Davenport Woman Sentenced on Federal Wire Fraud and Structuring Charges PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Crime/Courts
Written by Val Quast   
Monday, 11 June 2012 08:44

DAVENPORT, IA - On June 8, 2012, Yolanda Marie Fitts, age 47, of Davenport, Iowa, was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment for two counts of wire fraud and one count of structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt. United States Chief District Judge James E. Gritzner also ordered Fitts to serve a term of 3 years supervised release, pay an assessment of $300 to Crime Victims Fund, and pay $ 64,189.10 in restitution.   At her guilty plea, Fitts admitted the following:

• of an individual with the initials “AS” be liquidated and transferred to the defendant’s account at RIA Federal Credit Union (RIA), thereby causing the resulting funds to be wire transferred from the account of “AS” at PNC Bank in Pennsylvania to Members United Corporation Federal Credit Union (Members United) in Warrenville, Illinois, Members United being a correspondent credit union handling incoming wire transfers for RIA.

• certification/notarization known as a Medallion Stamp Guarantee (MSG) on each letter of intent, a notarization required to certify the legitimacy of the letters of intent.

• Fitts created and mailed two bogus letters of intent directing that certain investments Utilizing the services of MidWest One Bank, Fitts fraudulently procured a letters of intent to PNC Funds in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

• the PNC funds on the Member’s United computer system in Illinois to the defendant’s RIA account. She then withdrew the funds for personal use via RIA’s branch in Bettendorf, Iowa.

•  RIA account in ten separate wire transfers beginning on March 18, 2008, and continuing through March 20, 2008. From March 18, 2008, through March 24, 2008, the defendant withdrew $64,189.10 from her RIA account for personal use.

•  time she went to the bank, the defendant said that the first time she went in a lady at the bank told her that with a withdrawal of $10,000 or more the IRS would be notified. The defendant made the decision to take out less that $10,000 each time so that she would not have to fill out the paperwork

This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bettendorf, Iowa, Police Department, and was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Iowa.

Fitts forged the signature of “AS” on the letters of intent. She then mailed the bogus Fitts caused RIA employees to transfer, by means of wire communication, credits for As a result of Fitt’s actions, credits for $113,125.79 were wire transferred into her
When asked by law enforcement if she purposely withdrew less than $10,000 each

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Supreme Court Approves Grants to Support Civil Legal Services for Low-Income Iowans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Crime/Courts
Written by Steve Davis   
Friday, 08 June 2012 14:53

Des Moines, June 6, 2012—The Iowa Supreme Court has approved more than $231,000 in grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income Iowans with civil legal problems. The court awarded grants to fourteen different organizations throughout Iowa. The grants are funded by the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Account (IOLTA) program. The IOLTA program is funded without state appropriations and at no cost to lawyers or their clients. With this year's grants, the Supreme Court has awarded over $23 million in IOLTA grants since the program began on July 1, 1985.

"In the civil justice system, low income Iowans with legal matters such as divorce, domestic abuse or unsafe housing are not guaranteed an attorney and often are unable to afford one," Chief Justice Mark Cady said. "This year's IOLTA grant recipients help to bridge that gap and increase access to justice for those Iowans and help to improve our justice system."

IOLTA grant funds are generated entirely from interest earned on certain pooled trust accounts held by Iowa lawyers. Lawyers practicing in Iowa are required by court order to deposit clients' funds the lawyers hold in interest-bearing accounts. When the funds involved are so small in amount or held for such a brief period of time that it is not possible for the funds to generate sufficient interest to economically benefit the individual client, court rules require that they be deposited in pooled interest-bearing trust accounts.

The IOLTA program is managed by a seven-member commission that reviews grant applications and then makes award recommendations to the supreme court. In the 26-year history of the IOLTA program, most of the grant awards have supported organizations that assist low-income Iowans with civil legal problems. Law-related education projects have also received grants. IOLTA grants do not support criminal legal defense.

The supreme court awarded the following grants for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, and ending June 30, 2013:

Iowa Legal Aid (Des Moines)—$102,900.00

For legal staff to serve regional offices of the grantee in an established program of civil case assistance to low-income Iowans. (Service area: statewide.)

HELP Through Education and Law Program, Inc. (Davenport)—$14,980.00

For legal staff to offer civil legal assistance to indigent and elderly persons, particularly in the areas of domestic relations, community legal education, service to the institutionalized elderly and domestic abuse, and administrative advocacy. (Service area: Scott and Clinton counties.)

Muscatine Legal Services—$5,000.00

For additional legal staff to maintain an existing program of civil legal assistance to low-income residents. (Service area: Muscatine County.)

Legal Aid Society of Story County (Nevada)—$7,000.00

For legal staff support to offset demand for legal assistance for low-income persons. (Service area: Story County.)

Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (Des Moines)—$26,180.00

For staff for volunteer lawyer referral service in Polk County serving the low-income community. (Service area: Polk County.)

Sioux County Low Fee Panel, Sioux County Bar Association (Sioux Center) —$1,575.00

For funds to provide civil legal assistance for economically disadvantaged individuals in the Sioux County area. (Service area: Sioux County.)

Iowa State Bar Association Public Service Project (Des Moines)—$26,530.00

For staff and technical support to increase the participation of attorneys in existing volunteer lawyer projects for indigent Iowans and provide assistance to legal service agencies. (Service area: statewide.)

Civil Legal Assistance Fund (Mason City)—$5,000.00

For funds to provide civil legal assistance to low-income fathers, mothers, or children involved in dissolution of marriage or modification cases in which other legal assistance is not available. (Service area: Second Judicial District.)

Know Your Constitution Committee of the Young Lawyers Division, Iowa State

Bar Association (Des Moines)—$2,565.00

For funds for the Know Your Constitution Program, to provide education to Iowa high school students about the United States Constitution. (Service area: statewide.)

Clinical Law Program, Drake University Law School Legal Clinic (Des Moines)—$7,280.00

For funds to continue the Poverty Law Internship Program, a clinical law program in which upper level law students intern with legal service providers throughout the state. (Service area: statewide.)

Iowa Legal Aid (Des Moines)—$17,500.00

For legal staff support to continue the Legal Hotline for Older Iowans.

(Service area: statewide.)

Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (Des Moines) —$4,400.00

For funds to support law-related education and attorney training specific to the issues of sexual assault on Iowa youth. (Service area: statewide.)

Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (Des Moines)—$5,000.00

For funds to provide legal services to low-income immigrants involved in removal proceedings or other immigration-law matters. (Service area: statewide.)

Kids First Law Center (Cedar Rapids)—$2,650.00

For funds to provide legal services to children in high-conflict divorce and custody cases when their parents cannot afford counsel for them. (Service area: Linn and Johnson counties.)

Centerville Community Betterment (Centerville)—$2,500.00

For funds to provide civil legal assistance for economically disadvantaged individuals. (Service area: Appanoose and Monroe counties.)

For further information contact:

Paul H. Wieck II, Director

Office of Professional Regulation

Judicial Branch Building

1111 East Court Avenue

Des Moines, IA 50319

Telephone: (515) 725-8029


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Schilling Seeks Bipartisan Path Forward on Illinois’ Thomson Prison PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Crime/Courts
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Friday, 08 June 2012 12:38
Washington, DC – Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) last week joined Illinois Congressmen Don Manzullo (IL-16) and Aaron Schock (IL-18) in sending a letter to Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Majority Whip, and Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.  In their letter the Congressmen reiterate their support for the federal government purchasing the Thomson Correction Facility from the state of Illinois for use as a federal prison.

Schilling, Manzullo, and Schock wrote:  
“Congress’ bipartisan position that the Thomson Correctional Facility should not be used for detainees is well established.  Congress has clearly and repeatedly enacted laws through the Defense Authorization and Appropriations process that bar the use of funds to transfer or release Guantanamo detainees into the United States, as well as prohibiting use of funds to construct, renovate, or expand any facility in the United States to house Guantanamo detainees.

“Unfortunately, the Administration is on record opposing these funding prohibitions. …We will continue to work to preserve current law, which prohibits this transfer.  It is troubling that the Administration has previously tried to bring these Guantanamo detainees to Illinois.  Furthermore, the Obama Administration continues to oppose Congressional efforts to prevent this transfer.  This opposition raises concerns about the Administration’s future plans for these detainees and has unfortunately impeded the federal purchase of Thomson prison.

“…We support efforts to reprogram funds within the Department of Justice so that the Thomson Correctional Facility can be purchased from the State of Illinois.  However, a condition of this request is an unequivocal statement from the Administration that this facility would never be used to house individuals currently detained at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Once this commitment from the Administration is achieved, we hope that both sides of the aisle can support this reprogramming of funds so that our overcrowded prisons can expand without the national security risks of bringing terrorists into the United States.”

Schilling traveled to Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in January 2011 with members of the House Armed Services Committee, and has been a firm supporter of legislation to prohibit federal funds from being used to transfer detainees to the United States.   He also joined Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Manzullo for a tour of Thomson Prison in March 2011.  Schilling, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has also supported the Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 National Defense Authorization Acts, which prohibit the transfer or release of select detainees to or within the United States, and ban the transfer or release of those detainees to or within foreign countries without the Secretary of Defense’s certification.

Schilling will today meet with Senator Durbin, where he will work to find a bipartisan path forward on Thomson Prison.  The text of the full letter can be found by clicking here.

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To send Congressman Schilling an e-mail, click here

‘Domestic Terrorists’ Prey on Kids in Summertime PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Crime/Courts
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 14:46
Advocate Offers Tips to Prevent, Spot, Child Sexual Abuse

Instances of child abuse increase during the summer, with some shelters and child advocacy centers actually doubling their caseloads, according to anecdotal reports.

While these tragedies include everything from neglect to beatings, child advocate  Michelle Bellon, author of The Complexity of a Soldier (, says parents and caregivers should be especially alert to one of the most easily hidden and underreported crimes: child sexual abuse. Her novel centers on this epidemic, and aims to raise awareness about it.

“Children may be less supervised during the summer, or they may be in the care of extended family members so their parents can save money on child care,” she says. “Both situations put children at risk; the former for obvious reasons and the latter because 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know the offender.”

Child predators are terrorists, Bellon says. Like the terrorists we deploy armies to battle overseas, they prey on innocents and subject them to physical and emotional torture. The consequences can be devastating and lifelong, including post-traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association reports.

“Does this sound like anything else we have heard about since 9/11? To me, it is very similar to what victims of terrorism face, and what soldiers face after fighting wars,” Bellon says. “I think child predators should be called what they are – domestic terrorists.”

Bellon shares these guidelines from a number of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, to keep children safe this summer.

• When choosing a summer program, ask about employee (and volunteer) screening and how interactions are monitored. A criminal background check is not sufficient to ferret out sexual abusers, since many have never been charged or convicted. Instead the program should look for warning signs in written applications and interviews. For instance, some predator adults spend all of their time with children and have no significant adult relationships. Policies on interactions between adults and children should include examples of appropriate and inappropriate conduct, and definitive steps for both monitoring and addressing concerns and complaints.

• Ask about the training. Staff and even temporary volunteers should undergo training to recognize signs of sexual abuse and to learn when it’s appropriate to report concerns. There should be a designated person to handle reports. Training should be required for staff and volunteers who come on board midway through the summer. Policies should include procedures for handling not just potential abuse, but also violations of the code of conduct for interactions.

• Ask about interactions between older and younger children. Some programs allow older children to serve as “junior counselors” or activity assistants. Ask about the guidelines for these situations, including whether and how long children may be unsupervised by an adult.

• Make sure children understand “personal boundaries.” Teach children the importance of recognizing and respecting the invisible barriers that separate them from other people. They should be able to recognize their comfort zone – and that of others! – and know that they can and should speak up about setting limits. Start at home by respecting a child’s right to say “no” to physical contact, such as tickling and hugs. Never force a child to kiss a relative.

• Recognize signs of a problem. Children often won’t or can’t tell you what’s happening, but there are signs to watch for, including changes in behavior such as withdrawal or unprovoked crying, night terrors, bedwetting, eating problems, unexplained injuries, suddenly avoiding a particular person, and unusual interest in or knowledge of sexual matters.

About Michelle Bellon

Michelle Bellon earned her associate degree in nursing, and lives with her husband and four children in Olympia, Wash. She is the author of four novels, including “The Complexity of a Soldier,” which deals with the issue of child sexual abuse.

Grassley, Smith ask about release of foreign nationals with deportation orders PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Crime/Courts
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 14:45

Inquiry prompted by recent arrest of murder suspect

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Lamar Smith are asking for a full accounting from the Department of Homeland Security of the number of foreign nationals who have been released from federal and state prisons but not deported because their home counties failed to cooperate and how many of those individuals have been convicted of additional crimes.

In a letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano, Grassley and Smith described the case of a man suspected of killing five people in San Francisco in March after having been released from prison in 2006 but never deported because his home country of Vietnam did not provide necessary documents.  When the individual was arrested this year, an official for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not say how many foreign nationals with deportation orders were released after home countries refused to respond.

A 2001 Supreme Court case said foreign nationals facing deportation cannot be held for more than 180 days.  In their letter today, Grassley and Smith also asked if the Obama administration would support legislation to allow the Department of Homeland Security to detain these individuals beyond six months.  They also asked for detailed information about federal efforts to get cooperation from home countries.

Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Smith is Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives.

Click here for a pdf copy of the Grassley-Smith letter.

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