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Monday, April 16, 2012


City Council panel OKs nearly $1.5 million in settlements


A Chicago City Council panel on Monday recommended settling two more police misconduct lawsuits, one involving allegations of extortion, the other of coercion.

If approved Wednesday by the full council, the tab for 11 police cases settled since September will reach $10.85 million.
The council Finance Committee signed off on paying $700,000 to a South Side family who alleged rogue police officers extorted thousands of dollars from them in armed raids on the family’s home in the Roseland neighborhood.

Officers allegedly entered the home repeatedly in 2004, threatened the people inside with physical violence and arrest and then took money from them, “including an elderly resident’s social security checks,” said Leslie Darling, a high-level attorney for the city.

In one instance, the officers allegedly planted drugs on Larry Wilkins and arrested him. He spent eight months in jail before charges were dismissed after police officers were arrested by federal authorities.

Prosecutors eventually charged five police officers as being part of the South Side shakedown ring and they got sentences ranging from six to 40 years.

The committee also recommended paying $750,000 to Jose Lopez, who was arrested in 2002 for the murder of Gabriel Solis. After spending three years behind bars, Lopez was acquitted.

Lopez alleged that after a man who fit the description of the actual shooter implicated him, police held two other witnesses against their will and coerced them into implicating Lopez, Darling said. At a civil trial last year, 10 of 12 jurors ruled in favor of Lopez, Darling added.

Idiot Sheriff arrests Swan on First degree Murder

Man who drowned in Des Plaines-area pond likely attacked by swan

Anthony Hensley could light up a room and turn a bad moment into something good, his brother said.

“He’s like a rock star that never played an instrument,” said Raymond Hensley. "He just had that type of personality. He took life seriously but enjoyed life to its fullest.”

Anthony Hensley, 37, a Villa Park resident and father of two young daughters, died Saturday after his kayak rolled over in a retention pond near Des Plaines. Authorities and family members believe a swan nesting at the pond became aggressive, causing the kayak to overturn and Hensley to drown.

Family members said Hensley worked for North Barrington-based Knox Swan and Dog LLC, which places the birds at ponds to control large goose populations. The company also uses dogs to chase geese away from area ponds, grassy properties and golf courses. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Hensley’s stepmother, Tammy Hensley, said sheriff’s police went to his house Saturday to tell his wife about the accident.

“It just terrible; no words can describe it,” said Tammy. “We are all very upset, but I can’t stop thinking about his two daughters.”

Sarge's top three idiots

Sarge's top most Stupid Assholes

<b><big>Charge: Felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon</big></b><br><a href=",0,5025257.story"target="_blank">Read more>></a>

Nevada man got himself arrested Saturday night after acknowledging to Greyhound security officers that he did indeed have weapons and ammunition in his luggage, authorities said.
About 7:30 p.m. Saturday, as part of a routine security inquiry to all passengers getting on the Greyhound bus at the South Loop station, Daniel Fenstemacher was asked if he had any weapons with him, police said.

Fenstemacher, 52, of the 600 block of Record Street in Reno, replied that he did, police said, and he was detained while weapons and ammunition were recovered from his luggage, which was already on the bus.

The bus line’s security officers alerted police to a .17-caliber revolver and a .380-caliber revolver in his bag, prosecutors said. He also had a knife, prosecutors said.

Fenstemacher was then arrested and charged with felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, police said.

Cook County Criminal Court Judge Edward Harmening ordered Fenstemacher held in lieu of $50,000 bail Sunday and ordered him to be placed on electronic monitoring if he is released.

Fenstemacher said during the brief court hearing that he could find a place to stay in the Chicago area while his case is pending.

<b><big>Charge: Misdemeanor domestic battery</big></b><br><a href=",0,7592023.story"target="_blank">Read more>></a>

Former Chicago Bears wide receiver David Terrell was ordered held on $10,000 bond Saturday after he allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend during an argument inside his high-rise apartment on the Near South Side and threatened to throw her off a balcony, according to court documents.

Terrell, 33, is charged with misdemeanor domestic battery. He looked to the floor and shook his head in Cook County bond court as a prosecutor summarized the allegations against him.

Terrell was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft, arriving from the University of Michigan. He played four seasons with the Bears and one game with the Denver Broncos in 2005, finishing his career with 128 receptions and 9 touchdowns.

Terrell was arrested Friday afternoon at his apartment building in the 1700 block of South Michigan Avenue, where his unit appears to be on the 33rd floor, according to court records. The alleged incident occurred about 2:30 a.m. Friday.

The ex-girlfriend told police that she had just ended a seven-month relationship with Terrell, sparking an argument that escalated when Terrell allegedly grabbed her, causing bruises on her upper arms, chest and neck, according to court records.

The woman, 25, told police Terrell swore at her and said, "I'll throw you off the balcony and say you jumped," according to court records.

The woman told police she waited for Terrell to fall asleep and then went to Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, where she was treated and released.

Terrell's attorney, Shady Yassin, declined to speak in detail about the case after the hearing but said, "We intend to prove he's innocent of these allegations."

<b><big>Charge: Felony count of aggravated battery to a peace officer</big></b><br><a href=",0,3366328.story"target="_blank">Read more>></a>

A scuffle outside the Criminal Court building landed one man behind bars and a Cook County State’s Attorney’s office investigator in the hospital Wednesday afternoon in the Little Village neighborhood, police said.

The investigator had just parked his department vehicle about 12:30 p.m. in the 2600 block of South California Avenue when he heard someone yelling and hitting the trunk of the vehicle, police said.

When he approached the man doing it, he identified himself as a law enforcement officer and the man punched him in the face and fled, police said.

The investigator ran after him and an off duty Chicago Police detective saw the pursuit and was able to detain the man, Michael Daviston, police said.

The investigator was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital because he suffered an injury to his left hamstring and back during the chase, police said.

Daviston, 24, of the 1100 block of South St. Louis Avenue, was charged with one felony count of aggravated battery to a peace officer. He is scheduled to appear in court today.

15 Year Old dies in crash with parents

 Parents, 15-year-old girl die in Orland Park crash

Three killed in crash

Tribune reporters

A 15-year-old girl and her parents died in a three-car crash late Sunday night in southwest suburban Orland Park, according to authorities.
The teen's sister, a 24-year-old woman, was driving the car and survived. According to family, she is in good condition.
The victims lived in the 17300 block of Queen Mary Lane in Tinley Park, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Nazmi M. Deis, 62, was pronounced dead at 10 p.m. at Palos Community Hospital, the office said. Wafieh N. Deis, 49, was pronounced at 10:15 p.m. at the scene, along with 15-year-old Samah N. Deis.
The family was inside a Toyota Camry that collided with a small pickup truck and a street-sweeper used to clean parking lots around 8:30 p.m. near the intersection of 171st Street and LaGrange Road, according to Orland Park Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Michael Schofield.
The Camry was crushed and the street-sweeper was knocked on its side, he said. The family had to be extricated from the car, he sad.
Rana Deis, 22, a cousin of the teen killed and of the 24-year-old woman driving, was standing outside the family's home in Tinley Park, in shock.
"It's just a really rough time for them," Rana Deis said. "It's still fresh – it's not even 24 hours."
The sisters and their parents were on their way home after having dinner at a nearby Olive Garden restaurant when the crash occurred, said Deis, of Oak Forest.
Rana Deis said funeral arrangements are being made and services likely will be held on Tuesday. She said her aunt and uncle were both born in Jerusalem and still have a home there. Their youngest daughter, Samah, was born in Jerusalem while their two eldest daughters were born in the United States, she said.
Her 15-year-old cousin was a freshman at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Rana Deis said. Another sister, 29, lives at the Tinley Park home with her husband and three children, Rana Deis said.
Deis did not have any idea how the wreck happened and said police are still investigating.
The driver of the street-sweeper was also injured and taken to an area hospital, Schofield said.
Orland Park police were not available to comment.
Consolidated High School District 230 released a statement today expressing condolences to the family and friends of Samah Deis, who was a freshman at the school.
"Today is a very sad day for the Andrew High School community as we grieve the loss of a freshman student," the statement said. "The school community has rallied to support each other in a very difficult time. Social workers and guidance counselors are available for those who need to talk with someone."

I guess the Animal's didn't like what they killed

Man found shot to death on Englewood sidewalk

A man was found shot to death this morning on the front sidewalk of a home in the Englewood neighborhood.

Someone shot the man about 8:30 a.m. in the 5800 block of South Shields Avenue on the South Side, said Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Michael Sullivan. Photos of the crime scene showed the dead man lying on his back just inside a fence next to some steps on the home's sidewalk.

The man was dead on the scene, said Sullivan.

A spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office said the deceased, an unidentified man in his 20s, did not live at the Shields address.

No one has been arrested in the shooting, according to Sullivan.

Animal's wasted another animal in Lawndale

Officials: Slain woman suffered more than 20 gunshot wounds

A woman who had seen her boyfriend gunned down last year was killed over the weekend, and officials say she suffered more than 20 gunshot wounds.

Kimberly Harris, 25, was shot around 7 p.m. Sunday in the backyard of a house in the 2900 block of West Arthington Street in the Lawndale neighborhood, according to Harrison District Police Lt. John Andrews. Shell casings were recovered from the scene, the lieutenant said.

Harris, 25, of the 1100 block of South Laflin Street in the University Village neighborhood, suffered more than 20 gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead an hour later at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Last summer, Harris witnessed the fatal shooting of her boyfriend, who was allegedly a high-ranking gang member, according to Andrews. The man was shot in the 1000 block of West Maxwell Street.

No arrests have been made in Harris' killing, Andrews said.

Cop wasting tax payers dollars

Santa Fe Police Sergeant caught on dash cam

Click on the link to see the video

To Arms of our fallen

Chicago Police Memorial Fund Facebook page has announced

On April 9th, 2012, PO William Erickson #14050 passed away. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to "The William Erickson Fund" using the below link:
Checks made payable to "The William Erickson Fund" can also be mailed to Fifth Third Bank located at 3601 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613. 100% of all proceeds will be used to benefit PO Erickson's four surviving children. Thank you for your support, and please keep the Officer's family and children in your thoughts and prayers.


Fundraiser for

August 8th, 2004, at 5:45 a.m., Michael P. Gordon, Chicago Police Officer, Star Number 18751 was on patrol when his squad car was struck by an intoxicated, unlicensed driver who ran a red light, killing Officer Gordon and severely injuring his partner. Please join us this Saturday April 21st for the Michael P. Gordon 8th Annual “Roof Raiser”. The event will be held at “Beyond the Ivy Rooftops, 1010 W. Waveland, starting at 12:05-Game ends. All proceeds and donations will be used to fund the Michael P. Gordon endowed scholarship at Lewis University. It will be a great time for a great cause! For more information and or to make charitable donations, please visit:



Enjoy Retirement

Chicago Police Detective Retires

Sarge would like to say congrates to the Detective

Relief ahead for drivers on Congress Parkway

Jon Hilkevitch: Getting Around
7:01 a.m. CDT, April 16, 2012

One leg of what many drivers criticize as a completely unnecessary traffic congestion trifecta in Chicago's West Loop is finally about to ease up.
For more than two years now, there has been one particular inquiry that your Getting Around reporter receives from drivers that typically ends with multiple question marks, virtually screaming with frustration.
It goes like this: "When will the rehab of the Congress Parkway bridges finally end????"
Since 2010, only one of the two Congress spans over the Chicago River connecting the downtown to the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways has been open. Inbound and outbound traffic have been squeezed onto one bridge, causing traffic to back up in both directions.
"The traffic is down to one lane on the east side of the bridge, which has made commuting a nightmare all over again," Rani Morrison, who drives from Oak Park to Northwestern University's Streeterville campus downtown, complained to Getting Around last week. "What on earth is the latest on the Congress improvements????''
The bridge work — plagued by unexpected problems, a construction workers strike and other delays — is scheduled to wrap up by the end of May, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is managing the $33 million contract. The bridge project started in April 2010 and was originally scheduled for completion last October, IDOT said.
Drivers should start seeing improvements during the latter part of next week, when outbound traffic will be routed from the south bridge that it currently shares with inbound traffic, to the north bridge, which will once again handle outbound traffic only.
"While both bridges will be open, some lane closures and periodic lane shifting will be in place until the end of May to allow for work on the median, final striping and other miscellaneous items," IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said.
"It is still an active construction zone until the end of May. Some delays should still be anticipated," he said.
In addition, the ramps from the inbound Kennedy and Ryan to Congress will remain closed until the entire project is completed, Tridgell said.
In addition to the Congress bridge project, the two other elements of the downtown traffic tie-up trifecta, brought to you simultaneously and unapologetically by IDOT and the Chicago Department of Transportation, are also grinding closer to completion.
The Congress Parkway streetscape project, between Wells Street and Michigan Avenue, is slated for completion this summer, according to CDOT officials. The goals of the approximately $18 million construction contract include improving traffic flow for the 63,000 drivers who travel the corridor each weekday and enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety by building wider sidewalks and better bike lanes and bike parking, CDOT spokesman Pete Scales said.
Construction began in October 2010 and is expected to conclude by June 30, or about a month later than the original schedule, Scales said.
And third, the state-funded $300 million reconstruction of the north-south section of Upper and Lower Wacker Drive, from Randolph Street to Congress Parkway, is targeted for completion by the end of the year, under CDOT's plans. Highlights of the project include replacing the deteriorated viaduct structure built in the 1950s and eliminating ramps to Lower Wacker at Jackson, Adams and Washington, while converting the Monroe ramp to one-way to Lower Wacker.
Crews are working on the Monroe Street and Adams Street intersections, after having completed the Madison Street intersection this year. The Jackson Boulevard and Van Buren Street intersections will be rebuilt during the second half of 2012, CDOT officials said.
Work also continues to reconfigure the Wacker/Congress Parkway interchange, which will open at the end of the year, officials said. The eastbound Congress exit ramp at Franklin Street will be below ground. The Lower Wacker Drive entrance ramp onto westbound Congress will also be underground, officials said.
Officials at both the state and city transportation departments stand by their decisions to conduct the three complicated projects — plus the Eisenhower resurfacing in 2010 — all at once, saying the gains outweighed the pains to motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
"This was scheduled to condense the pain rather than prolong it for years,'' Tridgell said.
Scales said CDOT has monitored traffic flow, and the department is happy with the travel-time improvements made since the Congress bridge project started and delays were running up to a half-hour on Congress Parkway between Columbus Drive and Wells Street.
"CDOT does appreciate the fact Chicagoans have dealt with continuous construction on Congress for more than two years,'' Scales said. "But if the projects were staggered, traffic lanes on Congress would need to be reduced for two or three additional years — something drivers couldn't disagree with more.''
Getting Around's hunch is that IDOT and CDOT officials are still seriously underestimating the anger among hordes of drivers who accurately predicted the mess that would result from conducting three major road projects simultaneously in such a concentrated and congested area of the downtown.
If these sage transportation officials continue to doubt public opinion, one humble suggestion is that they check the comments section accompanying the online version of this column. The responses will likely melt their pocket protectors.
Contact Getting Around at or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and on Facebook, Read recent columns at

Ram is up to something not good

Some aldermen raising concerns as hearing set on mayor's trust plan

The proposed expansion of public-private partnerships to rebuild Chicago would give a board dominated by corporate financiers handpicked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel the power to hammer out multimillion-dollar deals without many of the checks and balances meant to keep City Hall in line.

Even after the mayor revised his plan to try to win over aldermen ahead of a key City Council hearing Monday, the ordinance still does not provide for oversight by the inspector general, guarantee compliance with state transparency laws or prevent board members from leaving and immediately joining companies they just helped win lucrative contracts.

Emanuel is now offering to explicitly give aldermen the power to vote on projects financed by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust that involve city money, assets or land. But the measure does not extend that authority to the CTA, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park District. Even if those sister agencies are allowed to weigh in, their boards are all appointed by the mayor.

"The whole ordinance reeks of 'trust us, trust me — I'll do the right thing,'" said Julie Roin, a University of Chicago Law School professor with expertise in local government. "But there aren't any controls. Maybe he is to be trusted and the people he appoints are to be trusted, but how do we know?"

Barely a month after he unveiled it, Emanuel is pressing aldermen to approve a major piece of legislation that could have profound impact on city finances for decades to come. At the full City Council meeting Wednesday, the mayor also is asking aldermen to pass a controversial speed-camera ticketing ordinance that could spur lengthy debate.

The timing of the vote is key because the ordinance is the City Council's one shot at setting the rules by which the trust operates. Once the trust is set up, it becomes much more difficult for aldermen to put more checks and balances in place.

Last week, 10 aldermen asked Emanuel to delay seeking a vote on his infrastructure plan until at least next month, saying there are too many unanswered questions. On Friday afternoon, the administration released a revised version of the measure. That won over the leader of the group, Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd, who days earlier sent out a 32-question memo demanding clarity.

Other aldermen have yet to be convinced.

"We appreciate that the mayor has addressed concerns of the aldermen, but the fundamental shortcoming still exists even in the revised ordinance because it marginalizes the City Council's essential role in safeguarding the short- and long-term financial interests of the city's taxpayers," said Ald. John Arena, 45th.

The mayor's staff has insisted all along that the ordinance is in no way intended to usurp council authority. Rather, they say, it's a way to pay for major public works projects aimed at creating a better future for the city — in cooperation with the council and city agencies.

"I don't want to take away the discretion of the governing body," said Lois Scott, the mayor's chief financial officer who came to City Hall from the private finance sector.

Some aldermen remain concerned that the ordinance won't allow Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to probe the trust and its members. Although Ferguson will be able to look at city projects financed by the trust, his authority will not extend to the trust itself, said Emanuel spokesman Tom Alexander.

Ferguson wants to extend his authority to the City Council, the Park District and the Public Building Commission, an idea the mayor backed during his campaign for office.

Another concern is whether the trust, a nonprofit agency, would have to comply with the state sunshine laws that give the public and media wide access to documents and meetings.

Transparency, Roin noted, can prevent troubling actions. "You want there to be enough transparency and openness that they will be embarrassed to do anything bad because people will find out about it," she said.

Terry Pastika, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center, lauded Emanuel for including language calling on the trust to conduct open meetings and provide access to documents "in accordance with" the state's government sunshine laws. That's not usually done in such ordinances, she said.

But she also noted that the ordinance includes no enforcement mechanism, and unless the city exerts day-to-day control of the trust, state sunshine laws — and the ability to appeal decisions to close meetings or deny documents — don't have any real teeth.

"Government transparency is great, but if you don't have an accountability mechanism to enforce it, these provisions are meaningless," Pastika said, adding that other states, unlike Illinois, do subject nonprofit agencies with government ties to sunshine laws.

The mayor did adopt a suggestion from aldermen that a City Council member serve on the five-member voting board of directors. That appeased some council members, but Ald. Scott Waguespack noted that the aldermen will still be chosen by Emanuel and will be outnumbered on the board.

"There are a lot of pitfalls here," said Waguespack, 32nd, who nevertheless predicted the revised ordinance would easily win approval. "And the mayor stripped the ordinance of all oversight and is throwing a bone to a couple of aldermen."

What about Sox Park

Emaneul Has New Vision for Wrigley Field

Chicago - Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to bring some Boston flair to Chicago.

Emanuel likes what he sees at Fenway Park and believes Wrigley Field could use some of the ideas here in Chicago.

Emanuel is thinking of ideas that would not put the burden on taxpayers but create revenue and he's thinking about doing it by modeling some of the things at Wrigley similarly to how Boston rebuilt Fenway.

Emanuel thinks Chicago could learn some lessons from Fenway and he now has a partner in Theo Epstein, the Cubs Vice President of Baseball Operations and former general manager of the Red Sox.

Wrigley Field is 98-years-old and needs some help.

The plan would maximize revenue by creating ads and signage for the ballpark and possibly build up tens of millions of dollar that could help to get the ballpark what it needs.

Patrons may see some signage behind the bleachers, possibly a jumbotron over the right field, and there might even be some street closings.

The plan may include shutting down Sheffield and Waveland Avenues on game days to allow for street fairs that could generate a lot of money.

Archways may also be constructed to welcome people to Wrigleyville.

There's also talk of more concerts and footballs games and possibly a stadium club with a restaurant with several thousand premium seats.

Emanuel is not talking about it publicly at this point and there's no telling what Ald. Tom Tunney thinks about this. Tunney has been an ally to some of the rooftop owners in Wrigleyville.

Sarge's sports center

Sox 2       Vs.      Tigers 5

Cubs 3     Vs.     Cardinals 10

Um and now you know why your broke

Subject: HR 4646 — A sneaking new tax – This is why all Social Security Checks are now direct deposit





Subject: HR 4646
Be sure to read entire explanation
Watch for this AFTER November elections; remember this BEFORE you
VOTE, in case you think Obama is looking out for your best interest.
A 1% tax on all bank transactions is what
HR 4646 calls for.
Do you receive a paycheck, or a retirement check from Social
Security or a pension fund and have
it direct deposit??
Well guess what … It looks as if Obama wants
to tax it 1% !!!
This bill was put forth by Rep. Chaka Fattah
YES, that is 1% tax on all bank transactions -
HR 4646, every time it goes in and every time money goes out.
Ask your congressperson to vote NO.
1% tax on all bank transactions ~ HR 4646 -
Checked this on snopes, it’s true!
Check it out yourself ~ HR 4646.
President Obama’s finance team is recommending a one percent (1%)
transaction fee (TAX). Obama’s plan is to sneak it in after the November
elections to keep it under the radar.
This is a 1% tax on all transactions at any financial institution -
banks, credit unions, savings and loans, etc. Any deposit you make, or even a
transfer within your own bank from one account to another, will have a 1% tax
If your paycheck or your Social Security or whatever is direct
deposit, it will get a 1% tax charged for the transaction.
If your paycheck is $1000, then you will pay Obama $10 just for the
privilege of depositing your paycheck in your bank. Even if you hand carry your
paycheck or any check in to your
bank for a deposit, 1% tax will be charged.
You receive a $5,000 stock dividend from your broker, Obama takes
$50 just to allow you to deposit that check in the bank.
If you take $1,000 cash to deposit at your bank, 1% tax will be
Mind you, this is from the man who promised
that, if you make under $250,000 per year,
you will not see one penny of new tax.
Keep your eyes and ears open, you will be amazed at what you learn
about this guy’s
under-the-table moves to increase the number
of ways you are taxed.
Oh, and by the way, if you receive a refund from the IRS next year
and you have it direct deposited or you walk in to deposit that check, you
guessed it. You will pay a 1% charge of that money just
for putting it in your bank.
Remember, any money, cash, check or whatever, no matter where it
came from, you will pay a 1% fee if you put it in the bank.
Some will say, oh well, it’s just 1%. Are you kidding me?
It’s a 1% tax increase across the board. Remember, once the tax is
there, they can also raise it at will. And if anyone protests, they will
just say, “Oh, that’s not really a tax, it’s a user fee”!
Think this is no big deal? Go back and look at
the transactions you made from last year’s banking statements. Then
add the total of all those transactions and deduct 1%.
Still think it’s no big deal?
The following is copied from Snopes:
1. Debt Free America Act
Is the U.S. government proposing a 1% tax on debit card usage and/or
banking transactions?
…It is true. The bill is HR – 4646 introduced by US Rep Peter
deFazio D-Oregon and US Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa. Their plan is to sneak it in
after the…
…moved beyond proposing studies and submitted the Debt Free
America Act (H.R. 4646 ), a bill calling for the implementation of
a scheme to pay down the…
…[2010] by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). His “Debt Free America Act”
(H.R. 4646 ) would impose a 1 percent “transaction tax” on every financial
Don’t wait for Social Security check in the mail – Mail drop: Social Security payments, other federal benefits, switching soon to direct deposit
WASHINGTON – Starting next year, the check will no longer be in the mail for millions of people who receive Social Security and other government benefits.
The federal government, which issues 73 million payments a month, is phasing out paper checks for all benefit programs, requiring people to get payments electronically, either through direct deposit or a debit card for those without a bank account.
The changes will affect people who get Social Security, veterans’ benefits, railroad pensions and federal disability payments. Tax refunds are exempt, but the Internal Revenue Service encourages taxpayers to get refunds electronically by processing those refunds faster than paper checks.
About 90 percent of people who receive federal benefits already get their payments electronically, the Treasury Department says. New beneficiaries were required to get payments electronically starting last year, and with a few exceptions, the rest will have to make the switch by March 2013.
“It’s just that natural progression of moving to how people are used to receiving their funds,” said Walt Henderson, director of the Treasury Department’s electronic funds transfer division.
Henderson said electronic payments are safer and more efficient than paper checks; in 2010, more than 540,000 federal benefit checks were reported lost or stolen. The switch will save the government about $120 million a year. Social Security will save $1 billion over the next decade, according to the Treasury Department.
“You think of that paper check floating out there in the delivery system, with personal information on it, it’s much more susceptible to fraud versus an electronic payment,” Henderson said.
Advocates for seniors say they understand the government’s desire to cut costs and take advantage of technologies that most workers already use. The food stamp program switched from paper coupons to debit cards in 2004.
But they have raised concerns about requiring the switch for older retirees who may not be used to electronic payments.
“This will affect some very frail elderly people who are living by themselves, many of them, and doing well, but usually within the context of that old paper check that they deposit in the bank,” said Web Phillips, a senior policy advisor for the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare.
“The change has to be handled carefully and with a lot of sensitivity so that there aren’t people who lose track of a payment or don’t understand that they have a card that came in the mail that’s the source of their payment,” Phillips said. “That’s our concern.”
The switch is mandated by a Treasury rule issued in December 2010. Since then, the department has worked to educate the public. The government has created a website, and a toll-free phone number, 1-800-333-1795, people can call for assistance.
“Treasury acknowledges they have a lot of education to do for people about how these things work,” said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. “We’re a bit concerned about how easy it’s going to be to provide education, particularly for some in this older population who are not familiar with debit cards and don’t have bank accounts.”
Certner said AARP wants the government to make it easier to get an exemption. Under the Treasury rule, current beneficiaries who are 90 and older won’t be required to make the switch. People can get a waiver if using a debit card would impose a hardship, but the Treasury Department says those would be “extreme, rare circumstances.”
These waivers are not well publicized on the government’s website.
“There are several million people who receive paper checks today,” Certner said. “Some of them do it because they have worked out arrangements for them that work.”
AARP also has concerns about fees associated with the debit cards. The Direct Express cards are issued by Comerica Bank, Treasury’s financial agent. Each month, benefit payments are added to the cards, which can be used to make purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs.
There are no fees for using the debit card to make purchases. They can be used at any retailer that accepts MasterCard debit cards. If a card is lost or stolen, the beneficiary is protected from unauthorized use as long as the missing card is reported promptly.
Cardholders can make one free ATM withdrawal each time a payment is registered in the card. Subsequent withdrawals will cost 90 cents each, and all withdrawals may be subject to fees by the owner of the ATM.
The government’s switch to electronic payments also comes with a side effect: less business for the U.S. Postal Service, an agency that is already facing big budget problems with the rise of email and electronic bill paying.
The private sector has been migrating to electronic payments for years, costing the Postal Service millions of customers, said Alan Robinson, editor of the Postal Journal, a trade publication.
“Normally, these things happen one customer at a time,” Robinson said. “In terms of payments, this is probably one of the largest.”


Daycare teacher kills and than dies

Owner of day care where toddler killed dies day before trial

Judith Katz

The owner of a day care center where a boy was murdered in 2009 died Sunday, the day before she was to stand trial on obstruction of justice charges today.

Judith Katz's attorney, Jack Carriglio, confirmed her death. He would not elaborate how Katz died, though he had said in court that she had been ill with cancer. She was 67.

Katz, in a wheelchair and with a nurse on hand, had just appeared in a Lake County courtroom on Friday for a final pretrial appearance. Her lawyer lost an 11th-hour bid to have the charges against her dismissed.

Katz, who lived in Arlington Heights, was the owner of the former Minee Subee in the Park day care center in Lincolnshire when a toddler from Deerfield suffered a skull fracture there and died. Katz was accused of lying when she allegedly told parents and employees that two staff members were in the room when the boy, Benjamin Kingan, was injured. Authorities said there was only one staff member present, in violation of state rules.

Melissa Calusinski, a former worker at the day care center, was convicted last year 2011 of first-degree murder in Benjamin’s death and was sentenced to 31 years in prison. Authorities said she confessed to slamming the child’s head to the ground in frustration.

Carriglio had tried to have the charges dismissed against Katz, arguing in court Friday that she did not commit a crime because she did not “furnish false information to police.”

“What it comes down to is the word ‘furnishing,’ ” he said. “It’s not a crime to think of false information. It must be furnished.”

In fact, the original indictment against Katz did accuse her of “furnishing false information to the police,” who were investigating the Jan. 14, 2009, death of Benjamin.

But last month, the prosecution argued and won a motion to amend the indictment, asking that the words “to the police” be stricken.

 Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Christen Bishop said the state did not have to specify whom Katz was addressing in order to prove she obstructed justice.

“(Katz) had one of her employees provide false information to police,” Bishop said. “She stated that there were two persons in the room where Benjamin Kingan’s death occurred.”

Judge John Phillips ruled with prosecutors, saying he didn’t believe the original wording of the indictment misled the grand jury.

Had Katz been convicted, she could have faced up to three years in prison

I 55 (Stevenson) takes a trip on LSD Closures

I55 is under construction

Patching of the bridge deck is expected to slow down traffic starting this week at the highway interchange between the Stevenson Expressway and Lake Shore Drive, transportation officials said Sunday.

Beginning about 10 a.m. Monday, one lane will be closed in both directions of the Stevenson (Interstate Highway 55) just west of Lake Shore until about 5 a.m. Thursday, the Illinois Department of Transportation said. The same schedule will be repeated each week until the project's completion, at the end of June, IDOT said.

For about one week in May, two lanes will be closed in both directions, IDOT said. In addition on some weekends during the project, the northbound Lake Shore ramp to the southbound Stevenson and the northbound Stevenson ramp to southbound Lake Shore will be closed. Exact dates are not yet available.

Motorists should expect delays and allow extra time for travel through this area, IDOT officials said.

Englewood Animal's at it again

58-year-old man hit with gun during home invasion


A 58-year-old man was hit in the head with a gun Sunday night after two men entered his Englewood home demanding money and drugs, police said.
The attackers came in through a back door on the first-floor of the two-story building about 10:50 p.m., Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Amina Greer said, though it’s unclear whether the entry was forced.
The man was at home with his wife and a female relative, on the 1500 block of West 59th Street, Greer said. Nobody else was harmed in the attack. The man refused medical attention at the scene, Greer said.
Two attackers fled when they heard approaching police sirens, Greer said. Nobody is in custody.