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April 19, 2013 | By Roger Vincent
A Laguna Niguel man admitted defrauding online auction giant EBay Inc. out of potentially millions of dollars in a scheme of “cookie stuffing,” which is a lot less savory than it sounds. Brian Andrew Dunning, 47, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court this week, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said. Dunning faces a fine and a possible jail sentence. Dunning admitted that between May 2006 and June 2007, he engaged in a scheme that caused EBay to pay him commissions for generating Web traffic to EBay that was achieved through fraudulent means.
March 24, 2013 | George Skelton, Capitol Journal
SACRAMENTO - The most courageous politician in California - probably the nation - is a Berkeley city councilman, Gordon Wozniak. His gutsy act: proposing that the government tax email. Yes, sacrosanct, time-gobbling, out-of-control email. "I got a lot of nasty emails nationally," he says. "You are making Berkeley look really silly," one person wrote. Another called him "the epitome of a communist - you and all your commy liberal idiots. " Wozniak, however, is certified brainy - a retired nuclear scientist, a futurist who, he admits, may be ahead of his time about taxing email.
March 16, 2013 | By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - In Afghanistan, Tonya Long, a 13-year Army veteran, approved military cash payments to Afghan drivers of "jingle trucks," the colorful transport trucks that carry supplies to U.S. bases. Last week, Staff Sgt. Long stood in the dock in a federal courtroom here and read aloud from a statement she had written on notebook paper: "I cannot express how sorry I am … I chose to betray my country and my family. " She did not ask for mercy, she told a judge, "because I don't deserve it. " Long, 30, had pleaded guilty to stealing at least $1 million and shipping the cash in hundred-dollar bills to the U.S. in the guts of hollowed-out VCR players.
February 20, 2013 | By Carol J. Williams
Not since an outbreak of mad cow disease a dozen years ago have Europe's food industries been embroiled in a crisis the likes of this past month's discovery of horse meat masquerading as beef in prepared-food entrees sold across the continent. The controversy over mislabeled meat in millions of frozen dinners, pastas, stews, goulashes and chilis took a turn for the worse this week when Nestle, the world's largest food company, found horse DNA in some of its products.  And testing of meals yanked from store shelves and freezers in Britain and Germany has turned up  traces of phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute, a powerful equine painkiller deemed harmful to humans.
February 7, 2013 | David Lazarus
A sportswriter here at the paper responded to a tweet from basketball star Lamar Odom to enter an online sweepstakes for a free trip to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. And guess what? She won. "I turned it down," my colleague told me. "It was a scam, right?" It's something I get asked a lot. And usually, there's no question about the scamminess of online sweepstakes. The Federal Trade Commission says it gets thousands of complaints every year about bogus contests and lotteries.
February 3, 2013 | By Lew Sichelman
If researchers at the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending are on target when they say the country is only halfway through the foreclosure crisis, many more people are going to be conned out of a great deal of money trying to save their homes. But it doesn't have to be like that. And it won't be if Uncle Sam has his way. The government is coming down hard on swindlers who cheat owners willing to try almost anything to avoid foreclosure. In December, for example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took steps to shut down two alleged loan-modification mills that the agency says bilked people out of more than $10 million.
January 24, 2013 | By David Colker
So, you have a time-share to unload and a friendly salesperson calls to say he has a buyer. In fact, the caller can handle everything for you, including the Federal Trade Commission approval of the sale. All you have to do is pay a $3,000 deposit, to be refunded when the transaction is complete. Except that you never hear from the salesperson again. And by the way, the FTC does not review or approve time-share transactions. But the FTC did take action against the operators of a company it accused of pulling off that scam, taking in millions of dollars.
January 22, 2013 | By David Colker
Phone bill cramming -- by which scammers arrange to add small charges to phone bills and then collect the money -- has been going on for years. But it still can be highly lucrative, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has asked a federal court to shut down a Montana-based operation that the agency alleges reaped more than $70 million by adding charges ranging from about $10 to $25 to phone bills across the nation. According to court documents, the group named in the case went by several company names -- including American eVoice and FoneRight -- and allegedly placed bogus charges for "voice mail services, electronic fax services or other noncall-related services" on the bills of unsuspecting consumers.
December 27, 2012 | By Andrew Khouri
Authorities say a New York woman has been arrested for allegedly claiming to be related to a shooting victim at Sandy Hook Elementary School and soliciting donations for the child's funeral. Nouel Alba, 37, was charged in federal court on Thursday with lying to FBI agents investigating fraudulent fundraising tied to the Newtown, Conn., massacre in which Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults at the school before shooting himself in the head. Alba is accused of using Facebook, phone calls and text messages to solicit donations to her PayPal account for a “funeral fund,” authorities said.  “This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone who attempts to profit from this tragedy by contriving fraudulent schemes that exploit the many victims, their families and individuals who sincerely want to help,” U.S. Atty.
December 23, 2012
Regarding "Looking Good" by Christopher Reynolds, Dec. 9: We have skied at Mammoth for more than 35 years and have never had a disappointing experience. The town has reasonable accommodations and restaurants. The beautiful desert drive from L.A. is six to seven hours, but it gives your body a chance to acclimate to the high elevation, and even in a winter storm the roads are snow-free, most of the time. Mammoth built its reputation on a great mountain with state-of-the-art lifts, superb grooming, great runs for beginners to experts and an attitude that if it makes the ski experience exceptional, people will come.
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