a Hyattsville apartment. He died at a hospital at about 10:30 p.m.

Police said Mr. Humphries visited Craigslist and chat rooms to set up dates with professional escorts. When the women showed up, police said they were attacked by a masked man.

The rapes began in August but were not linked until early this year. Police obtained an arrest warrant Sunday in a July 14 assault and tracked Mr. Humphries to the Hyattsville apartment Wednesday.

Police set up a barricade after no one answered officers’ knocks. Later, they heard a gunshot and found Mr. Humphries inside, wounded from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot.


Man pleads guilty in teen’s slaying

A 19-year-old Dundalk man has pleaded guilty to taking part in a fatal random attack on a teen in January.

Robert Wood pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree assault, conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and accessory to murder after the fact in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors said Mr. Woods punched Joshua Gibson, 16, in the face as the teen walked on a Dundalk street. They said teenager, who was chosen at random by his attackers, was then shot in the face and back by a second person.

Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 31.

Earlier this week, Robert Bragg, 18, of Dundalk, who was driving the car in which the attackers had been riding, pleaded guilty to the same charges.


Winery granted entertainment permit

A winery in downtown Frederick is celebrating a regulatory victory that allows it to expand its operating hours and offer entertainment.

Frederick Cellars was Maryland’s first urban winery when it opened nearly two years ago in the Everedy Square antique-shopping district. The owners wanted to offer live music and special events along with wine sales, but city zoning restrictions forced it to operate as a liquor store.

The Board of Zoning Appeals now has granted the business a permit enabling it to offer entertainment, host wedding receptions and stay open as late as 10 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends.

Urban wineries are located in or near population centers instead of at the vineyards that supply their grapes. The Maryland Winery Association said others have opened in St. Michael’s and Manchester since Frederick Cellars began operating in late 2006.



Judge delays privacy lawsuit

Trial of a lawsuit challenging a new Virginia law that bars individuals from posting Social Security numbers on the Internet has been postponed.

The case had been set for trial Thursday, but U.S. District Judge Robert Payne asked for additional briefs and delayed the case until Aug. 14.

The lawsuit was filed by privacy advocate B.J. Ostergren, who has posted Social Security numbers of prominent people and court officials on a Web site to show that government has failed to protect individuals’ privacy. All the Social Security numbers she posts are obtained from documents on government Web sites.

Mrs. Ostergren claims the government cannot make the numbers publicly available and then punish citizens for distributing them.


Wright promoted to superintendent

Patricia I. Wright has been named Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction.

Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, made the appointment Thursday. Miss Wright replaces Billy Cannaday Jr., who is leaving Sept. 30 to become dean of the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Her appointment takes effect Oct. 1.

Miss Wright, 55, has served as the chief deputy superintendent of public instruction since 2006, when Mr. Cannaday was appointed superintendent. She served as deputy superintendent and acting superintendent under Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, from 2004 to 2006. She began her career teaching mathematics in Sussex County and Chesterfield County public schools.

Under her leadership, Miss Wright said the Department of Education will “continue to provide a statewide system of support and accountability aimed at preparing students for post-secondary education, work, and citizenship in a global economy,” according to Mr. Kaine’s office.

In her current position, Miss Wright has overseen the state Department of Education’s daily operations and has guided the development of the state’s educational policy.

She was one of the developers of the Standards of Learning statewide accountability measures. Virginia schools first began SOL testing in 1998.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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