- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Ex-Army inspector stole soldiers’ IDs for money

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former Army post inspector whose job was to investigate misconduct pleaded guilty on Tuesday to stealing the identities of other officers to obtain bank loans and then trying to blame his crimes on a deceased officer.

James Robert Jones was an assistant inspector general at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border in 2013, when he used his position to obtain personal identifying information of active duty officers, some of whom were deployed to Afghanistan.

According to the plea agreement, the 43-year-old Jones, of Woodlawn, used the officers’ birth dates, Social Security numbers and other personal information to open bank accounts in their names and then apply for $72,000 in loans.

After he was indicted last year, Jones, whose rank was sergeant first class, told The Associated Press in an email that he was innocent. He called the allegations “disturbing and shocking” and said he was “embarrassed and saddened for the government.”

But in the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville on Tuesday, Jones admitted to the scheme, including trying to place blame on a deceased U.S. Army officer after the fraud was discovered.

In an interview with a U.S. Secret Service agent, Jones falsely claimed he had obtained the personal information of the victims from the deceased officer, according to the plea agreement. He then asked a co-worker to delete records from his laptop.

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Comer seeks release of hemp seeds

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has urged federal officials to release a batch of imported hemp seeds meant to gauge the crop’s potential as a moneymaker for farmers.

Comer’s chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehrte, says state agriculture officials had discussions with federal Justice Department and drug enforcement officials on Tuesday. She says drug enforcement officials eventually agreed to expedite the process to release the seeds to Kentucky.

Comer’s office is threatening to go to court to obtain the 250-pound shipment of seeds from Italy unless federal customs officials release it.

The new federal farm bill allows a limited comeback of hemp. It allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp pilot projects for research in states such as Kentucky that allow the growing of hemp.

Eight pilot projects are planned in Kentucky.

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Ky. company to return $7.75 million to consumers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky-based company has been ordered to return $7.75 million in assets to more than 350,000 people who were caught up in what officials say was one of the country’s largest pyramid schemes.

Officials said Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing would charge people $249 for the rights to sell products like satellite TV service and home security systems. The company would target Spanish-speaking communities and promised them they could get rich if they sold the products. But state and federal officials said the company’s promotional materials focused on recruiting new members, not selling products.

“This was a classic pyramid scheme in every sense of the word,” Kentucky’s Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway said in a news release. “The vast majority of people, more than 90 percent, who bought in to FHTM lost their money.”

The Federal Trade Commission, along with Conway and attorneys general in Illinois and North Carolina, announced the settlement Tuesday with the Lexington-based company.

Kentucky officials started investigating Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing in 2010 after officials in North Dakota, Montana and Texas reached settlements with the company. Conway’s office said it received about a dozen complaints from consumers. He said his office contacted the Federal Trade Commission because the case had victims spread across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

“This is a ‘wake-up and smell-the-coffee’ moment for any promoters of illegal pyramid schemes trying to hide behind labels like multi-level marketing,” Jessica Rich, director of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release. “The FTC wants consumers to know that eventually, all pyramid schemes collapse, and nearly everyone who signs up with the companies loses his or her money.”

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Harlan police to watch vacationers’ homes

HARLAN, Ky. (AP) - Harlan County police are trying to help residents enjoy their summer vacations by giving them a little extra peace of mind.

WYMT-TV (https://bit.ly/1mV29H5) reports the police department has started offering a service in which officers will keep an eye on homes while residents are vacationing.

Sgt. Matt Cope says all people have to do to sign up for the service is fill out a form. Officers will also be able to give out security tips.

“We want our residents to be able to go out of town and have a relaxing and enjoyable vacation and while they’re out of town on vacation, we don’t want them to worry about the safety and security of their homes,” he said.

Cope says with the service, all officers will know who is out of town so they’ll be able to keep a closer watch on empty homes.

He says he hopes the service will cut down on the number of items stolen over the summer.

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