Md. Woman Admits Stealing Millions From D.C. Nonprofit
Washington Post (11/26/13) Marimow, Ann E.; Flaherty, Mary Pat
A former administrative assistant at the Washington, D.C.-based Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to stealing more than $5 million from the nonprofit organization over an eight-year period. Ephonia Green’s long-running embezzlement scheme consisted of opening bank accounts in the names of companies that closely resembled those of legitimate AAMC vendors and creating phony invoices in the names of legitimate groups. Green then approved those invoices for payment, with the checks to be returned to her. Green’s scheme started small, with all the checks cashed between July 2005 and September 2006 being for less than $5,000. However, Green stole nearly $218,000 between January and April 2009 through just four checks. She also issued checks worth nearly $1.4 million for payments to Couture Miss Bridal & Formal, a bridal business that she ran on the side. The scheme dissolved in July, after a bank with held payment on a $113,000 check and alerted the association, which then fired Green, informed federal authorities, and hired a outside attorney and forensic accountants. As part of her plea, Green will repay the association $5.1 million and could face up to 51 months in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for Feb. 28.
Wall Street Journal (11/20/13) Kapner, Suzanne
J.C. Penney Chief Executive Mike Ullman said Wednesday that shoplifting at his company’s stores spiked in the third quarter, taking a full percentage point off the chain’s profit margins. The increase in shoplifting has been attributed to several factors, including the transition to a new inventory tracking system that used radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. It was hoped that the RFID tags would make it easier to manage inventory, though the company found that it had to remove the security sensor tags that are designed to prevent the theft of merchandise as they would have interfered with the radio frequency tags. During this transition, Penney also introduced a new return policy that did not require customers to have their receipts. However, this combination of changes resulted in people entering the store, grabbing armloads of merchandise, taking them to a cash register and returning them, said a person familiar with the issue. In January, Penney scaled back its RFID ambitions, due to increasing thefts. The company has also begun retagging items with the anti-theft sensor tags and has altered its return policy so that customers only receive store credit if they return goods without a receipt and cannot provide the credit card used to make the original purchase.
Ridge Warns Utility Officials on Threat of Attack
Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) (11/13/13) Maykuth, Andrew
During the “Grid 20/20: Focus on Resilience” conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned regional utility officials that they need to explore more ways to protect the nation’s electric grid from attack. He noted that with threats becoming more frequent, those managing the nation’s electrical transmission system need to be operating in a permanent state of alert. Grid operators face numerous threats, from natural disasters to cyberthreats from computer hackers and physical threats from terrorists. Cheryl LaFleur of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commented recently that the nation’s electric grid is vulnerable to physical attacks because it is publicly accessible. Two such attacks took place against an electrical substation and AT&T fiber optic cables in California in April. Experts said the attacks were likely done in preparation for an assault on the electric grid. Ridge noted that while physical attacks against the nation’s electric infrastructure are an area of concern, “the consequences of a physical attack are marginal at best compared to a cyber attack.” He added that the public needs to be better informed by policymakers that improved security will come at a price, but that the risk of not improving security for the national grid and experiencing a disaster is far more costly.
Some San Francisco Hospital Security Performed by Low-Level Officers
San Francisco Examiner (11/08/13) Lamb, Jonah Owen
Questions are being raised about the effectiveness of security staff at San Francisco General Hospital following revelations on Wednesday about several breakdowns in the case of Lynne Spalding, a patient who disappeared from her hospital bed on Sept. 21 and was found dead in a nearby stairwell weeks later. Hospital records indicate that civilians called “institutional police officers” (IPOs), who are only required to take an introductory, 40-hour course in law enforcement rather than the highly-technical training that sheriff’s deputies participate in, are in charge of handling some of the security duties at the hospital. Though it remains unclear how many IPOs participated in the search for Spalding, the family’s lawyer called the possibility that these undertrained individuals could have contributed to the breakdown disturbing. IPOs were members of the existing security staffs at hospitals in San Francisco when the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department took over security at city-run hospitals in 2002. IPOs were kept on so they could receive more “comprehensive law enforcement training” and be incorporated into a city law enforcement agency. Currently, 13 IPOs still work for the Sheriff’s Department at San Francisco General, Laguna Honda Hospital or one of nine clinics, though their positions will be filled with deputies when they retire or leave their jobs.