A spokeswoman for “Oprah’s Angel Network” expressed disappointment that four Hurricane Katrina evacuees allegedly committed fraud.
Three women from Houston and one from LaPlace, La., are accused of wrongfully obtaining federal rental assistance after buying new homes financed by the charity.
Network spokeswoman Angela DePaul of Chicago told The Associated Press on Thursday that she was disappointed to learn of the alleged actions by a few homeowners.
DePaul says officials with Oprah’s Angel Network “remain proud of and committed to the hundreds of families we’ve been able to help through our hurricane rebuilding efforts.”
TV personality Oprah Winfrey’s charity partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build and furnish homes for about 65 families forced to relocate to Houston after 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The indictments were announced Wednesday.
Some union leaders question a new Austin city policy that says firetrucks responding to calls must drive the speed limit and fully stop at intersections.
Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said the policy is meant to improve safety for firefighters and motorists.
But Steven Truesdell, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, told the Austin American-Statesman that firefighters’ discretion is being curtailed.
“We don’t understand if they have some impetus for making these changes,” Truesdell said. “They haven’t discussed it with us.”
Previously, Austin firefighters could drive up to 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Vehicles were not required to stop at intersections, but operators were told to make sure other drivers
knew the emergency vehicles needed to proceed.
Kerr said she does not believe that the policy, which took effect Aug. 11, will affect response times.
Note: In Houston our fire fighters responding to calls are also allowed to drive 10mph over the speed limit according to Executive Assistant Chief Rick Flanagan. Should our fire fighters also be required to drive the limit?
Credit card issuers, starting this week, will be required to give consumers 45 days’ notice before raising their interest rate or making other significant changes to a card plan’s terms.
Under the new rule, borrowers will have the option to decline the new rate and pay off their balance over time under the original rate. Issuers also must begin sending bills 21 days before payment is due.
The new rules are the first of a number of new consumer protections to be implemented under a major credit card law enacted in May. Most of the law’s changes won’t take effect until February 2010.
The changes come as the banking industry has been hiking minimum payments on borrowers, yanking back credit lines and canceling cards. Nessa Feddis, American Bankers Association vice president for card policy, said it was difficult to say how much of the industry’s behavior is being driven by a desire to decrease risk amid a weak economy or by the coming regulatory changes.
“A strong part” of the account closings is due to the new 45-day advance-notice rule, she argued to reporters in a conference call Thursday.
Currently, card issuers often hike rates on consumers due to some triggering event, such as a late payment, that is disclosed in the account application. Borrowers, who often overlooked the fine print, complained that they were being sprung with sudden rate increases.
The new rule would prohibit issuers from basing rate increases on such triggering events by requiring 45 days’ notice for all significant changes in the account terms. The requirement does not apply to certain card plans, such as those with a variable rate or a promotional rate that was disclosed upfront.
More than 70% of U.S. households have at least one credit card and more than half of cardholders pay their balance in full every month, according to the Federal Reserve.
The new credit card law will place several new restrictions on the industry, including additional limitations on rate and fee increases. Card issuers won’t be able to raise rates on an existing balance unless a consumer is at least 60 days late, for example.
The law also curbs certain controversial practices, such as double-cycle billing, in which a late-paying customer is assessed interest on a prior month’s balance that has been paid in full. Those changes won’t take effect until February, while new disclosure rules for credit cards plans will be implemented in July.
The changes will end “the tricks-and-traps business model that was designed to get consumers to accumulate a lot of interest,” said Ed Mierzwinski, who heads financial services matters for the consumer group U.S. PIRG.
Here are some of the high points of the New Credit Card Rules:
They don’t call him the King of Country for nothing. George Strait’s 26th(!) studio album, Twang, debuts atop this week’s Billboard 200 album sales chart after selling 155,000 copies according to Nielsen SoundScan. While not exactly a blockbuster number, that’s nothing to be ashamed of in these slow-selling dog days. Especially not when Strait managed to outperform Michael Jackson’s Number Ones, the greatest-hits set that’s been outselling the Billboard 200’s No. 1 for six non-consecutive weeks now. (It’s ineligible for the flagship Billboard 200 chart due to its age.) No one save Daughtry has been able to topple Number Ones since Jackson’s death in June. And considering that Number Ones moved only 80,000 units in this sales frame — a 19 percent drop from the previous week — its incredible run might be coming to a definitive close.
Just below Strait, Neil Diamond’s Walmart-exclusive Hot August Night/NYC CD/DVD combo landed at No. 2 with 57,000 sold. Cobra Starship’s Hot Mess, which is apparently not quite as hot as that Neil Diamond live record, took No. 4 with 42,000. And country newcomer Justin Moore’s self-titled debut made it to No. 10 with 34,000. Hey, maybe after he records another 25 albums, Moore can hope to be in Strait’s sales league.
What do you think of this week’s albums chart? Are you looking forward to any big fall releases making things a little more exciting in the coming weeks?
Top Music Video Sales
(Compiled from a national sample of sales reports)
1. “Number Ones,” Michael Jackson.
2. “Live In Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour,” Michael Jackson.
3. “Video Greatest Hits: HIStory,” Michael Jackson.
4. “HIStory On Film: Volume II,” Michael Jackson.
5. “Dangerous: The Short Films,” Michael Jackson.
6. “CMT Crossroads,” Taylor Swift/Def Leppard.
7. “Elvis Lives: The 25th Anniversary Concert,” Elvis Presley.
8. “He Touched Me: The Gospel Music Of Elvis Presley: Volumes 1
& 2,” Elvis Presley.
9. “Take Me Home,” Celtic Thunder.
10. “Flight 666: The Film,” Iron Maiden.
Copyright 2009, Nielsen SoundScan, Inc.
Three sealed Indictments charging four Hurricane Katrina evacuees with wrongfully obtaining rental assistance from FEMA after having purchased new, fully-furnished homes that were financed by Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Angel Network,” were unsealed today, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced. The return of these indictments brings to 94 the total number of persons charged with fraud arising from Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Ike relief efforts in the Southern District of Texas.
“The response to natural disasters brings out the best and worst in people,” said Johnson. “Generous acts of charity are tarnished by those who despite the generosity of others, fraudulently make claims for government relief funds. This office will continue its efforts to bring those who make false claims for public funds to justice.”
Darlene McGruder Poole, 30, of Houston, and her sister, Lashona McGruder Victor, 37, of La Place, La., are charged together with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Kiesha Murphy, 34, of Houston, and Angela Payne, aka Angela McKinnies, 38, of Houston, are each charged in separate indictments with making false statements to FEMA and theft of government property. The Indictments, which were returned last Wednesday, were unsealed this morning upon the arrest of Poole, Murphy and Payne at their respective residences in Houston by agents of the Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG), the Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG) and the Federal Protective Service (FPS). These defendants made their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy this morning, while Victor is expected to surrender to law enforcement authorities in Houston by the end of the week.
In August and September 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita made landfall on the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. Under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP), FEMA made available an initial rental assistance payment to individuals who were displaced from their homes as a result of Katrina and Rita. Displaced individuals could potentially obtain additional rental assistance payments by submitting a declaration of continuing need for rental assistance. Under FEMA’s IHP, individuals who purchased a home after a disaster ceased to be entitled to rental assistance as they were no longer making rental payments and now maintained a new primary residence.
CBS announced his death on its Web site but did not give any details. Hewitt joined CBS News in television’s infancy in 1948, and produced the first televised presidential debate between John
F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.
He made his mark in the late 1960s when CBS agreed to try his idea of a one-hour broadcast that mixed hard news and feature stories. The television newsmagazine was born on Sept. 24, 1968, when the “60 Minutes” stopwatch began ticking.
He dreamed of a television version of Life, the dominant magazine of the mid-20th century, where interviews with entertainers could coexist with investigations that exposed corporate malfeasance.
“The formula is simple,” he wrote in a memoir in 2001, “and it’s reduced to four words every kid in the world knows: Tell me a story. It’s that easy.”
Michael Jackson’s personal physician will be charged with manslaughter within the next two weeks, a law enforcement source told FOXNews.com.
The source initially said Dr. Conrad Murray could be arrested as soon as next Wednesday — but investigators have decided to execute one more search warrant, likely at a Los Angeles pharmacy, next week in an attempt to gather more evidence against him. The arrest is now expected the following week.
Murray isn’t the only doctor who faces criminal charges in connection with Jackson’s death on June 25. A law enforcement source told FOXNews.com that Jackson’s longtime dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, will be hit with charges related to medical malpractice. Investigators are still building their case against Klein, and he will not be arrested for at least another two weeks, the source said.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office is currently in talks with investigators about whether they will offer Murray the option of surrendering in Los Angeles, or if he will be arrested in Houston, where he is currently staying.
Investigators initially had hoped to charge Murray with a more serious crime than manslaughter — a defendant may be charged with second degree murder in California without the presence of a motive — but prosecutors are concerned that a jury will be unlikely to convict without one, sources said. Unless a “smoking gun” is found in next week’s search, Murray will be charged with manslaughter.
Houston police are investigating the fatal shooting of a male at 633 Rushcreek #310 about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 18).
The male victim suffered a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity is pending notification to family members by the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office.
HPD Homicide Division Sergeant G. Gonzales and Officer J. Sosa reported:
The victim was in an apartment at the above address with two other people when three armed suspects kicked in the door. The victim attempted to flee by jumping through a bedroom window as several shots were fired by the suspects. The victim was struck at least once and died in a walkway outside the apartment. The three suspects, described only as Hispanic males in their early to mid-twenties fled the scene.
Anyone with information about this case is urged to call the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.