- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009


Payroll specialist charged with theft

A Fort Washington woman has been charged with stealing more than $230,000 from the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

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Sonia Coleman, 28, a former WASA payroll specialist, is charged in federal court with transportation of stolen money.

Ms. Coleman stole at least $236,000 by increasing the pay of fired or on-leave employees and changing their direct deposit information so the money would go to her account and a friend’s account, prosecutors said.

The pair used the money for “personal expenses,” prosecutors said.

Ms. Coleman’s attorney declined to comment.

Officials tout plan to use streetcars

The D.C. Department of Transportation is moving forward with its plans to reinstate streetcars into its transit system.

The transportation department will announce its plans in a few weeks, as first reported by WTOP radio.

The first phase of the streetcar project will focus on building the infrastructure for a line that will run through Anacostia, planners said. That phase will cost about $25 million and includes laying track and installing poles and overhead cables.

Transportation officials say they plan to expand the streetcar system across the 11th Street bridges and along the H Street corridor in Northeast.

The city purchased three streetcars for $10 million in 2005. They are being held in the Czech Republic, where they were built, until the city builds tracks for them.



Johns Hopkins raising tuition

Johns Hopkins University said Wednesday it is increasing undergraduate tuition 3.8 percent next fall, bringing tuition at its two largest schools to nearly $40,000 a year.

That increase will bring tuition to $39,150 for the more than 4,700 full-time undergraduates at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering. The increase is the smallest since the 1974-75 academic year, the university said.

The increase also applies to its two smaller undergraduate schools, the School of Nursing and the Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins said. Nursing school tuition will rise to $31,920 and Peabody tuition will increase to $34,270.


Budget gap gets bigger

Montgomery County finance officials are now expecting a $520 million budget shortfall, $70 million bigger than earlier projections.

Finance Director Jennifer Barrett told the County Council on Tuesday that weak housing and stock markets have led to declining income and real estate taxes.

The county already faced a projected $450 million gap, about 11 percent of the $4 billion budget.

County Executive Isiah Leggett is expected to release his spending plan for fiscal 2010 within three weeks. Mr. Leggett and the council have pledged not to raise taxes and warned of deep cuts in government services to balance the budget.


Flu kills ninth youngster in U.S.

A Howard County teenager has died of the flu in what health officials say is the ninth pediatric flu death nationally this year.

County health officer Dr. Peter Beilenson called the death “tragic” and “highly unusual.”

The victim died this week after becoming “ill with flu symptoms that got progressively worse,” health department spokeswoman Lisa de Hernandez said. Federal patient privacy laws prohibit the county from releasing the teen’s identity or any details of the case.

Dr. Beilenson noted that most people recover from influenza after a few days. Getting a flu shot and practicing good hygiene can greatly reduce the risk, he said.



Lawmakers laud ex-player Smith

Virginia lawmakers Wednesday honored Bruce Smith, whose play for the Buffalo Bills has earned him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The NFL’s all-time sack leader received proclamations and standing ovations when he was presented before the House of Delegates and the state Senate.

Mr. Smith was at Virginia Tech before being selected the No. 1 overall pick by the Bills in the 1985 draft. He is a graduate of Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School and now lives in neighboring Virginia Beach.

He played in 11 Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro selection nine times. He finished his career with the Washington Redskins.


Ex-teacher gets time in child porn case

A former Virginia Beach teacher who admitted to possessing thousands of images of child pornography on his home computer was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in federal prison Wednesday.

The sentence Michael J. Jablonski received was more than double the minimum prison term.

The former Green Run High School teacher pleaded for leniency. But U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Friedman cited the images’ “extremely serious” nature, including bondage of young children.

Jablonski, 37, taught social studies and coached the girls volleyball team at Green Run until he was arrested last April.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


Self-appointed pastor sentenced for fraud

A self-proclaimed pastor will spend eight years in a federal prison for a scheme that authorities say bilked $1.4 million from 5,600 investors.

A federal judge also ordered Benjamin J. Seigler on Wednesday to repay the victims.

About $1.3 million was seized from Seigler by the government, which will repay most of the victims. Seigler must repay the remainder when he is released from prison.

Seigler, 43, pleaded guilty in October to four counts of mail fraud.

He enticed investors by claiming to be a successful investor and pastor, authorities said. But instead of investing any money, he put it in credit union and kept cash in his apartment.

Seigler told U.S. District Judge Rebecca B. Smith that he had “learned his lesson” and apologized.

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