Press Release: On Monday evening, Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston for threatening to take the property of two historic Houston churches in violation of Texas’ religious freedom law, including the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. View the lawsuit at the bottom of this page: https://www.libertyinstitute.org/fifthward
The City of Houston is threatening to bulldoze the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and condemn the property of the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center. The churches are located in Houston’s Fifth Ward, which is notorious for its history of violence and crime. In 1979, Texas Monthly called it “Texas’ toughest, proudest, baddest ghetto.”

After decades of serving in the community, the churches helped transform the Fifth Ward into a safer place, offering church-run food pantries, youth centers, and programs to combat drug use, gang violence, and abuse. Watch video about the churches: https://www.libertyinstitute.org/fifthward
The City of Houston tried to purchase the church land in the past, but the church leaders refused, expressing their desire to stay in their current locations and continue ministering to the people of the Fifth Ward.

Bishop Roy Lee Kossie, who has served as the pastor of Latter Day since 1965, says, “When we moved in to this area, it was considered the highest crime-rate area in the city of Houston. People shot first and asked questions later. But we love this community. This is where the Lord called us and this is where we want to stay. We aren’t giving up without a fight.”

Liberty Institute Deputy Chief Counsel Hiram Sasser says, “These churches have served this community for decades. They’ve held the neighborhood together through a lot of hard times. It’s tragic that the City of Houston wants to take the churches’ property away and give it to someone else, just so they can make money. The government cannot take a church’s property and give it to some other business in violation of the law. These churches, their congregations, and this neighborhood are not for sale.”


County commissioners are moving forward with implementing new compliance software, after a state audit revealed Galveston County failed to collect tens of millions of dollars through the state’s Collection Improvement Program.

On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved the county’s purchase of a collections compliance program called iPlow, which was recommended by the Texas Office of Court Administration.

The county’s collections program, which is intended to reduce uncollected court costs, fines and fees, is delinquent by about $56 million for all county, district and justice courts.

Prior to Commissioners Court ordering former director of justice administration Bonita “Bonnie” Quiroga, to manage the program in 2005, the county was only behind about $10 million.

According to several county commissioners, mismanagement of the collections department is one of the main reasons Quiroga was terminated in July 2014.

In addition to not collecting fines, the audit also states proper notices were not sent out informing defendants of their delinquency. Phone numbers and addresses of those defendants were also never verified.

iPlow is designed to streamline collection efforts through automated phone calls and mail notifications, which are sent to past due accounts after 30 and 60 days. A third party law firm then provides assistance to the collections department after the statutory delinquency period to further assist the county in collecting on the fines and fees owed.

The county has six months to bring the program into compliance before it faces potential fines by the state that could directly take over $1 million a year out of the county’s operating budget.

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The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is issuing a warning to the public regarding a scam that has again surfaced locally. 

The scam involves a caller claiming to be a representative from a local or surrounding law enforcement entity. 

The caller advises the potential victim owes money to the entity and the individual needs to purchase a “green dot” card from a local retailer to resolve the fraudulent legal matter. 
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If the potential victim purchases the “green dot” card for the prearranged amount, the victim then provides the fraudulent caller with the card number and personal identification number from the card allowing the perpetrator to remove the balance from the card, defrauding the victim.  A complainant recently reported that the caller requested the complainant to transfer money from their banking account to another banking account to resolve the fraudulent legal matter.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office would like to provide the following tips:
Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
Remember that anyone who has the number on a, “green dot”, card has access to the funds on the card.
Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who e-mails or calls you unsolicited.
Never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers or Green Dot Money card numbers to someone you do not know.

Government agencies will not contact you demanding immediate payment utilizing, “green dot”, cards.
Be suspicious of callers who instruct you to wire, transfer, or utilize a voucher system of transferring money from one bank account to another.

Anyone who has fallen victim to this scam is asked to contact their local law enforcement provider on how to report the incident.  The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted at (936)-760-5800.

 
Information Source:
Lieutenant Brady Fitzgerald

The owner of Tinkle Management Inc. (TMI) has been charged in a 13-count federal indictment alleging a scheme in which he billed for $15 million in supplies that were never delivered, announced Kenneth Magidson.

John Blake Tinkle, 59, of Tomball, is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy at 2:00 p.m. today. A federal grand jury returned the 13-count indictment under seal on July 21, 2015, which was unsealed today upon Tinkle’s arrest.

Tinkle is charged with nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of money laundering.

The Indictment alleges that from 2008 through 2015, Tinkle falsely invoiced Houston-based Westlake Chemical Corporation for approximately $15 million in shipping supplies that TMI never delivered. TMI was Westlake’s supplier of plastic shipping bags that Westlake used to ship its chemical products internationally. According to the indictment, TMI delivered the shipping bags to Packwell Inc., a packaging and logistics company in La Porte, who used the bags to package Westlake’s chemical products and ship them through the Houston ship channel. In addition to invoicing Westlake for bags that had actually been delivered, Tinkle allegedly submitted false invoices to Westlake for deliveries of bags to Packwell that, in reality, had not occurred.

The charges indicate Tinkle supported his false invoices to Westlake by attaching Packwell receiving reports that Tinkle altered to purportedly show Packwell had received them, when they actually had not. Relying on the false TMI invoices and fake Packwell receiving reports, Westlake paid TMI millions of dollars for bags that Westlake and Packwell never received.   

If convicted of any of the wire fraud counts, Tinkle faces up to 20 years in federal prison, while the money laundering carries a possible 10-year-term. Both crimes could also result in a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Johnson of the Southern District of Texas.

A 27-year-old man from the North Houston area appeared in federal court this morning on charges of sexual exploitation of a child, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Christopher Lynn Persky was arrested over the weekend upon the filing of a federal criminal complaint alleging he produced child pornography.

This morning, Persky made an initial appearance before U.S. District Judge Mary Milloy, at which time he was ordered temporarily into custody pending a probable cause and detention hearing set for Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

Court documents allege that Persky claimed to work for the Department of Homeland Security – Transportation Security Administration (TSA). At the hearing today, Persky told the court he has now been fired.

According to the allegations, an individual identified online as CHRISPYTWEAK had sent images of child erotica to an undercover agent using the chat feature on a known child pornography site. At that time, Persky provided his full name and further claimed to work for TSA, according to the complaint.

The charges allege that he took sexually explicit photographs of a minor male under the age of five. According to the complaint, Persky took the images and was to send them to another individual with whom he was communicating in exchange for more images of child pornography.

The criminal complaint further alleges that while at his previous residence in Spring, Persky allegedly took partially nude images of a minor relative’s female friend while she was sleeping. Persky also allegedly took photos of a female relative as she was getting out of the shower to show to his online child pornography community.

If convicted, Persky faces a minimum of 15 and up to 30 years in federal prison.

The charges are the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations.

This case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sherri Zack and Kim Leo, was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”

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Fifty-eight Domino’s stores throughout Houston are looking to hire 230 new and enthusiastic team members. All of the new positions offered are for part-time delivery drivers and full-time assistant managers.

“We are excited to offer additional jobs throughout Houston,” said Marc Richard, Domino’s director of corporate operations in Houston. “High-energy and positive-attitude leadership is our philosophy, and we’re in search of team members who reflect that so we can continue to do what we do best – make great pizzas and deliver them with exceptional service.”

The continued success of Domino’s across the nation, and specifically the growth and success of the 58 corporate-owned stores in Houston, increases the need for additional support from enthusiastic employees.

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“Domino’s is a great place to work,” said Richard. “Our company truly provides a fantastic opportunity to those who show initiative and a desire to advance. Whether you’re looking to grow with the company or need a part-time job, Domino’s is the place to be.”

Those who are interested in applying for a position should visit jobs.dominos.com.

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Robbie Lynn Carter has been missing since July 30th. Her mother says she discovered the teenager apparently met an older man online. Robbie’s Mom says if you have seen her contact the Houston Police Department. 

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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.