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Jun 192014
Florida Lottery Officials Investigate State Retailers

iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The Florida Lottery is looking for payback Thursday after four people were arrested in 48 hours on charges ranging from stolen property to grand theft.

The arrests were part of a sweeping investigation of nearly 100 Florida retailers for possible lottery fraud after it was found that, out of the top 10 winners in scratch-off games in the state, nine were convenience store owners.

Richard Lustig, who wrote a best-selling book after winning the Florida Lottery, said there were three quick ways store owners and clerks seemed to be gaming the system.

“They’re watching people buy tickets,” Lustig said. “[They see] a bunch of losers. They feel that that game has a winner coming up. No. 2 mostly involves preying on the elderly. They come in, they hand the clerk their ticket and say, ‘Could you check it for me and see if it’s a winner?’ They tell the person, ‘No, it’s not.’ The person walks out of the store and, in reality, the person has a $1,000 winner. So the clerk pockets it and cashes it in.”

“The third way is [that] a person in the United States illegally wins a big prize,” he said. “They don’t want to cash it in because they’re afraid of the publicity, that they’re going to be caught and shipped out, so they make a deal with the store owner or the merchant.”

After an ABC News report two weeks ago and other reports by ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa, the Florida lottery zipped out a batch of public service announcements. The PSAs encouraged people to sign the tickets so that no one else could claim them.

Some clerks around the country recently have been caught playing their customers.

In Syracuse, New York, a clerk was convicted of swindling a customer, telling him that he had a $5,000 ticket when it was actually worth $5 million.

Experts said lottery players should not give a ticket to a clerk. If you wait a couple of seconds, a scratch-off machine will tell you if you’ve won. Lustig also suggested going to the lottery’s website and checking your ticket or calling the state lottery’s number.

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Jun 192014
VA Facilities to Be Subject to Monthly Inspections

Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On Wednesday, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson announced monthly inspections of VA facilities to ensure proper scheduling and timely care for all veterans.

“Our top priority is getting Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics,” Gibson said. “We need our folks in the facilities to work directly with staff, answer all questions, and ensure our veterans receive the timely care they have earned.”

Each of the more than 900 Veterans Health Administrations will be subject to monthly reviews as well as similar reviews by Veterans Integrated Service Network Directors. The directors will be mandated to visit one medical center within their area of responsibility every 30 days.

The on-site inspections will include observation of daily scheduling processes and in-person interaction with employees to ensure all policies are being followed.

The changes come on the heels of a scandal at the VA that saw employees falsify wait times for vets nationwide seeking doctors appoinments. The mishandling has a growing body count; dozens of vetertans died while waiting for treatment. 

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Jun 182014
Dept. of Defense Announces Identification of 17 Killed in 1952 Plane Crash

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Wednesday that they had confirmed the identities of the remains of 17 individuals who were killed in a 1952 military plane crash in Alaska, after their remains were located in 2012.

According to the DOD, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska from McChord Air Force Base in Washington state crashed on Nov. 22, 1952. The plane had 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board at the time of the crash. Due to adverse weather conditions, the plane and the remains of the deceased could not be immediately recovered.

By December, search parties were unable to locate any of the service members, the DOD said.

On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard helicopter crew spotted wreckage and debris in an Alaska glacier. After photographs and artifacts found at the site linked the debris to the 1952 crash, recovery operations began. In 2013, officials were able to confirm the remains of 17 service members, though the remaining individuals on board the plane have not been recovered. The remains of those recovered will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

The DOD said it would continue to observe the scene for potential recovery efforts. The names of the 17 servicemen who were positively identified can be found at the Department of Defense’s website.

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Jun 182014
Two Texas Men Arrested on Terror Charges

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — Two men have been arrested in Texas and separately charged with terror-related offenses after federal agents said they planned to travel halfway around the world to engage in violent jihad.

One of the men, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen named Rahatul Ashikim Khan, allegedly wanted to join al-Shabab, a Somalia-based terror group linked to al Qaeda. For the other, Michael Todd Wolfe from Houston, learning to fight in Syria was allegedly the goal.

According to charging documents, Wolfe’s wife met an undercover FBI agent in August 2013 and told the agent she and her husband wanted to “perform a violent form of jihad” outside of the United States. She said Wolfe “just wants to hop into Syria. He’s just ready to die for his deen [religion]. He’s ready to die for someone, for something,” court documents say.

Over several months, another undercover FBI agent met with Wolfe, and they discussed Wolfe’s plans for going overseas, according to the court documents. On Jan. 22, both undercover FBI agents met with Wolfe and his wife, and Wolfe “indicated that he had learned that al Qaeda in Syria was training brothers from other countries (foreign fighters) and then sending those fighters back from Syria to their home countries to conduct terror attacks,” the FBI says in court documents. A month later, one of the FBI agents allegedly watched a YouTube video about foreign fighters in Syria with Wolfe and his wife.

They were planning to use some of their estimated $5,000 tax refund to pay for their travel, prosecutors say.

In subsequent meetings with undercover agents, Wolfe allegedly expressed dismay over infighting among terrorist groups in Syria, and he “struggled” with whether to actually go. Then Tuesday, Wolfe and his family went to George Bush International Airport, attempting to board a flight to Toronto and then make their way to Syria. Instead, Wolfe was arrested, accused of attempting to provide “material support and resources to terrorists, including but not limited to personnel, including himself.”

Khan became a U.S. citizen in 2002 and is a full-time student at University of Texas-Austin, which is now on summer recess.

According to charging documents in his case, in early 2011, Khan began communicating with an informant in an online chat room, which he used “as a platform to spot and assess potential recruits for committing violent jihad overseas.”

Khan introduced the informant to an unidentified co-conspirator, possibly in Florida, who then attempted to recruit the informant to travel to Somalia to engage in jihad there, prosecutors say in court documents. The co-conspirator then introduced the informant to another person, also likely in Florida, who discussed how Khan could get to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.

In June 2011, Khan told the informant that his brain “starts bleeding” when he sees weak “bengalis” who have “no love for jihad” and “no love to shed blood,” authorities allege.

The arrests come a month after the Justice Department asked a special prosecutor in its National Security Division to help lead U.S. efforts aimed at stemming the flow of American fighters to the civil war in Syria. Top law enforcement officials have said they’re concerned the young men and women could possibly return home, freshly trained in deadly operations, and unleash havoc on the homeland.

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Apr 272014
Georgia-Pacific Plant Explosion Injures Eight

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CORRIGAN, Texas) — Eight people were reported injured on Saturday during a fiery explosion at a Georgia Pacific plywood plant.The explosion occurred at about 6:18 p.m. local time and was put out about two hours later, the Corrig…