Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lunch in Lawrence

Ha, fooled ya'! 

"Investigators say they have busted food stamp scheme in Lawrence" by Laura Crimaldi Globe Staff  June 10, 2015

The convenience stores were small operations in Lawrence that sold groceries and household items on such a modest scale that their checkout space was limited and there were no carriages available to customers.

But despite their unassuming appearance, investigators said four markets across Lawrence engaged in a roughly $2.5 million fraud by allegedly letting customers exchange their government-funded food stamp benefits for cash while the stores pocketed fees for the service.

Federal and local investigators Wednesday said they broke up the alleged schemes by raiding four stores and arresting six people, including the store owners.

“This is not a victimless crime,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said. “We all pay the price when the greedy few defraud the taxpayers out of scarce public resources that are meant to feed, house, and clothe our most needy residents.”

Yup, but the swindling Wall Street banks only get $laps on the wrist.

Investigators searched three stores owned by Haverhill resident Martin Santiago, 47, and arrested him, his nephew Eleazar Gonzalez, 22, and an employee, Jose Vargas, 40, according to Blodgett’s office.

Santiago owns Gil Supermarket/Noelia Market Inc., Santiago Convenience Store Inc., and El Leon Rojo Supermarket and Grocery Store, according to prosecutors.

Police also cracked down on another operation, searching Bonao Market and arrested its owner, Cristian Pena, 44, of Lawrence, prosecutors said. Two store employees, Esperenza Ortiz, 47, and Ramon Pena, 66, were also arrested.

Santiago, Cristian Pena, Ortiz, and Ramon Pena were charged with trafficking food stamp benefits, larceny over $250, conspiracy to commit larceny, and money laundering, prosecutors said.

Cristian Pena and Ramon Pena, who are related, also face firearm charges.

Two men tied to Santiago — Gonzalez and Vargas — were charged with conspiracy to commit larceny, prosecutors said.

All six people pleaded not guilty at their arraignments Wednesday in Lawrence District Court.

Judge Holly Broadbent set bail at $500,000 for Santiago and $250,000 for Cristian Pena, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a Blodgett spokeswoman. Bail for Ramon Pena and Ortiz was set at $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, she said.

Gonazalez and Vargas were freed on personal recognizance.

Federal investigators first learned of the possible fraud in Lawrence in 2012, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

During the investigation, authorities conducted video surveillance and made 75 undercover purchases in which they sought cash in exchange for benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The stores sometimes deducted as much as $162 in benefits from government-issued debit cards, and then gave a portion of that sum to the customer and kept the rest, they said. 

Good thing Congre$$ cut that program to the tune of billions despite all the hunger.

Investigators also compared the food stamp business at the targeted stores to legal transactions at a nearby Demoulas Supermarket store. Even though that store is larger, it recorded a smaller share of customers making food stamp transactions over $100 than the raided stores, investigators said.

That is because Demoulas -- Globe shelf empty since buyout -- is above board.


Good thing Cumbie's is getting out of the gas business.

Well, what do you know, it's almost time for dinner

What do you say to Himmel's?

Thought I would add these to the lunchbox:

"Man allegedly buys heroin in Lawrence with 2-year-old twins in car" by Rosa Nguyen Globe Correspondent  June 11, 2015

A father of 2-year-old twins was arrested on child endangerment charges Tuesday after authorities said he purchased heroin in Lawrence while his children were sitting in the back of his station wagon.

Jeremiah Hollenbeck, 30, of Lebanon, Maine, was also charged with possession of a Class A drug.

On Tuesday morning, the Lawrence Police Department’s narcotics unit received a report of a blue Volvo station wagon with Maine plates parked on Market Street near Loring Street at about 11 a.m. Tuesday. The area, near Interstate 495, is a common place to purchase drugs, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney’s office.

“Detectives have made hundreds of drug-related arrests in this general area,” Detective David Moynihan wrote in a police report filed in the case.

As police were watching, Hollenbeck’s alleged dealer, Norma Perez, 52, of Lawrence, entered the vehicle. The car drove away and failed to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk.

When police stopped the vehicle, 10 grams of heroin were found hidden underneath two coats and a diaper bag in the back of the car, Moynihan wrote. Police found $300 on Perez, along with a piece of paper that allegedly contained a brown, powdery substance that appeared to be heroin.

Hollenbeck and Perez were arrested, along with Jamie Eaton, 42, of Somersworth, N.H., who was sitting between the toddlers in the back seat. They were all arraigned on Wednesday.

Hollenbeck is being held on a $500 cash bail, Monahan said. Perez faces charges of distribution and possession of a Class A drug. She is being held on a $7,500 cash bail.

Eaton, charged with possession of a Class A drug, was released on personal recognizance and given a bail warning, which means that if he fails to appear in court, he can be held without bail for 60 days. All three were ordered to return to court for a hearing on July 10.

A Lawrence General Hospital ambulance was called to take the two children for observation and to contact a family member. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, as well as its counterpart in Maine, were notified, the police report said.

“The Department has received a report and is investigating,” said Michelle Hillman, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services.


I blame the schools:

"59 teachers dismissed in Lawrence" by Monica Disare Globe Correspondent  June 12, 2015

Fifty-nine teachers in the Lawrence school system will soon be dismissed, a decision that Jeffrey Riley, the school system’s superintendent and receiver, said is routine, but that union president Frank McLaughlin, characterized as “a punch in the gut.”

Riley referred to the dismissals as normal practice used by many school districts across Massachusetts. All teachers to be dismissed are nontenured and can be removed if they are not considered a good fit for the district, he said.

The district employs more than 1,000 teachers.

“Nonrenewal is simply one of many ways school districts work to place the best possible teachers in front of their students,” Riley said in a statement.

McLaughlin said the announcement came as a shock.

Fewer teachers should have been dismissed, and the evaluation process that led to dismissals was often unfair, McLaughlin said. He contends that many of the nonrenewed teachers had partial evaluations or no evaluations at all.

“A lot of folks . . . it really hit them hard. They had no idea,” McLaughlin said.

Riley said McLaughlin’s statement contained “factual inaccuracies,” though he did not elaborate. He noted that these teachers could be dismissed regardless of evaluation.

The recent announcement is the latest chapter in an effort to reform the Lawrence school system. In 2011, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education designated the district as chronically underperforming, and in early 2012, the state appointed Riley as the district’s superintendent and receiver.

Tasked with turning around the district, Riley began a series of reforms including creating partnerships with charter-school operators and cutting central office, teacher, and principal positions.

Reforms have met resistance from the union in the past.

Damn bastards.

The teachers union filed two labor complaints with the state Labor Relations Board during recent negotiations, alleging that Riley was violating Massachusetts law by avoiding collective bargaining. It took the two sides more than two years to agree on a contract.

According to McLaughlin, his relationship with Riley has since been repaired, but after the dismissal of 59 teachers, it is back on shakier grounds.

“I don’t think it’s as solid today as it was yesterday,” McLaughlin said.

Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said in a statement that Riley has his “full confidence.”

Despite their differences, McLaughlin said he hopes that the union and administration will move past their current rift in order to better the school district.

“We’re supposed to be working as a partnership,” McLaughlin said. “I hope that we can move along.”

Like I'm going to. Feel bad for the kids.


I let the Globe do most of the chatting. I don't like talking with my mouth full.


"A suspect in a reported home invasion was arrested early Sunday evening after state and local police searched for armed men in a Lawrence warehouse, officials said. Police were told that multiple men with guns ran into a large warehouse at 400 Canal Street mid-afternoon Sunday, said Lawrence police lieutenant James Raso. Lawrence police requested State Police assistance, said State Police spokesman David Procopio. Troopers from the Andover barracks and local police established a perimeter around 4 p.m., and State Police also provided a K9 unit and an airwing unit, officials. A SWAT team entered the warehouse at about 4 p.m., Raso said. The suspects were not found inside, and officials began search of a nearby building at about 5 p.m., he said. Police arrested the unidentified suspect shortly afterward." 

It's not Jade Helm, it's simply SOP these days.