« April 2012 | Main | June 2012 »

70 posts from May 2012


Company: Texas tall tale was behind $200,000 discrimination settlement

A general manager for a Carrollton company that recently settled a federal age discrimination lawsuit for $200,000 is irritated that folks reading this blog think that his company discriminated. 

Court_gavelIn an email to Watchdog, Gary Cravens, general manager of Advance Components of Carrollton, said he was disappointed that “you and your organization would publish such a sensational article at the expense of myself ... the younger salesman to whom you are referring in your article, and our company, that has been in business for 40 years, providing employment for many people, some for over 25 years.”

(Read the post: Texas company's hire of youngish, idiot salesman nets fired man $200,000 payday)

Watchdog had tried to contact the company’s attorney prior to the May 22 post, and Cravens wrote that he was unavailable at that time. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit said Cravens harped on a “30-30-30” plan that meant he wanted to hire a 30-year old with an IQ of 30 and pay him $30,000.

Cravens said in his email that the younger salesman was already working at the company, rather than being hired to replace an older worker, and that he never “said anything about 30-30-30. In fact, I had never even heard that expression before (fired salesman) Dan Miller made up that story and told it to the EEOC.”

The government said Miller, 64, was fired on Oct. 6, 2009. His position was filled the following day by a man in his 30s, the agency said.

Cravens added that a current company sales manager is in her late 50s and one of his sales people who recently retired was in his early 70s.

Cravens said that in 2009, Advance Components was forced to reduce its workforce due to economic circumstances. Seven people were cut loose, including Miller. He said Miller was given a good references and a “generous severance package.

“But I guess that was not enough for him ... where most people simply chose to move on in life, Dan Miller ... came back with a made up story and a heart full of hate.”

Cravens added, “If every employee who gets laid off in troubled times finds it this easy to get the EEOC to go after their former employer – we’re in trouble!”

In the settlement judgement, the company admitted no liability but agreed to develop a training plan for supervisors and management in the implementation of EEOC procedures, according to court records.

-- Darren Barbee 







California offers first test case for Google's robot cars

More Americans are starting to pay attention to the lack of privacy while online.

Two events that have been part of this awakening:

1) News that Google's Street View picture-snapping cars also collected private information from homes it passed by.

Google Street View car from thecarconnection
(Google Street View car from thecarconnection.com)

2) The constant difficulty of maintaining proper privacy settings on Facebook (have you tried to find the privacy settings tab lately?)

Now comes California, usually first in the nation in trends of all kinds, looking at a problem soon to be faced by every other state in the nation. Should it pass a state law that allows robot-driven cars to pararde through its streets?

The obvious beneficiary of this is Google, which wants to deploy the photo-snapping cars without human drivers.

Google is already testing such cars now.

California Senate Bill 1298 is now up for grabs in the State House after unanimous passage in the state Senate. The bill permits "autonomous vehicles" on California roadways.

In a protest letter to the California House Speaker, the group Consumer Watchdog seeks to kill portions of the bill. The group leaders write that the company lost its trustworthiness with the so-called "Wi-Spy scandal, the largest wiretapping effort ever, in which Google's Street View cars sucked up emails, passwords and other data from private Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries around the world." Read a report from the group here.

Google was fined $25,000 by the Federal Communications Commission for obstructing its investigation, Consumer Watchdog reminded the speaker. The company first blamed an engineer, but the FCC later determined that the company was aware of the operation.

The group wants any new law to ban the collection of private data.

The bill is a test case. Even if the House passes the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown would have to sign it into law. Soon enough, the whole world will be watching to see what happens.

Read California State Senate Bill 1298 here.

# # #

The above report comes from Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber. Reads his reports at Star-Telegram.com. Visit his Facebook page for more stories like this. Follow him here on Twitter @DaveLieber to get news like this.

Dave Lieber headshot



The buzz about some Fort Worth restaurants could be gnats

Checking restaurant temperatureGnats or flies in kitchens, dented and unsound canned goods, waste water leaking from a sink - Fort Worth restaurant health inspectors noted such violations in a few inspections in May. Two of the restaurants reviewed got more than 30 demerits. That's the trigger for immediate corrective action. But, as the city notes, conditions at the time of inspection are a snapshot, and conditions could be better or worse at other times. Don't say we didn't tell you.

Here's the honor roll: Acing the inspections, with no demerits, were Dickey's Barbeque Pit, 6219 Oakmont Blvd., Hot Tamalez, 3801 Southwest Blvd., Raising Cane's #90, 5729 S. Hulen, and Tortilleria Mexico, 500 Cliff St. Getting just three demerits were Spiral Diner, at 1314 W. Magnolia, known for organic vegan food, (for a soda nozzle that needed cleaned); Love Shack, 110 E. Exchange Ave., and Marcos Pizza, 6211 Oakmont, (each for a chemical container that wasn't properly labeled); the Subway at 9500 Clifford St. (for lack of a hand drying provision in the hand-washing area); and the Taco Bell at 6040 S. Hulen (an employee hadn't attended required training).

Immediate corrections were needed at Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen, 1902 Green Oaks Road, which got 37 demerits, and Mijos Fushion, 1109 W. Magnolia, which recently changed ownership and got 31 demerits, the records show. At each, one of the infractions was noted as corrected onsite. Look up reports on all city restaurants at the city website. Know before you go. - Lois Norder 



Beware of fake drugs sold on the Internet

As consumers across the nation continue to search for Adderall in the midst of a drug shortage, the government is warning not to be fooled by fake drugs for sale on Internet sites.

Adderall is used to treat deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), especially for teenagers and young adults, and also narcolepsy, the Food and Drug Administration reports in its warning released on May 29, 2012.

"Rogue websites and distributors may especially target medicines in short supply for counterfeiting," the FDA warns.

Consumers can often hear commercials, especially on satellite radio stations, that offer well-known drugs such as Viagra at a much lower price than the typical price. But consumers should ask themselves, how the prices can be so low?

For Adderall, it's not hard to distinguish the fakes from the real ones. The fake pills are round, white and do not have any markings, the FDA states.

Fake pills
What the fake pills look like (above)

Fake packaging
What the fake packaging looks like (above).

The true Adderall pills are produced by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. They are round, a peach/orange color and have "dp" embossed on one side and "30" on the other side. True pills are packeaged in a 100-county bottle with the National Drug Code (NDC) 0555-0768-01.

Of course, the problem is that often you don't get to see the pills you order until they arrive, and by then it's too late. So best bet, don't order drugs off the Internet. Or if you do, be prepared to lose the money you paid and receive something else instead.

-- The above is shared by Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber, based on a news release from the FDA.


Ask The Watchdog: Scammed by my bank

Dear Star-Telegram Watchdog Dave Lieber:

My wife and I fell victim to a work at home scam. My wife received an offer to be a mystery shopper. She was asked to deposit a $2,500 check from what appeared to be Citi Financial. She was supposed to evaluate the efficiency of ATM deposit services. 

The next step was to withdraw part of the money and send it via Western Union, then write a report on the service.

Lastly, she was to purchase merchandise from Wal-Mart and again fill out a report. She was then to fax her evaluations to this company. She did it all as they asked.

My next problem is with our bank. They have always held any check we deposit in our account until it clears. When the funds for this check showed "available," naturally we thought the check had cleared so we proceeded with the surveys.

Eventually, the bank charged back $2,500 to my account. When I asked them why they didn't hold this check, they could not give me a valid answer.  Because of what they did, my payroll check would be absorbed and I would not be able to pay my rent or buy groceries. Their response was for me to take out a loan with them to cover their mistake. This bank has no integrity.


Angry Dad

KATU dot com
(Mystery shopper photo courtesy of KATU.com)

* * *

Dear Angry Dad,

Surely, you are not going to like The Watchdog's answer. First, though, our sympathies to you for the dilemma you are in. Yes, life sometimes stinks.

But goodness gracious, this is NOT the bank's fault.

This is a common scam. I've written about it in the Dave Lieber Star-Telegram Watchdog column numerous times. 

Do you honestly think someone is going to send you $2,500 out of the blue and ask you to do a couple of stupid things to justify the money? Is a meteorite worth $1 million going to land in your front yard? Are you really looking out for the best interests of your family?

Angry Dad, you need to listen to the little voice in your head that warns you when things like this happen. Surely it said to you: "Wow, this is great, but it can't be true. Go to the bank and ask about this before cashing it. Do a little Internet research on this to find out if it's legitimate. Ask around." Surely, that voice said that to you. Surely, you tuned it out. But the voice was trying to save you from yourself.

The bank, legally, did nothing wrong. You gave them what looked like a legitimate check, and they deposited it in your account. This is the way it works for most mystery shopper scam victims. The money is there. They spend it. Then later they learn that it really wasn't there.

If you had typed in "mystery shopper" and "mystery shopper scam" into a search engine, you would have come up with countless stories about this happening across the nation.

Lessons here, Angry Dad?

1. No such thing as a free lunch. Money does not fall out of the sky like that. Listen to the little voice in your head. It's there to protect you.

2. Anytime anybody wants you to send them money for a job, a contest, etc. run for the hills. Key words that should sound a red alert: Western Union and Moneygram.

3. Google everything before you do it. Google the check. Google the company. Google what they want you to do. Google, google, google!

4. Take responsibility. Instead of saying the bank scammed you, understand that you are the one to blame.

Harsh words, I know. But The Watchdog shares this story only with the hope that someone else who needs money badly, will find this through a search engine box and avoid the same fate as you.


The Watchdog

The author, Dave Lieber, writes The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Watchdog column for star-telegram.com and also contributes to the newspaper's Watchdog Bytes blog.

DL Publicity ;)


Texas chiropractor has clean record despite Medicaid fraud conviction

Note to the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners: Try some Google alerts.

Tina Collins is still listed by the board as an active licensed chiropractor, although the board's website notes that in 1997 her license was suspended for 90 days. 

Last October, Collins pleaded guilty to a multi-million-dollar health fraud involving her Houston clinic. Friday, she was sentenced to federal prison. Seems that Collins, aka Justina Okehie, paid recruiters to find Medicare and Medicaid patients to send to her clinic, and then paid the patients to get them to show up. In three years' time, Collins collected about $8.5 million with the scheme, the government reports.

In a separate scheme, a Houston-area physician is also accused of paying patient recruiters and patients and billing Medicaid for unnecessary testing and treatments to the tune of $19.4 million. Dr. Donald Gibson II has been indicted for the scheme, which prosecutors said continued from 2007 to early this year.

Texas Medical Board records show that his license was revoked in November. But the board for years knew of problems. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 it ordered him to comply with orders to stop writing prescriptions for controlled substances and to take classes on medical ethics. -   Lois Norder





Do Texas attorney's files hold key to unsolved Manson murders?

North Texas attorney Bill Boyd made a name for himself defending one of the Charles Manson family members in the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others. The Collin County resident died in 2009 - but he's back in the news in Los Angeles.

L.A. police want audio recordings Boyd made of conversations with Manson family member Charles "Tex" Watson, to see if they will shed light on any unsolved slayings. A hearing on the police request is scheduled for Tuesday, according to media reports. Watson, of Copeville, Texas, orchestrated the 1969 Manson slayings. He is still in prison and the recordings came to light when he tried sell them to an author to help pay legal bills.

Manson follower 'Tex' Watson denied parole


Texas city is gunning to lower its tax revenues

Hico lays claim to the frontier outlaw Billy the Kid, Billy_the_Kid_who had a price put on his head after what's known as the Lincoln County war.

Now Hico may be starting a county war of its own. It's heading to a May 31 showdown over tax assessments. 

If the town wins, it will get less tax money.

Town officials say that the Hamilton County Appraisal District has put too high a price on properties, squeezing citizens and killing the real estate market. Sales prices are near what the appraisal district has said, it contends. The Hico posse City Council has called a special meeting May 31 about the issue, and may file a legal challenge to provide relief for property owners.

Facing off may be Chief Appraiser Doyle Roberts. He's said the sale prices the town cites are foreclosures and they can't be considered during the appraisal process.

Stay tuned.  

Do these handcuffs make me "look" guilty?

You are standing in the beam of police searchlights. People are staring at you. HandcuffsA set of cuffs are placed on your wrists. Then, you are thrown into a patrol car where a pair of bewildered eyes appear almost out of nowhere to stare at you. You are thinking ... what is this ... certainly just because I have these cuffs on and I am in a police patrol car... Am I guilty?

The heavy-handed rhetoric and emotion that crimes arouse are being tempered by heated warnings from experts in the psychology of the criminal justice system: Investigators, be careful in the methods you use for determining guilt. Eyewitness misidentification is a "leading cause" of DNA exoneration, those experts say, because of the "suggestive" nature of the process.

Police lineupSimilar to lineups, showups are conducted when a singular suspect is presented alone to a witness in request of a "yes" or "no" statement of recognition. To learn more about the pitfalls of flawed investigations based on human error and even well-intentioned criminal investigations, check out criminal justice psychology researcher Dan Simon's new book, "In Doubt," due out next month. The book provides a number of ways to improve the accuracy of trials and investigations. Texas law enforcement agencies have a Sept. 1 deadline to adopt policies to improve their eyewitness identification procedures.  - Yamil Berard


The good -- and the heartbreak -- of serving in the U.S. Navy

In this hard-hitting blog, where we expose corruption, bad businesses and various evil doers, this may be the toughest thing to swallow: Watchdog Bytes is not in the Navy, or aboard the USS Cape St. George.

The Department of Defense shared the picture below of the unpleasant lives of sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser in the Arabian Gulf earlier this month. The Cape St. George is part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the U.S. 5th Fleet. It’s part of a group conducting security operations, theater security cooperation efforts - and also the hardships of taking on attractive passengers as it supports Operation Enduring Freedom.
In the navy
This, by the way, is Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011 signing autographs for what appear to be fairly happy sailors.

She should be seeking their autographs. 

This is a nation at war. The following are some of the Navy casualties reported by the DOD since January:
Petty Officer 1st Class Chad R. Regelin, 24, of Cottonwood, Calif., died Jan. 2 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  Regelin was assigned as an explosive ordnance disposal technician to Marine Special Operations Company Bravo.  Regelin was stationed at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3, San Diego, Calif. 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyler L. Estrada, 21, of Maricopa, Ariz., died Feb. 14 as a result of a non-combat related training incident in Djibouti.  Estrada, a Navy hospital corpsman, was assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. 

Petty Officer First Class Paris S. Pough, 40, of Columbus, Ga. died Feb. 17, during a port visit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Pough, a hull technician, was assigned to the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), home-ported in San Diego, Calif. 

Constructionman Trevor J. Stanley, 22, of Virginia Beach, Va., died April 7 while deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.  Stanley, a Seabee, was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, homeported in Port Hueneme, Calif. 

Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, 28, of Pittsford, N.Y., died April 26 while conducting combat operations in Nawa district, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.   Mosko was assigned as a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Platoon Commander to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Afghanistan. Mosko was stationed at EOD Mobile Unit 3, San Diego, Calif.

Petty Officer Second Class Jorge Luis Velasquez, 35, of Houston, died as a result of a non-combat related incident in Manama, Bahrain.  Velasquez was assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 56 in Bahrain, which conducts maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

-- Darren Barbee