As of August 1st, several laws that were passed in the 2009 legislature session take effect. As part of an overall effort to stop sex trafficking in Minnesota, the criminal penalties are now more severe. The law also changed the definition of sex trafficking. Fines are increased and the law now provides a 25 year sentence for first and second degree cases involving aggravating factors such as repeat offenders, the victim suffering bodily harm during the offense, more than one victim is involved, or if the time the victim was held in debt bondage or forced labor for more than 180 days.
The crime of prostitution in a public place is clarified so it is consistent throughout statutes and the law enhances the penalty for repeat prostitution related violations in certain instances.
This law also adds language to Minnesota state statute that an employer cannot retaliate against a victim of a violent crime or the victim’s spouse or immediate family for taking reasonable time off of work to attend criminal proceedings.
Lawyers in Minnesota will be pleased with a new law that takes effect. This law eliminates a per-hour cap on an award of attorney’s or agents fees in a civil action or contested case where the state is a party. Under current law, when a court finds the state is not justified in bringing forth an action, the defendant is entitled to an award of attorney fees and expenses. However, the $125 hourly cap that was established in 1986 was still in statute. With the new law, it will allow a judge to issue a reasonable award based on the prevailing market rate for the kind and quality of service received by the defense.
Finally, Minnesota drivers are allowed to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph when passing another vehicle going the same direction on a two-lane highway with a speed limit of at least 55 mph. Effective August 1, 2009 failure to wear a seatbelt is a primary offense – so buckle up.
Recently, the FBI exposed a decade long scheme this week. Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn, New York called himself a “matchmaker.” However, his business wasn’t linked to romance and marriage instead he brokered the sale of black-market organs – kidneys that were needed desperately by ill patients in the U.S.
Rosenbaum bought organs from poor people from Israel for $10,000 and then sold them to patients in the U.S. for as much as $160,000. But Mr. Rosenbaum wasn’t the only one dealing in black market organs. It was reported that up to 44 people were arrested in New York as well as New Jersey. They were charged for corruption and money laundering. Many included mayors, rabbis and assemblymen.
Reports also say that buying organs on the black-market is being done in poor countries such as India. Many of the “donors” are paid little money and may be coerced into donating their organs. The unscrupulous buyers then turn around and sell the organs up to 10 times the amount they paid for the organs to patients who are waiting a long time for an organ. In principle, “donating” an organ is a noble idea. However, to buy and sell organs for a profit is not only illegal but also a crime against humanity.
Call it luck or call it just great police work, but juvenile homicides are down significantly in Northern Minneapolis. An article in the Star Tribune proudly reported that during the first six months of this year, Minneapolis did not have a single homicide involving a juvenile.
In addition, violent crime statistics show that homicides, rapes, robberies and most other crimes have dropped dramatically in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and many other major U.S. cities over the past few years. Some of the reasons for this may be because of the recession but some cities credit better police-community relations and increasingly sophisticated databases on criminals. Back in 2006, law enforcement found that half of the serious crime in the city was committed by juveniles. As a result, Minneapolis implemented a plan three years ago to target juvenile crime.
As a result during the first six months of this year, violent crime in the city is down 17 percent from the same period last year, 28 percent compared with that period in 2007, and 39 percent from where it was during the same period in 2006.
Law enforcement plans to keep up the work against violent crime in Minneapolis. In fact, crime is down more than 40 percent in north Minneapolis when compared to three years ago. You know when neighbors and business people notice that it has been quieter than usual, that the police are doing a great job.
The Sun Newspaper recently reported that in June of this year the U.S. Marshals arrested a most wanted gang fugitive in Hopkins, Minnesota. As part of Operation FALCON 2009 (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally) James Epps age 28 of Minneapolis was found and arrested.
Epps was charged with first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree aggravated robbery for alleged incident back in May. He and an accomplice are accused of robbing two people at gunpoint at a motel. They were armed with shotguns and according to the arrest warrant Epps allegedly bit off part of one of the victim’s ear. Epps is reported to be a member of the Black P-Stone gang.
Since 2005, Operation FALCON has made more than 91,000 arrests and cleared more than 117,000 warrants. This operation is the largest and most successful fugitive apprehension efforts in U.S. Marshals history. There are approximately 175 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. They make up 16 separate arrest teams working throughout the operation. Each participating local officer is sworn in as a Special U.S. Deputy U.S. Marshal immediately prior to the start of the operation.
The goal of Operation Falcon is to make communities safer. Each time an arrest is made through FALCON operations there are less dangerous individuals in the community making the community safer.
Last September, a young man who was from Somalia living in Minneapolis was murdered by one of the Somalia gangs that call Minneapolis, MN their home. Unfortunately, this has become common in recent years. An estimated 32,000 Somalis have settled in Minnesota along with gangs like the Somali Hot Boyz, the Somali Mafia and Madhibaan with Attitude, all who have grown more active in recent years.
Over a ten-month period, seven Minneapolis area Somalia men have been killed. Police believe fellow Somalis killed them. The Somali community in Minnesota, one of the nation’s largest, is outraged but police and prosecutors are struggling to catch and try the killers. Few witnesses have stepped forward because they fear reprisal and have a deep-rooted distrust of authority.
Sadly, more than half of Minnesota’s Somalis are living in poverty and many complain that they feel that authorities are biased against them because of their Islamic faith. However, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is hoping that a conviction of even one gang member would show local Somalis that the law is on their side and that they can trust local authority.
Reports from law enforcement throughout the U.S. and Canada also have seen an increase in Somali gang activity. It will take trust and belief that law enforcement is on their side in order to help immigrant Somalis to stop the gang activity in their community.
In today’s Internet world of Facebook, twitters and tweets, police are cautioning people to be careful what they say on these social Internet sites. Take for example if you are planning to go on vacation. A woman from Seattle who uses two Twitter accounts – one for personal and private and the other for business – tweeted that she was leaving town for a long weekend. Thank goodness her house wasn’t burglarized while she was gone.
Police warn that even if these social networks are suppose to be secure, criminals can search for vacation tweets and in less than a minute find a home address and phone number. Many people set up their Twitter accounts so that anybody can follow them. For an ID thief, a robber, or someone who is disgruntled and wants to find out where to stalk or slur you in some way, they can easily search for your private information. Remember, anything you put on the Internet is public as well as searchable.
Experts explain that it is very easy to find people online, even people with unlisted phone numbers. Even if you use an alias on your Twitter account, someone will be able to figure out who you are and where you live. Also, the people you tweet to may send out your tweet to other people you don’t know and they can also figure out who you are and where you live.
Think about it, when you leave on vacation you make sure that your house doesn’t look like you are away. You stop your mail or newspapers, leave lights on, etc. So why would you want to advertise on a social network that you are going to be on vacation?
A new scam is targeting cell phone users who speak Spanish in the Worthington, Minnesota area according to an article in Pioneer Press. Recently there have been three separate reports where victims received text messages in Spanish. The message tells the cell phone user that they won a large sum of cash and a Toyota car. The message gives a phone number to call to receive the prizes.
The police believe that the phone number is located somewhere in Guatemala. Unfortunately, one victim wired $1,700 and gave out their bank account number. Chances for this victim to see their prize money and a Toyota car are slim to none. The break in this phone scam came when one victim who does not speak Spanish asked authorities for help in interpreting the message.
Once again, never call back a phone number you don’t recognize. Never send money to an address you don’t know and never give out your bank account number to anyone. Remember, if it is going to cost you money to get something for “free,” it’s a scam.
In a recent article in the Star Tribune, reports on prosecutors investigating “johns” in a major Twin Cities prostitution ring. All the johns, about 30 alleged clients, were business professionals and prosecutors say they won’t be getting any special treatment.
The article goes on to say that, the “johns” knew they were doing wrong but had a compulsion and really tried to stop. The prostitutes also knew they were doing wrong and wanted to get out, but they all needed the money. Do you believe their sob stories? Obviously the prosecutors didn’t.
John St. Marie who was a former assistant Hennepin County attorney is alleged to have run the Nice Guys prostitution ring. The county attorney is expected to consider possible felony charges against John St. Marie. It’s also possible that a portion of the case could be turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office for consideration of federal charges tied to interstate elements of the prostitution.
The Nice Guys was not your typical sex ring. All of the johns were in their early 40s to mid 60s and communicated via email. They called themselves Nice Guys because they had clean backgrounds, regarded themselves as trustworthy and didn’t mistreat the women. However, when the prostitution ring turned to employing illegal immigrant women, that’s when law enforcement got into the act.
Prosecutors are looking to charge John St. Marie with felony charges and possibly part of the case could be turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office for consideration of federal charges tied to interstate trafficking of prostitution.
Recently, Minnesota’s top DWI enforcers were honored during a Twins pre-game. What makes this an important honor is how these 31 law enforcement representatives are working hard to ensure safe roads for all motorists by arresting and prosecuting impaired drivers in Minnesota.
Minnesota State Patrol Trooper, Kyle Klawiter, was named the state’s Most Valuable Enforcer. He had 184 DWI arrest in 2008. Each year, alcohol-related crashes account for more than one-third of Minnesota’s total traffic deaths. This accounts for approximately 200 deaths annually. In addition, these crashes also seriously injure 400 motorists each year. According to reports, there are more than 35,000 motorists arrested for DWI and approximately 80 percent of drinking drivers killed in crashes are not buckled up.
The summer driving season is an important time for law enforcement. This is the time of year when impaired driving activity and alcohol-related fatalities spike. Reports indicate that during July, August and September in 2006–2008, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 164 deaths. This represents 32 percent of all alcohol-related deaths for the three-year period.
As a result, there will be a summer-long enhanced DWI enforcement through Operation NightCAP (nighttime concentrated alcohol patrol). Law enforcement will continue in the state’s 13 deadliest counties for impaired driving. Operation NightCAP is extra overtime patrols that are over and beyond regular DWI enforcement activity.
Remember, law enforcement can’t stop impaired driving. Everyone needs to take action to prevent friends from drinking and driving. Use safe alternatives like a cab or a designated driver and never get behind the wheel after drinking.
Recently, the Sun newspaper reported that an Eagan man was sentenced for embezzling $167,000 from his Burnsville employer. Michael Ray Sauve age 43 was sentenced for 98 months or over 8 years in prison for stealing money over six years. He was a controller for Bankers Mortgage in Burnsville and the crime wasn’t uncovered until the company merged with Bell Mortgage.
Sauve was in charge of the bookkeeping, human resources and payroll department. However, this wasn’t the first time he was sentenced to jail for the crime of embezzlement. Back in 2001, he was convicted of stealing more than $100,000 from an Eagan employer in 1998 and 1999.
Why didn’t the company do an adequate background check on this guy? If you were an employer, wouldn’t you be leery to hire someone who was convicted on embezzlement charges? If you wanted to give this guy a job, don’t put him in charge of bookkeeping or payroll. Give him a job in Customer Service or as a head janitor!
The reality is that the cost of background or pre-employment checks is much cheaper than hiring a convicted embezzler.