A newly reported case of krokodil in Ohio has a local sheriff offering drug users shocking advice.
A needle drug user in Athens County who had pus-filled, scaly scars where she had injected told detectives that she bought what she thought was heroin from a dealer who had in turn got his supply from Columbus.
After seeing the wounds, Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly told 10TV that he’s convinced the drug she got was krokodil, an injectable heroin substitute with impurities that destroy blood vessels and cause flesh to rot off the bone. That concern has led the sheriff to advise users to get their drugs from a source that they trust.
“I’m hoping that they won’t use heroin at all, but I’m not that naive. To say ‘get your heroin from a trusted source’ sounds ridiculous coming from a sheriff,” Kelly told the station. “But if you’re going to have to get your fix, you’re not going to want to get ahold of krokodil.”
Krokodil, a street drug that is made by cooking crushed codeine pills with household substances like paint thinner or gasoline, leaves green, scaly scars on users. Although multiple cases of the drug have been reported by doctors and local law enforcement across North America since September, the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to confirm that the drug is present in the United States.
In order for the DEA to confirm krokodil’s presence in the United States, agents would have to catch the drug in production or confirm the presence of desomorphine (the active ingredient in krokodil) and household hydrocarbons in a sample, an agency spokesman told The Huffington Post on Friday.
But to Kelly, the threat is real and a cause for concern.
“I’ve been worried about methamphetamine and heroin for years,” Kelly told the station. “This just gives us another drug to be worried about.”
Officials skeptical of the drug, which was first reported in Russia several years ago, have suggested that the sores on users’ skin could come from bacterial infections spread by using dirty needles.
If that is the case, harm-reduction practices such as using clean needles from needle exchanges could help reduce the incidence of the gangrenous sores. But with krokodil, the damage to the body occurs from the impurities in the drug itself.
“If it’s on the table of our drug users, it’s gonna get out there,” Roger Lowe, who runs a traveling needle exchange in Northeastern Ohio, told WKYC in October. “I think we’re gonna see more of it and I’m terrified of what’s gonna happen.”
Users receiving shortened URLs in Skype instant messages, or similar IM platforms, should be wary of a new trojan, called Liftoh.
So far, it has primarily infected users in Latin America, said Rodrigo Calvo, a researcher at Symantec.
When targeted, victims receive a message in Spanish containing a shortened URL. The messages appear as if they are coming from someone on the user’s Skype contact list who is linking to a photo. If clicked, the link redirects users to 4shared.com, which is hosting a URL, which initiates a weaponized zip file containing Liftoh. The trojan is capable of downloading additional malware.
The malicious URLs have been clicked on more than 170,000 times, according to Symantec.
Authorities today resumed their search for a 19-year-old woman who vanished into a Washington forest on a “spiritual quest” sporting only a fanny pack, three days after they had to suspend the rescue effort because they didn’t have enough people to look for her.
Maureen Kelly of Vancouver, Wash., has not been seen since she left Canyon Creek Campground at Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington on Sunday evening, according to Skamania County Undersheriff Dave CoxGifford Pinchot National Forest.
Cox said there were “very limited resources during the week” to continue to search for Kelly. While organized search efforts were suspended on Wednesday, approximately 50 state-certified searchers have made themselves available for an all day search effort today, he said.
“It should be a good day to go find her,” Cox told ABCNews.com today. “Right now we’re hoping she wants to be found.”
Cox said friends of Kelly’s who were with her at the campsite expected her to return within a few hours. While she did not indicate when she would return, her friends called the sheriff’s office just after midnight Monday morning to report her missing.
“She had talked about doing this spiritual quest for evidently quite some time,” he said. “The folks that she was with, they felt that this was something she needed to do.”
Cox said it is believed Kelly only had a knife, a compass and matches with her in the fanny pack.
Weather in the forest has been on the cooler side since Kelly went missing, Cox said. The region has received a good amount of rain and temperatures have dropped as low as the mid-40s at night.
In addition to hypothermia, Cox said there are a number of hazardous conditions that could endanger Kelly’s life.
“There’s always a risk of injury in the territory she’s in — it’s very deep and rugged,” he said. “There’s a lot of debris on the forest floor, so she could slip on moss, or break a leg. There are a lot of different scenarios you could run into.”
The sheriff’s office does not have photos of Kelly for identification purposes, but authorities are aware of Kelly’s physical characteristics.
“There aren’t too many folks we know of that are missing here without clothes on,” Cox said.
The IRS has issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for 2013 to remind taxpayers to use caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes, ranging from identity theft to impersonation of charitable organizations. Taxpayers could be prey to scams at any point during the year, but the threat peaks during tax-filing season, the IRS said.
“This tax season, the IRS has stepped up its efforts to protect taxpayers from a wide range of schemes, including moving aggressively to combat identity theft and refund fraud,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller. “The Dirty Dozen list shows that scams come in many forms during filing season. Don’t let a scam artist steal from you or talk you into doing something you will regret later.”
The Dirty Dozen
1. Identity theft: This leads the list, as it did last year, as incidences of identity theft continue to grow. Identity theft occurs when someone uses a taxpayer’s personal information, such as a person’s name, Social Security number, or other identifying information, without permission to commit fraud or other crimes. In many cases, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. For more information, visit the IRS identity theft page.
2. Phishing: Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited e-mail or a fake website. A phisher attempts to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide personal and financial information that can result in identity theft or financial theft. The IRS asks that those who receive an unsolicited e-mail that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Return preparer fraud: About 60 percent of taxpayers will use tax professionals this year to prepare their tax returns. A small number of unscrupulous preparers prey on unsuspecting taxpayers, and the result can be refund fraud or identity theft. The IRS recommends taxpayers only use preparers who sign the returns they prepare and who enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
“Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams – Warn Your Clients
Return preparer fraud
Hiding income offshore
“Free money” from the IRS and tax scams involving Social Security
Impersonation of charitable organizations
False or inflated income and expenses
False Form 1099 refund claims
Falsely claiming zero wages
Disguised corporate ownership
Misuse of trusts
4. Hiding income offshore: Evading US taxes by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts, or nominee entities and then using debit cards, credit cards, or wire transfers to access the funds is a frequently seen scam. Sometimes foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities, or insurance plans are used for the same purpose.
New foreign account reporting requirements being phased in over the next few years will make hiding income offshore increasingly more difficult. At the beginning of 2012, the IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP), which allows individuals to voluntarily disclose their foreign financial accounts and take advantage of special opportunities to resolve their US tax obligations. The IRS has collected $5.5 billion so far from people who participated in OVDP since 2009.
5. “Free money” from the IRS and tax scams involving Social Security: Advertisements for free money from the IRS suggest that a taxpayer with minimal income and who normally would not have a tax-filing requirement, can file a tax return with little or no documentation and collect a refund. These schemes, which charge for preparing the return, tend to prey on low-income individuals and the elderly. The perpetrators may also encourage taxpayers to make fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.
There are also similar scams that promise nonexistent Social Security refunds or rebates. In another situation, a taxpayer may really be due a credit or refund but uses inflated information to complete the return. Intentional mistakes of this kind can result in a $5,000 penalty.
6. Impersonation of charitable organizations: Following major disasters, it is common for scam artists to impersonate charities in order to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Some operate bogus charities and contact people by telephone or e-mail to solicit money or financial information, or they may contact disaster victims directly and claim to be working for, or on behalf of, the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
The IRS offers victims of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, and people wishing to make charitable donations the following tips:
To help disaster victims, donate to recognized charities.
Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities.
Do not give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords, to anyone who solicits a contribution.
Do not give or send cash. For security and tax-record purposes, contribute by check, credit card, or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
Disaster victims with specific questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues can call the IRS’ toll-free disaster assistance number: (866) 562-5227.
7. False or inflated income and expenses: Reporting income that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income, in order to maximize refundable credits could have serious repercussions. This could result in repaying the erroneous refunds, including interest and penalties, and in some cases, even prosecution.
8. False Form 1099 refund claims: In some cases, individuals have made refund claims based on the bogus theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for US citizens and that taxpayers can gain access to the accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to the IRS. In this ongoing scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099, Original Issue Discount (OID), to justify a false refund claim on a corresponding tax return.
9. Frivolous arguments: Promoters of frivolous tax schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous tax arguments that taxpayers should avoid. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court.
10. Falsely claiming zero wages: Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer may also submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS.
Sometimes, fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation.
11. Disguised corporate ownership: In this type of scam, third parties are improperly used to request employer identification numbers and form corporations that obscure the true ownership of the business. These entities can be used to underreport income, claim fictitious deductions, avoid filing tax returns, participate in listed transactions, and facilitate money laundering and financial crimes.
12. Misuse of trusts: For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some highly questionable transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses, and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means of avoiding income tax liability and hiding assets from creditors, including the IRS. The IRS has also seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses.
It was an eerie sight Tuesday night when crews unearthed a large wooden box in the backyard of a home — and police describe what was inside as human remains.
A man who once lived at the home near 16th Street and Indian School Road now faces murder charges after the bodies of a man and woman were found inside the coffin — and police believe they are the victims of a murder dating back to October 2011.
And now the suspect, 42-year-old Alan Champagne, who has actually been convicted of murder before — is in custody.
The location of where the bodies were found and the murder scene are just a few blocks away from each other.
There are a lot of elements to this story. The one common factor is Champagne.
Police took Champagne into custody in connection with those murders. He lived in the home his mother owned — the residence where the remains were uncovered.
It was late Tuesday night when detectives uncovered the huge wooden box — a makeshift coffin in the backyard — with the human remains inside.
“We believe that the murder..the homicides occurred at the apartment at 3400 North 12th Place..we believe those bodies were then transported and ultimately buried in the rear yard of the mothers home,” said Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson.
According to Thompson, in October 2011, detectives received a tip that a double homicide took place an apartment complex near 12th Place and Osborn.
Residents confirm Champagne lived there around that time and court documents indicate he was involved in an aggravated assault at the same address.
One neighbor told FOX 10, “There was like a few things that happened here and there during the night time…fights, police coming over, but like I said, I’m the type of neighbor that just minded my own business.”
Champagne was involved in a shootout with SWAT last March when detectives went to the house on 14th Place — the same house where the remains were found — to arrest him for the assault.
He’s been in jail since, but on Wednesday, he was transported to police headquarters and questioned about the murders.
“At this point, we believe there was an altercation where for whatever reason we believe he was involved in the murder of these individuals,” said Thompson.
Police believe the murders took place sometime in June or July 2011 — the tip didn’t come in until October.
At that point, the apartment was renovated, but detectives searched it anyway and came up with some forensic evidence.
Champagne was named a suspect at that time, but couldn’t be charged until now because there were no bodies.
Champagne served nearly 13 years in prison on a murder conviction before being released in 2005.
Despite police activity at the home, Champagne’s former neighbors were still stunned watching investigators unearth a coffin from the backyard.
Dogs had their day in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The high court ruled unanimously that a Florida police officer’s use of a drug-sniffing dog to search a truck during a routine traffic stop was appropriate, even though the drugs found were not what the pooch was trained to detect.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the unanimous opinion for the court – and for Aldo, a retired drug-detection dog. “The record in this case amply supported the trial court’s determination that Aldo’s alert gave (Canine Officer William) Wheetley probable cause to search the truck,” she said.
The case was one of two involving drug-sniffing dogs heard on Halloween. In the other case, a dog was used to sniff for drugs on the doorstep of a private home. While the court did not decide that case Tuesday, justices were far more skeptical of the legality of that search during oral arguments.
At the time, the justices seemed amenable to the use of drug-sniffing dogs in general, without quarreling about their training and certification, in order to determine “probable cause” of drug presence. But when the issue arrived on their doorstep, their reaction changed. As a result, they appeared inclined to split the difference.
Several justices had seemed likely to accept the expertise of dogs with documented training to sniff out contraband, rather than demanding case-by-case evidence of their reliability. That was demonstrated by the unanimous decision Tuesday.
Kagan noted that the police officer first encountered a nervous driver, Clayton Harris, and an open beer can. Then Aldo “alerted” at the door handle of the car, giving probable cause for a search. But the search didn’t turn up drugs that could be sniffed; instead, ingredients for manufacturing methamphetamine were found, and Harris was arrested.
In ruling for Aldo’s competence, the court reversed a decision by the Florida Supreme Court that had required comprehensive documentation of Aldo’s “prior hits and misses,” Kagan wrote. More important than any hit or miss, she said, was “the totality of the circumstances.”
During the other argument in October, the justices drew a proverbial line at the entrance to private homes, arguing that crime-fighting dogs at one’s doorstep are far different from trick-or-treaters.
The canines in question – Aldo and fellow retired drug detection dog Franky — weren’t in court for the spectacle. But that didn’t stop the justices from discussing their qualifications, motives and behavior.
Police “have every incentive to train the dog well,” said Justice Antonin Scalia, questioning the Florida court’s demand for detailed training, certification and field performance records in Aldo’s case. The liberal justices appeared less trusting of a dog’s nose but similarly wary of using courts to determine each dog’s qualifications.
On the other hand, Scalia and Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to align with the court’s four liberals against Franky, who detected marijuana in a Miami grow house only after spending several minutes sniffing around the front door. Kagan called that “a lengthy and obtrusive process.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it could lead to random searches of “any home, anywhere.”
Both cases hinge on the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches — a protection the high court held in high esteem during its last term, when it ruled unanimously that police should have obtained a warrant before placing a GPS device on a drug suspect’s car.
Although modern technology didn’t exist when the Founders wrote the Bill of Rights, dogs certainly did — and they have been used reliably by police for a number of causes, including the search for victims of Superstorm Sandy, which occurred just days before oral arguments.
“Scotland Yard used dogs to track Jack the Ripper,” said Gregory Garre, who represented Florida law enforcement in both cases.
“These dogs are quite reliable,” agreed Joseph Palmore, representing the U.S. Justice Department, which sided with the state.
But Glen Gifford, an assistant public defender representing one of the defendants, begged to differ. “Dogs make mistakes,” he said. “Dogs err.”
The Internal Revenue Service is taking additional steps during the 2013 tax season to protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud.
Stopping refund fraud related to identity theft is a top priority for the tax agency. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. The IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft cases – more than twice the level of a year ago. We have trained more than 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to recognize and provide assistance when identity theft occurs.
Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One instance is where identity thieves try filing fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.
Here are some tips to protect you from becoming a victim, and steps to take if you think someone may have filed a tax return using your name:
Tips to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft
Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents with your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on it.
Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
Protect your financial information.
Check your credit report every 12 months.
Secure personal information in your home.
Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Mon. – Fri., 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. local time; Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).
If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft
Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:
More than one tax return for you was filed;
You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;
IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned or
Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change.
If you receive a notice from IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.
If you did not receive a notice but believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 right away so we can take steps to secure your tax account and match your SSN or ITIN.
Also, fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Please write legibly and follow the directions on the back of the form that relate to your specific circumstances.
In addition, we recommend you take additional steps with agencies outside the IRS:
Report incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.
File a report with the local police.
Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus:
Equifax – http://www.equifax.com, 800-525-6285
Experian – http://www.experian.com, 888-397-3742
TransUnion – http://www.transunion.com, 800-680-7289
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft – http://www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft
Help if you have reported an identity theft case to the IRS and are waiting for your federal tax refund
The IRS is working to speed up and further streamline identity theft case resolution to help innocent taxpayers.
The IRS more than doubled the level of employees dedicated to working identity theft cases between 2011 and 2012. As the IRS enters the 2013 filing season, we now have more than 3,000 employees working identity theft issues. Despite these efforts, the IRS continues to see a growing number of identity theft cases.
These are extremely complex cases to resolve, frequently touching on multiple issues and multiple tax years. Cases of resolving identity can be complicated by the thieves themselves calling in. Due to the complexity of the situation, this is a time-consuming process. Taxpayers are likely to see their refunds delayed for an extended period of time while we take the necessary actions to resolve the matter. A typical case can take about 180 days to resolve, and the IRS is working to reduce that time period.
While the identity theft cases are being worked, the IRS also reminds victims that they need to continue to file their tax returns during this period.
For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution to their case, they can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free, at 800-908-4490. If victims can’t get their issue resolved and are experiencing financial difficulties, contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service toll-free at 877-777-4778.
It is a top priority for the IRS to help victims and reduce the time it takes to resolve their cases. In addition, the IRS continues to aggressively expand its efforts to protect and prevent refund fraud involving identity theft before it occurs as well as work with federal, state and local officials to pursue the perpetrators of this fraud.
For more information, see the special identity theft section on IRS.gov and IRS Fact Sheet 2013-2, IRS Combats Identity Theft and Refund Fraud on Many Fronts.
Serving legal papers wasn’t his strong suit, the city says.
The city’s worst process server claimed to be hand-delivering court summonses all over the city, but GPS records revealed he was often miles from his mark or totally off the grid, according to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Robert Winckelmann, 41, lost his city-issued license after a sweeping DCA investigation discovered he was not actually serving legal papers to defendants, the city says.
In one case from November 2011, Winckelmann, a Jericho, LI, resident, drove to The Bronx and swore on an affidavit that he served a summons on Fox Street to a relative of a woman being sued by creditors for $6,098, according to court records.
But at the time of alleged service, he was three miles away at the Cross Bronx Expressway and Newbold Avenue, GPS records indicated.
Later that day, he claimed to serve three more summonses in The Bronx, on East 149th Street, the Grand Concourse or Bronx Park South, but electronic records again proved that he was miles away, DCA said.
Those three debt-collection cases resulted in default judgements for his client, a debt-collector which purchased bad accounts from Chase and the New York Credit Acceptance Corp., according to court records.
When a debtor isn’t served properly, they don’t know when to go to court, it could result in a default judgment or an automatic ruling against them.
“We are referring all evidence of defaults by him and others back to the courts,” Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz told The Post.
Probers found that Winckelmann was involved in 31 cases that ended in default judgments.
The city issued Winckelmann 46 GPS-record violations and slapped him with 35 counts of failure to maintain records. But Winckelmann denied any wrongdoing, and said some of the GPS violations were due to technical glitches in the new citywide system, and that 36 violations were for cases in Westchester, outside the city’s jurisdiction.
“They just took his livelihood away without a hearing,” said his attorney Myra Sencer. “He is really being treated unfairly.”
During a yearlong DCA crackdown, investigators issued violations to one in three of the city’s 943 process servers for having written logs that didn’t match their GPS-tracked whereabouts. Since November 2011, process servers have been required to maintain a GPS record.
“Our findings were so disappointingly negative,” Mintz said.
DCA randomly checked 102 licensed process servers; 10 lost their licenses, three surrendered them, and 43 entered into settlement agreements with the DCA, the agency said.
The agency issued $36,000 in fines.
“For way too long process servers have been like the Wild West of the legal system,” Mintz said.