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Posts published in “Day: February 3, 2011

Crosby ISD grappling to cut back spending

CROSBY – As the anticipation of receiving last money back from the State that local taxpayers sent to Austin comes closer to reality the local school board is hearing resistance to making cuts on many fronts but some reasons are being offered to not cut the Tax Office.
On Jan. 31, Joe Anselmo and Trustee JoAnne Crawford addressed the board during Hearing of Citizen’s Portion to plea that the Crosby Tax Office not be closed. As the Star-Courier reported on Jan. 13 anticipation of being given millions od dollars less than expected last year back from Texas has the trustees and superintendent wondering where they can save money.

Texas has trimmed $27 Billion dollars from the budget and being that 47% of the State’s Budget is Education everyone is looking for the next shoe to fall.
The superintendent, in January, denied that the amount would certainly be $1.47 Million indicating he has not been given any estimated amount. Because the school is in the job of educating, not collecting taxes, he believed that having Goose Creek collect taxes for Crosby was a good idea. Items of regular business Exhibit 5 and 6 concerned closing the Tax Office.
Anselmo stated that he had collected some 200 names in four days on a petition. He indicates that the Goose Creek school district has misplaced money twice in the last several years amounting to over $300,000. He says it will cost over $12,500 to make the transition from Crosby to Goose Creek. Channelview and Sheldon have the same software as Crosby but as far as he knows have not been asked. There are 19,000 accounts in Crosby and the estimated expenditure for Goose Creek I.S.D. to process the collects is $69,000 annually. The Crosby Tax Office found a gas storage tank on FM 1942 that netted the district $200,000 annually. The Crosby Tax Office has purchased land for the district that has saved tremendous funding, according to Anselmo.
The Board tabled the decisions on the Tax Office on Monday. Trustee President Blankenship said that inaction could have just cost the district four teachers come next year.
JoAnne Crawford spoke of the district offering loyalty back to long term personnel.
Other speakers wanted to keep the science stipend as extended by Superintendent Joseph’s board last year. It is hard to save money, especially in schools.

Chambers Co. engages in War on Drugs

CHAMBERS COUNTY— The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office continues its war on drugs, both in local communities and on Interstate Highway 10.
Patrol deputies have made numerous felony and misdemeanor drug arrests in recent months. “Several notable drug seizures and arrests have been made by the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office Street Crimes Unit”, stated Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive.

“Meth” found in Anahuac
On Oct. 6, 2010, deputies with the Streets Crimes Unit of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office conducted a “knock and talk” at a residence located in the 5100 block of South Main Street in Anahuac, Texas. Information had been received from numerous people that the occupants of the residence had been selling methamphetamine.

Three white females and a white male were located in the residence, and a second white male was leaving the residence as deputies arrived. During a search of the residence, 30 grams of suspected methamphetamine were seized, along with a digital scale commonly used for weighing illegal narcotics.
The white male at the residence, identified as 25 year old Zachary James Baty, confessed to owning the methamphetamine and was arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance (2nd Degree Felony). Baty was later released from the Chambers County Jail, after posting a $10,000 bond.
Arrest at OR-W’s “The Curve”
The next day, on Oct. 7, 2010, the Street Crimes Unit executed a search warrant at a convenience store, known as “The Curve”, located in the 4500 block of FM 565, in Old River, Texas. A narcotics investigation had revealed that the store operator, Timmy McCoy Flynn (42 year old white male of Baytown) was selling suspected narcotics out of the store.
Flynn was located in the store at the time of the search warrant, along with a small amount of suspected methamphetamine, a small amount of the suspected street drug “ecstasy”, a digital scale, nearly $500 cash, a pistol and a shotgun.
Flynn was arrested on two counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance less than 1 gram (state jail felony). Flynn was later released from the Chambers County jail, after posting a $20,000 bond. The Curve convenience store later closed.
Traffic stop leads to cocaine
On Dec. 10, 2010 at approximately 6:13 p.m., while patrolling IH10, Deputies stopped a black 2006 Buick LeSabre, bearing a Louisiana license plate.
The Buick was traveling eastbound near the 807 mile marker, and committed a traffic violation (following too close). Upon making contact with the driver, identified as Kendrell Torell Barthelemy (24 year old black male from Point A La Hach, La.), Deputies detected an overwhelming smell of burnt marijuana coming from the driver compartment of the vehicle.
Barthelemy became extremely nervous and gave inconsistent statements during the traffic stop, but gave consent to search his vehicle. As Deputies were conducting the search, Barthelemy fled across IH10 on foot and disappeared into a wooded area.
Chambers County Deputies and Texas State Troopers conducted an extensive search of the area, aided by a Texas Department of Public Safety Helicopter, but could not locate Barthelemy.
However, Deputies did locate approximately 10 kilograms of suspected powder cocaine, hidden in the trunk area of Barthelemy’s vehicle. Arrest warrants were later issued for Barthelemy, charging him with 1st Degree Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Evading Arrest (Class B Misdemeanor). Bond was set at a total of $80,000. Barthelemy remains at large.

Former Liberty Co. judge, commissioner indicted in hurricane fraud scheme

BEAUMONT– A former Liberty County Judge and Commissioner, and a local businessman have all been indicted in a hurricane fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales last week.
John “Phil” Fitzgerald, 51, of Liberty, Texas, Herman “Lee” Groce, 62, of Cleveland, Texas, and Mark Wayne Miksch, 52, of LaVernia, Texas, were named in a 25-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Jan. 26. The defendants have been summoned and were scheduled to make their initial appearances on Feb. 1, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines.
The indictment alleges that following Hurricane Ike’s landfall on Sep. 13, 2008, Fitzgerald, the Liberty County Judge, and Groce, the Liberty County Precinct 2 Commissioner, used their elected positions to fraudulently influence and award debris removal contracts to a company in return for sub-contracts being awarded to Fitzgerald’s brother-in-law and businessman, Miksch.

As part of the scheme, Fitzgerald is alleged to have received approximately $611,000. in kickbacks disguised as legitimate business transactions.
Additionally, Fitzgerald is charged with the unauthorized use of a 155 kilowatt generator which was purchased by and for the benefit of Liberty County and then reimbursed by FEMA. Instead, Fitzgerald is alleged to have commandeered and used the generator to power Fitzpak, a convenience store and gas station in Moss Hill, which Fitzgerald owned and operated.
As a result of the conspiracy, $3,269,456.76 in debris removal contracts were fraudulently awarded by Fitzgerald and Groce in violation of state and federal laws.
Fitzgerald and Groce both lost their bids for re-election in November 2010, thus concluding their respective positions with Liberty County on Dec. 31, 2010.
This case was brought as part of this District’s partnership with the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), a nationwide initiative to protect available funds and assistance for those victims of both natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and the recent Gulf oil spill.
If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge. Additional charges range from five to 30 years in federal prison.
This case is being investigated by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General, and the Office of the Texas Attorney General – Criminal Investigations Division. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph R. Batte.