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4 men charged for string of fraud schemes

The seven-count indictment Thursday charges 41-year old Ryan Geddes of Litchfield, 43-year old Jason Calabrese of Watertown, 41-year old Richard Geddes of Bethlehem, and 31-year old Dustin Whitten of Thomaston, with multiple conspiracies involving bank fraud, mail and wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice.  The charges stem from an alleged series of fraudulent real estate and insurance transactions, and an alleged arson of a vacation home.


The four defendants were arrested Friday morning and were released on bonds of varying amounts.


According to the indictment, by 2005, Ryan Geddes had incurred several debts, including a business debt of more than $490,000 for which he was being sued.  Geddes and the other defendants then commenced a series of schemes to conceal his assets from creditors and to defraud various banks and insurance companies.


The indictment alleges that they prepared three false mortgage loan and mortgage refinancing applications for two properties in Morris and Torrington.  The first transaction was to hide Geddes' ownership of the Morris property, another created after the start of the federal investigation, backdated documents to portray the first mortgage transaction as legitimate.


The indictment also alleges that they conducted a straw sale of another Geddes property in 2010 from which they obtained title insurance after conducting a fraudulent title search.  The property had over a million dollars of liens against it.


Geddes also allegedly transferred to Whitten a New York vacation home property, got an insurance policy on the home, and the alleged arson of the home led to an insurance claim of more than $600,000 on the destroyed home.


If convicted, Ryan Geddes faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 90 years, Calabrese faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years, Richard Geddes faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, and Whitten faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

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New Milford woman honored for work with invasive plants

A New Milford woman has been recognized for her invasive plant management work.  Kathy Nelson was presented with the 2014 Leslie Mehrhoff Award at a symposium held last month. 


The award recognizes individuals that have made significant or commendable contributions toward awareness, prevention, control, or management of invasive plants in Connecticut.  Nelson received the award in recognition of her work battling ‘Mile-A-Minute’ plant.


The opening speaker of the symposium was New Milford state Senator Clark Chapin.  Chapin says Nelson is continuing to promote botanist Les Mehrhoff's legacy through her work in the community. 


She is a member of the New Milford Inland Wetlands Commission.

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Area students to participate in water monitoring projects for Long Island Sound

Some area students will be spending time tracking down pollution sources that flow into Long Island Sound.   "Earthplace- the Nature Discovery Center" has received a $34,149 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund.  Students from will monitor pollution sources and remediate concerns in Monroe, Darien and Ridgefield. 


Senator Richard Blumenthal says the Fund is providing 14 grants to Connecticut and New York to support projects in local communities that aim to protect and restore the Long Island Sound. It unites federal and state agencies, foundations and corporations to achieve high-priority conservation objectives.


The project will track down pollution sources and work with municipalities to remediate the problems.  It identifies pollution sources such as compromised septic systems and failed infrastructure.  Blumenthal says high school science students traditionally do not have the chance to practice science in class, but this project will give them opportunities to participate in detection work and to deliver practical, applied scientific monitoring.   The project will teach high school students to conduct river, estuary, storm drain system, and fisheries monitoring programs with EPA-approved protocols. 


The activities include training 35 students from 10 schools to monitor eight waterbodies for five water quality parameters; identify one pollution hot spot for each waterbody and address with municipal partners.  The students will also present their monitoring data at an annual Water Quality Symposium.


Some of the funding will also be used for an internship program with nine students working at a job site on activities like laboratory maintenance, research on impaired waterways etc.; and deliver summer volunteer program with 15 college and high school student scientists to assist with monitoring.

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State report released on Sandy Hook gunman's history

A 114-page report has been released by the state Office of Child Advocate about the mental health and education history of the man who carried out the shootings at Sandy Hook School.  The report said the school system unwittingly enabled his mother to "accommodate and appease'' him as his mental health problems worsened.  Education advisor Dr Penny Spencer says they concluded that the gunman's homebound placement was inappropriate and non-therapeutic. 


Homebound status had limited monitoring.  She says it's important for the state to consider more review and monitoring of decisions which result in a child being removed from the educational setting.  Child Advocate Sarah Egan says a needs assessment should be done about what is not being met by the school system.  She says that will allow schools to be able to implement the right supports and modifications.


The report indicated that the gunman's severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems were combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence.  Dr Julian Ford of the UConn Health Center says that was evident at least since he authored the "Big Book of Granny", a school assignment filled with images and narrative about child murder, cannibalism, and taxidermy.


"His feelings of violence were completely disconnected from an awareness of other people as people.  I think that's part of what happens in the cyberworld where mass violence becomes a matter of intellectual discussion, completely distinct that these are people we're talking about."


"According to the present-day statement of the co-author (an individual who as an adult was diagnosed with mental illness and is purportedly living in a residential setting), the book was created following a class assignment to create a comic book-style creative writing project. The co-author claims that the book was bound in school and submitted for a grade. Other reports indicate that the gunman may have attempted to sell the book to peers for 25 cents and that a school administrator spoke to his mother about the matter. "


The report said they recognized the "significant role" that assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines played and said the young man's easy access to them "cannot be ignored as a critical factor in the tragedy".


The advocate's office investigates all child deaths in the state for lessons on prevention.


Dr Harold Schwartz says the gunman appears to have been on a path to violence for some time and the more rigid he became, the harder he was to reach.  He says there is no clear indication in the educational records that school staff carefully reviewed or were otherwise explicitly aware of the contents of the "Big Book of Granny". 


Ford says there's no evidence that anyone observed him committing acts of violence before December 14th 2012.  Ford also says there was no evidence he was the victim of violence even though he could have been subjected to bullying as so many other youths are that have difficulties with peer relationships.


The Office of the Child Advocate report identified missed opportunities to provide more appropriate treatment.


In the three months before the shootings, the 20-year old had not left his room in his mother's spacious colonial-style house, where he lived surrounded by an arsenal of weapons and spent long hours playing violent video games. His parents were divorced, and he had not seen his father for two years.  The report also provocatively asks whether a family that was not white or as affluent would have been given the same leeway to manage treatment for their troubled child.


"Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?" the report said.


"This report raises, but cannot definitively answer, the question as to whether better access to effective mental health and educational services would have prevented the tragic events at Sandy Hook," the authors wrote.


Ford says the gunman's mother was trying to keep him sheltered, and when medical officials offered a comprehensive approach to pull him out of the downward spiral, she ignored the recommendations.  He says youth not in favor of being in treatment need to have a coordinator message of the benefits and that the team is working on their behalf, not compelling them to participate.


Documents released by police in December 2013 included descriptions of sporadic treatment for his mental health troubles. At one point, experts at the Yale Child Studies Center prescribed antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication, but Nancy Lanza discontinued the treatment and never scheduled follow-up visits, police reports said.


A Connecticut judge last year ordered Newtown school officials to give Lanza's records the Office of Child Advocate for its investigation. The governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has been waiting for the office's report before releasing its recommendations on what the state can do to prevent and respond to future mass killings.


The report pointed to the gunman's mother planning to move him out of Sandy Hook in 2012, as a likely turning point.  The report says that he was perhaps stimulated by fears of leaving the "comfort zone" of his home, AL planned and carried out the shooting.  But the authors conclude that there was not one thing that was necessarily the tipping point driving the gunman to commit the shootings.


Rather, they say there was a cascade of events, many self-imposed.  Those included: loss of school; absence of work; disruption of the relationship with his one friend; virtually no personal contact with family; virtually total and increasing isolation; fear of losing his home and of a change in his relationship with his only caretaker and connection; worsening OCD; depression and anxiety; profound and possibly worsening anorexia; and an increasing obsession with mass murder occurring in the total absence of any engagement with the outside world.


Joseph Erardi Jr., who became superintendent of schools for Newtown this year, said the report will have great meaning if "there is one school leader, one district, one mental health provider or one set of parents who reads this work and can prevent such a heinous crime."


He also said wealth and race will never be a factor when deciding how to treat a child in his school system.


"There will never, ever under my watch be a decision made based on race, color, creed, or wealth index....never," he said. "I feel very strongly about this and would never allow this type of influence in any way."

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Woman arrested in connection with Danbury shooting death

Danbury Police have made another arrest in connection with the shooting death of a Bridgeport man in Danbury earlier this year.  22-year old Tysheema Franklin of Bridgeport was arrested by Danbury Police and the U-S Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force Friday morning.  She was charged with Hindering Prosecution for the May 3rd death of 23-year old Jeiel Kingson. 


There was a large fight outside of Mambo Cafe.  Officers were called around 2am on reports of shots fired.

Franklin is being held on $100,000 bond.  It was later learned that she is also wanted by Milford Police on unrelated charges.


23-year old Garfield Sanderson of Bridgeport was charged about a week after the shooting with felony murder.  He is being held on $1 million bond and due in Danbury Superior Court on December 17th.  He has plead not guilty.

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Swastikas found spray painted at Ridgefield High School

Two swastikas have been found at Ridgefield High School.  Officials have not disclosed where the graffiti was found spray painted.  A statement on intolerance was released by school officials Friday morning.


The school principal sent a letter home to parents saying that those who create such illustrations offend everyone in the Ridgefield High School community and that this will never be considered acceptable behavior.  The principal's letter went on to say that this type of behavior does not represent the type of school they strive to be or a school where every student and staff member receives the benefits of human kindness.  Stacey Gross said in the letter that the acts were an attempt to “weaken our conscience, poison our spirit, and destroy the freedom of all of us.” 


It is unknown whether or not the school has identified a person of interest.

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Antiques marketing effort runs into local flag ban

WOODBURY, Conn. (AP) Plans to fly flags along the state-designated Antiques Trail in Woodbury have run into zoning regulations that ban flag signs.

The Republican-American reports that Karen Reddington-Hughes, president of the Woodbury Antiques Dealers Association, paid for a flag displaying a logo created by the state Office of Tourism for the trail.

She had planned to place an order for any of the 15 businesses that appear on the antiques trail website.

Zoning Commission Chairman Robert Clarke proposed withholding enforcement of flag violators while considering a change to the regulations. He says any approval of flag signs would likely not apply solely to antiques trail members.

The antiques trail began in 2009 as a pair of signs on Interstate 84 and has grown into a statewide marketing effort similar to the Connecticut Wine Trail.

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Ridgefield man pleads not guilty in son's death

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) -- A Connecticut father charged with causing his 15-month-old son's death by leaving the boy in the car for hours on a hot July day has pleaded not guilty.


Kyle Seitz entered his plea to a charge of criminally negligent homicide Friday.


Authorities say the 36-year-old Seitz forgot to take his son, Benjamin, to day care on July 7 and unintentionally left him in the car for more than seven hours while he went to work. Temperatures that day hit the upper 80s.


The toddler died of hyperthermia, or extremely high body temperature, the medical examiner found.


Seitz, who has two other children, has been free on bail. His lawyer has not commented.


He faces a year in jail if convicted.

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Officials release ID in untimely death at Huntington State Park

State officials have released the name of the woman who was founded dead at Huntington State Park Thursday afternoonDepartment of Energy and Environmental Protection spokeswoman Cyndy Chanaca says the woman 50-year old Elizabeth Teed of Bethel.  Teed was a 4th grade teacher in Bethel.  Parents were notified yesterday.


Bethel police received a call in the morning from a family member saying that she was despondent and in need of urgent medical attention.  An initial search was not successful and State and Redding police were called to help in the search of the endangered missing woman. 


DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain says the woman was found dead of an apparent suicide.


The state park spans Bethel and Redding.  Redding Police say all of the district schools were notified of police activity in the area, but that at no time was there a danger to the public.


Bethel school officials say there will be counselors at Johnson School today.

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Jay Leno cancels gig at Vegas firearms trade show

LAS VEGAS (AP) Comedian and television talk show host Jay Leno has canceled a scheduled appearance at a large firearms trade show on the Las Vegas Strip.

Dick Guttman, a publicist for the former NBC ``Tonight Show'' host, said Leno made the decision after learning that a group representing victims of gun violence was gathering petition signatures urging him not to attend.

Guttman said Thursday that Leno didn't understand the show is hosted by a lobbying group for gun owners and manufacturers.

Newtown Action Alliance leader Po Murray says Leno told her he thought the National Shooting Sports Foundation was a sporting group.

The foundation, based in Newtown, says it advocates firearms safety and Second Amendment rights. It expressed disappointed that Leno won't perform at its show in January at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

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Civil Air Patrol conducts training drill from Danbury Airport

The Civil Air Patrol's Connecticut Wing has conducted a statewide search and rescue exercise.  The mission on Sunday was to enhance the proficiency of the cadets and senior members.  The 399th Danbury Composite Squadron worked out of Danbury Municipal Airport on training drills to track and locate emergency locator transmitters, ELT, sending out simulated emergency signals. 


The cadets had to plot their findings and direct a ground team to the transmitter.  One of the distress beacons was located in the hills of Redding. The aircrew then successfully directed the cadet ground teams in to silence the ELT.


Danbury Mission Base provided training to 22 cadets with 12 senior members providing support, training and aircrew.

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Putnam County Sheriff warning of IRS phone scam

The Putnam County Sheriff's office is warning residents of an IRS phone scam circulating the region.  Sheriff Donald Smith says his office has received calls from a few people saying they may have been defrauded. 


Callers have said they are from the IRS and tell the victim that they owe taxes, which must be paid off or they face arrest, deportation, business forfeiture or loss of a driver's license.  Smith says the IRS does not ask for credit card information over the phone and does not request pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers. 


According to the Inspector General, the callers who commit this fraud often use common names and fake badge numbers, know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number and make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.

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NY police ID 7 injured in Route 6 crash

As the investigation continues into a car crash that injured seven people, they have been identified. Six of the people injured in the minivan versus car crash have been treated for minor injuries and released from Danbury Hospital.  


A passenger in the car, 60-year old Magdalana Guzman, is in critical condition at Westchester Medical Center. 


The driver, 40-year old Samuel Valasquez Giron of Duchess County, was trying to make a left turn from Route 6 onto Route 22.  The car was struck broadside by a minivan Wednesday afternoon.  42-year old Elva Mejia, and a 4-year old boy Christian Velazquez, were also in his car and sustained minor injuries. 


The minivan was driven by 34-year old Christi Browne-Sibrizzi of Carmel.  her passengers were 60-year old Joan Brown and 2-and-a-half month old Jack Sibrizzi.

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New report on Newtown shooting out Friday

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A report being released Friday is expected to provide new information into the events that led up to the December 2012 shooting that took the lives of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The Office of Child Advocate and the state's Child Fatality Review Panel investigate all child deaths in the state, with a focus on preventing future tragedies.

The office has said this report will focus on the gunman, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old with a history of mental-health issues. The office looked at his mental health and educational history and how those intertwined.

The governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has been waiting for this report before releasing its recommendations on what the state can do to prevent and respond to future incidents.

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7 people hospitalized in Route 6 crash

Seven people have been hospitalized because of a two-car crash in Brewster.


The accident on Route 6 happened around 12:45pm Wednesday when a car tried to make a left turn onto Route 22 and was struck broadside by a minivan.  Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith says a passenger in the car was critically injured and airlifted to Westchester Medical Center. 


Two other adults and a 4 year old boy in the car were transported to Danbury Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 


Two adults and an infant in the minivan sustained minor injuries and are also being treated in Danbury.  Smith says the 2 1/2 month old was reportedly ejected from the child safety seat, but not ejected from the vehicle.  

The road was closed well into the evening commute because of the investigation.

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Bethel residents approve open space land purchase

Bethel residents have approved three proposals presented at a special Town Meeting this week. 


The Boards of Selectmen and Finance previously backed a purchase of land located between Maple Avenue and Hickok Avenue.  The 12.89 acres would by purchased by the town for no more than $675,000 from MH Development, LLC and Ellis A. Tarlton, III for use as open space.  Officials say the town may have some grant funding for this purchase or may receive grants in the future.  Most of the cost would be bonded.


First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says it's a steep and environmentally sensitive piece of land.  Various developers proposals over the years have been rejected because of the endangered species nearby.  But he says a proposal for affordable housing, which could overrule local zoning regulations, has been presented to the town.  Knickerbocker says it would require a significant amount of blasting, hundreds of trees would be removed and it would create a traffic nightmare for the winding road leading up to the site.


The Boards of Selectmen and Finance have approved accepting $3,737 from the State Department of Transportation for a 27,644 /- square feet of land.  It's located at the corners of Plumtrees Road, Whittlesey Drive and Walnut Hill Road.  It's needed for the proposed construction of the new Plumtrees Road Bridge.


The Boards of Selectmen and Finance have also approved an expense of no more than $36,534.60 for a replacement motor vehicle known as fire vehicle 69BL, to be funded from the capital non-recurring account.

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State-mandated election audit taking place in Redding and elsewhere

Redding is among the towns where polling precincts were selected at random by the state for a post-election audit.  The results from machines at the Redding Community Center, District 2, will be counted today between 9am and 1pm.   Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says 77 precincts were chosen, representing 10-percent of all polling places used on November 4th.


Three positions on the ballot are also chosen at random, this year it was Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller.


From the Greater Danbury area, Bethel Municipal Center district 1, Danbury High School Ward 1, Park Avenue School Ward 6, Schaghichoke School in New Milford, and Weston Middle School were chosen. 


Merrill says if there are errors, they're usually human error.  Whether it's hand counted absentee ballots or ballots not read by the machines.  She says the audit is done to make sure Connecticut voters have continued confidence that their votes were recorded accurately and that’s why these independent audits are so vital.  "We don’t just take the machines’ word for it," said Merrill.


The post-election audits must be completed by November 24th.

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State Bond Commission approves Sandy Hook School allocation

During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly authorized up to $50 million for a replacement school to be built at the site of the former Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Wednesday, the state Bond Commission voted to release $5 million of that funding for continued planning and design work. 


First Selectman Pat Llodra says the vote today reminds the town of the generosity and support of the state.  She noted that the new new Sandy Hook School will become a reality in 2016 because of that generosity.  Llodra says Newtown is humbled and thankful for the continuing kindness of state partners.


Demolition was completed in November 2013.  Architectural plans for construction of the new school were approved last week. Newtown will be posting bid notices shortly and anticipates breaking ground in March 2015.


There will be funding requests throughout the course of the construction project.


The new school will be all-new construction and will be approximately 87,000 square feet of space in a two-story structure. It will feature 23 classrooms for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. There will be dedicated spaces for music, art, a library, computer education, a cafeteria with kitchen and a gymnasium. It will be a fully accessible building for persons with disabilities and fully compliant with all current building codes and standards. It will be on a reconfigured site of the former school, located at 12 Dickinson Drive, Newtown.

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Lounsbury House renovations backed by split Board of Selectmen

Interior renovations are being made to the Lounsbury House in Ridgefield.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the Board of Selectmen approved the renovation project on a 3-to-2 vote this week after a long debate. 


The plans call for removing walls and mahogany pocket doors.  A structural engineer must confirm that the building won't be weakened by the renovation.  The Community Center rents the facility and told the Press that the building would be more marketable for weddings and similar events if there's an open floor plan. 


The Selectmen were told that they are short on funds in maintaining the building almost every month, so even though renovations would be costly, in the end more revenue will come in.

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Brookfield Board of Ethics to meet next week on complaints

The Brookfield Board of Ethics has met again this week to look into travel expenses incurred by First Selectman Bill Tinsley. 


The group will be looking into policy changes in the future about better monitoring personal expenses by people who hold the position of First Selectman.  The complaint about Tinsley using a town-owned vehicle to travel to Tennessee for a trip he says was about economic development research, was brought by Democratic Town Committee member Ray DiStephan, who said the Republican visited family. 


The Ethics Board will meet again on Tuesday.


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