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The owner of a child placement agency in Houston has been charged and arrested in a four-count indictment alleging an adoption fraud scheme, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Simone Swenson, 40, of Houston, owned and operated Sans Pareil Center for Children and Family Services LLC, which was licensed to operate as both a foster care and child placement agency.

The indictment was returned under seal July 29, 2015, and unsealed today upon her arrest. She is expected to make her initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge at 10:00 a.m. Monday, Aug. 3, 2015.

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Sans Pareil catered to adoptive families that desired to participate in domestic private (non-CPS) adoption program. According to the allegations in the indictment, from on or about January 2013 to on or about January 2014, Swenson defrauded numerous prospective adoptive families with the same birth mother, a scheme known as double matching. As part of the scheme, she allegedly obtained money and property by means or materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.

The indictment alleges Swenson double matched birth mothers who expected to have only one baby to multiple adoptive families. Once money was wired and/or mailed into her account from those families, the charges allege that she would find a way, through lies and misrepresentations, to get out of the agreements.

According to the allegations, Swenson would contact prospective families about birth mothers but would not proceed until agency fees and expenses were paid up front. Swenson would allegedly make promises for a successful adoption. In reliance upon those representations, the indictment alleges prospective adoptive families hired attorneys and other adoption agencies, purchased airline tickets, booked hotel rooms, prepared and purchased items for the expected child’s nursery and transportation and incurred other expenses related to the prospective adoption.

The indictment alleges Swenson would and did charge fees without explanation, and the fees did not apply equally to all adoptive families as required by regulations.

According to the indictment, Swenson was always available and responsive to prospective adoptive families prior to receiving agency fees. However, once she received monies from adoptive families, she would become unavailable and would not return phone calls for long periods of time, if at all, according to the indictment. When she did have contact with the adoptive families, she would allegedly be brief, inconsiderate and provide vague information regarding the birth mothers and their delivery status.

In addition, Swenson rarely provided invoices or receipts to the adoptive families for their paid fees and expenses, according to the allegations. When adoptive families would ask Swenson for proof of payment, Swenson allegedly did not respond unless there was money to be collected from them.

According to the indictment, Swenson illegally collected $111,000 as part of the scheme.

In August 2012, Sans Pareil’s foster care license was revoked after regulators discovered money intended for foster families was used to pay mortgage payments and for visits to the nail salon.

Swenson is charged with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of mail fraud, each of which carries a possible 20-year prison term as well as a $250,00 maximum fine, upon conviction.

The investigation leading to the arrest was conducted by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Ansari is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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Joins with State and City to fight “Kush”
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan today in a lawsuit filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the City of Houston won a court order to prohibit the sale of synthetic marijuana products known as “Kush” at a local convenience store. The County Attorney, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and City of Houston jointly sued Almeda Food Mart for distributing products containing the dangerous substance that has led to hundreds of recent hospitalizations and overdoses across Texas.
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The lawsuit follows several undercover investigations performed by the Houston Police Department (HPD), which uncovered and seized more than 300 packages of the substance at the store.

“This product, commonly called ‘Kush,’ is especially dangerous because it is marketed to children,” County Attorney Ryan said. “The package labeling claims this product contains seemingly harmless substances.  It actually contains hazardous chemicals.”
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While synthetic marijuana is marketed as “safe,” the dangers of the substance are widely reported—including severe paranoia, psychotic episodes, violent delusions, kidney damage, suicidal thoughts and self-mutilation. There has been an alarming uptick in these reports in 2014-15.

“The growing reports of overdoses on this dangerous substance among our youth should concern every Texan,” Texas Attorney General Paxton said. “This illegal marketing of powerful and deadly drugs to children must be put to a stop. My office will continue to work with local authorities across Texas to send the message that businesses who choose to sell this substance will pay the price.”

HPD initiated the investigation following reports from paramedics with the Houston Fire Department of individuals overdosing on the drug from Almeda Food Mart, which is in close geographic proximity to several schools and shopping malls where youth congregate. Lab reports of the packages seized by HPD confirm that the products contain AB-CHMINACA and AKB48, both highly addictive and dangerous chemicals listed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule 1 controlled substances, the most dangerous kind.

County Attorney Ryan, the AG’s Office and the City are alleging that Almeda Food Mart and its owners, Trung and Tamie Pham, have violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and common nuisance statutes under Texas law. The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction on all businesses associated with the store to prevent the sale of these products. A permanent injunction will be sought at trial.

In June, County Attorney Ryan and the AG’s Office coordinated with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department to investigate and sue four Houston-area Katz Boutiques, for distributing the substance and marketing it to children in the form of “Kush,” which is sold in various fruit flavors. A temporary injunction is in place and discovery is ongoing.

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The ongoing discussion about Sandra Bland and her death was front and center at the state Capitol in Austin.

State representative Garnet Coleman’s committee on County Affairs met today to address the controversial issue.

It’s been two weeks since Bland was found dead in her Waller County jail cell on July 13th.
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The committee heard from the head of Texas State Police and the Director for the Commission on Jail Standards. 

They all faced some tough questions like why wasn’t Bland properly monitored and why the Chicago native was not released on a personal recognizance bond.

No officials from Waller County attended Thursday’s hearings but Coleman did commend Sheriff Glenn Smith for releasing so much information during the investigation into Bland’s death.

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Houston news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

It was back in March 2014 when 46 year old James Larry Crosby was first arrested in connection with his daughter and her girlfriend’s murder.

Crosby was initially charged with tampering with evidence but a murder charge against him didn’t come until June 2015.  

You may remember Britney Crosby and her partner Crystal Jackson were found shot and beaten near a convenience store in Port Bolivar last year.

Investigators say Crosby was angry with his daughter because of her gay lifestyle so he killed her and her girlfriend Crystal Jackson

Jackson’s father, Rev. Ivan Jackson, says when Crosby goes on trial he will not ask for the death penalty because as a minister he believes in forgiveness.

Larry Crosby is scheduled to go on trial for the double murder charge in November.

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Crystal Jackson and the 5 year old she leaves behind

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Larry Crosby arrested

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At 7 a.m. TOMORROW (Friday, July 31), HPD Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr. will address Cadet Class #223 on the importance of the department’s first Cultural Diversity Cadet Bus Tour.  Following his address at the L.D. Morrison, Sr. Police Training Academy at 17000 Aldine-Westfield, Chief McClelland will board a METRO bus to participate in the first stage of the tour.
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Upon graduation, the HPD cadets will be charged with protecting and serving the people of Houston.  This tour, part of the department’s long-standing commitment to community policing, is designed to expose police cadets to the variety of cultures found in the City of Houston.   During the all-day tour, cadets will meet with guides from the Acres Homes, Montrose, Meyerland, Westside, Southwest, and Eastside communities. 

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At each stop, a guide will instruct cadets on the history, culture and socioeconomics of their specific community.  In addition, the guide will explain how community members perceive the police.  Following this 30 minute instruction and subsequent question and answer period, the guide will board the bus with cadets for a brief tour of the community.

Media interested in covering the tour should arrive at the training academy by 6:45 a.m. where Chief McClelland will be available for a brief interview following his 7 a.m. address to cadets.  Media may then board the buses and ride with the cadets and guides.  In addition, police cadets will be available during the course of the tour for interviews in Spanish, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

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FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston
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This 21,000 square foot grocery store is like a mirage in what used to be a food desert in South Union.

The city of Houston has been plagued by food deserts in lower income areas like north and southeast Houston. We’re talking about communities where big chain grocery stores have refused to locate.

But Houston businessman John Voung did not turn a blind eye to the southeast community in need of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and affordable prices.

He opened his 13th store since 1994 and called it Pyburn’s Farm Fresh Foods.

Voung has also hired 40 people from the area.

Customers are also excited and flocking to the store that’s been open less than a month.

The centralized location of the store on Scott Street near 610 makes it convenient for those who don’t have a car.

Pyburn’s moved to South Union after Houston City Councilman Dwight Boykins began an aggressive campaign to address the food desert in his district. Now he’s proud of the store that’s a block from where he once lived as a kid.

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The controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is now suspended. The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday the city must either repeal it, or let voters decide on in November.

In a unanimous decision, 9 court justices found the City of Houston had a Charter requirement to act immediately on the recall petition once it was certified by City Secretary Anna Russell.  The ruling said the City Charter allows Houston City Council no discretion to re-evaluate the worthiness of the petition.

The HERO ordinance aimed at protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in employment and public places, became controversial because it also allowed transgender individuals to use either men’s or women’s bathrooms.

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Houston pastors lead the petition drive.  Their attorney, Andy Taylor says Friday’s victory isn’t about race, religion,or sexual orientation. It’s about  the right to vote.

“It doesn’t matter what you and your conscience believe when you go into the ballot box,” Taylor said.  “It’s about protecting the right to go to the ballot box.”  
Mayor Annise Parker says the court’s decision is disappointing and that the city is weighing its options.

The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling says Houston City Council mush repeal HERO by Aug. 24,  or the ordinance will automatically be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

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Herman and Kathleen Hoffman will be back in court to try and get their animals back.

The couple had their horses seized last month after prosecutors charged the Conroe couple with more than 20 counts of animal cruelty each.

The Hoffmans will be in a Montgomery County civil court Thursday to address a civil issue.

A judge will decide if they will regain custody of the 200 horses seized and now in the care of the Houston SPCA.

The couple is expected to face their criminal charges later this year.

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On Monday, July 27, 2015, at approximately 5:30 PM, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit, assisted by the Willis Police Department, served a search warrant at the K&M Foodmart located in the 400 block of West Montgomery, in Willis, Texas. 

The Special Investigations Unit received numerous complaints in reference to illegal 8-liner gambling occurring on the premises. 

Probable cause was established and a warrant for the location was obtained.  While serving the warrant, service ledgers, motherboards from 8-liner machines, and approximately $9,000 in United States currency was seized. 

The operators of the illegal game room were arrested and charged with keeping a gambling place, possession of gambling devises, and gambling promotion.  All charges are class, “A”, misdemeanors.  

Arrested:
Vu N Tran (date of birth 03/13/1973)
Ngan Thi Nguyen (date of birth 05/11/1985)