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Investigations


‘Witchcraft’ doctor case from AJC series could prompt change in Okla. law

The case of a psychiatrist who used tales of witchcraft and evil spirits to manipulate patients into sex could spur a change in Oklahoma law, criminalizing sexual exploitation of patients by therapists.

Loganville firm warned that supposed cancer-cure products could be seized

A Loganville company seems to be in the miracle business. For $300, it has been selling a cancer treatment kit with a product said to be “an effective tool in shrinking tumor size and mass, reversing illness and increasing health and vitality of patients.

911 call hinted at prison’s dysfunction after inmate’s hanging

Confusion reigned inside the isolation-segregation unit at Smith State Prison when inmate Richard Tavera hanged himself in his cell, and it didn’t end when guards finally summoned paramedics. For more than a minute,  a prison official — a woman who didn’t identify herself by name — struggled to tell the Tattnall County dispatcher why EMS was needed at the Glennville facility...
Atlanta City Hall bribery investigation: Who’s who

Atlanta City Hall bribery investigation: Who’s who

Mystery surrounds key figure in Atlanta bribery case

Mystery surrounds key figure in Atlanta bribery case

She is an openly gay Baptist minister who purportedly supplied a politician with strippers and prostitutes. She filed bankruptcy, created and quickly shut down companies, and lost property through foreclosure, yet paid for a $775,000 house in two massive installments. She became a skilled operative for politicians in trouble, but now is in a tight spot herself: the middle of a bribery investigation...
Guards stood by and watched as Georgia inmate hanged himself

Guards stood by and watched as Georgia inmate hanged himself

Officer John Calhoun was on duty in the isolation-segregation unit at Smith State Prison in South Georgia late on a Sunday night when he witnessed a disturbing sight. Inside Cell J1-124, Richard Tavera, a 24-year-old inmate with a history of mental problems, was looping one end of a bedsheet around a sprinkler on the ceiling and the other end around his neck. Calhoun immediately recognized that he...
Medical boards mum about allegations involving ex-Georgia ob/gyn charged with sex assault

Medical boards mum about allegations involving ex-Georgia ob/gyn charged with sex assault

Georgia hospitals offered no public explanations when obstetrician Paul Harnetty apparently lost his privileges in 2010, news reports show. His medical group had nothing to say, either, other than that he was “disassociated” from it, the Macon Telegraph reported at the time. Mum was the word from the Georgia Composite Medical Board, too. It took no public disciplinary action against Harnetty...
Here’s how the Atlanta bribery scheme could have played out

Here’s how the Atlanta bribery scheme could have played out

UPDATED: Who pocketed the $1 million+ in bribes an Atlanta contractor paid to get contracts? That’s the question everyone is asking.
City of Atlanta corruption scorecard: 3 cases, 0 city officials charged so far

City of Atlanta corruption scorecard: 3 cases, 0 city officials charged so far

Not that we’re keeping score, but the new bribery scandal at Atlanta city hall is at least the third case since 2014 raising questions of public corruption.
Should hospitals be able to grab your tax refund if they say you owe them money?

Should hospitals be able to grab your tax refund if they say you owe them money?

A Georgia lawmaker wants to allow many of the state’s hospitals to tap into pending tax refunds to cover unpaid hospital bills.
Georgia police fundraiser: Where did the money go?

Georgia police fundraiser: Where did the money go?

People across Georgia are getting telephone calls from a deep-voiced solicitor who sounds sort of like a real person, and a little like a computer. He’s calling, he says, on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police- Georgia State Lodge. The group needs money, he says, to pay for bulletproof vests, to help families of officers injured or killed in the line of duty and to operate its lodge. Plenty...
In Atlanta bribery case, echoes of past scandals

In Atlanta bribery case, echoes of past scandals

At 11:30 Thursday morning, Kasim Reed cast himself in a strangely familiar role for Atlanta mayors: the public face of a City Hall bribery scandal. For 30 minutes, Reed answered reporters’ questions against a backdrop of 147 boxes that held some of the 1.4 million documents the city has turned over to federal investigators. He wanted to illustrate that his administration has nothing...
A hazy scene at City Hall document dump

A hazy scene at City Hall document dump

Reporters sorting 1.4 million pages of paper documents inside Atlanta’s old City Council chambers became mildly alarmed Friday morning when a sickening electrical smell turned into a smoky haze.
AJC Watchdog: Former lawmaker’s casino letter not ‘lobbying’

AJC Watchdog: Former lawmaker’s casino letter not ‘lobbying’

State law prohibits former government officials from lobbying for a year after leaving office , but one recently retired state representative points out there is nothing prohibiting him from consulting on legislation. In a letter written to casino industry lobbyists last month, former Rep. Rusty Kidd, I-Milledgeville, offered that he had been talking to lawmakers about...
Bundy follower from Georgia facing trial for wildlife refuge takeover

Bundy follower from Georgia facing trial for wildlife refuge takeover

Jason Patrick of Bonaire made a name for himself in Georgia, at least among some members of law enforcement. Now, the Georgia man is going on trial in Oregon for the armed occupation of a national bird sanctuary. Patrick was one of the last people to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after the group’s original leader, Ammon Bundy, called on followers to go home. While Bundy and six...
Millions at stake for Ga. company in fight over regulation of prepaid cards

Millions at stake for Ga. company in fight over regulation of prepaid cards

Consumers pay tens of millions of dollars a year in overdraft charges on prepaid cards – with most of that money apparently going to one Georgia company.
UPDATE: Bickers subpoena among bribery probe documents

UPDATE: Bickers subpoena among bribery probe documents

5:00 p.m. Work continues as reporters go through boxes of documents at City Hall. News crews are setting up to get in their live shots before city officials will shoo journalists out for the day.
AJC Watchdog: Ga. Capitol culture rewards insiders, punishes outsiders

AJC Watchdog: Ga. Capitol culture rewards insiders, punishes outsiders

A letter circulating this session from a former state representative puts a fine point on the lawmaker-to-lobbyist pipeline at the Capitol. Just a week after the start of the session last month, former Rep. Rusty Kidd sent a letter to lobbyists working for the casino gaming industry assuring them he was on the case, despite a one-year ban on lobbying activity for former lawmakers. “I can...

Fulton DA won’t prosecute mystery man who bilked federal agency, report says

This just in: The federal Bureau of Land Management screwed up: It paid a vendor $20,720 to deliver eight backup power supply units. But it made the payment after receiving only one. Then BLM couldn’t contact the vendor to either collect the other seven units or get a refund. So it called in the watchdog of the U.S. Department of the Interior to investigate. The investigator eventually found...
Did ADHD make a Ga. banker commit fraud? And what is this doctor’s excuse? The sheriff’s?

Did ADHD make a Ga. banker commit fraud? And what is this doctor’s excuse? The sheriff’s?

A Georgia banker may suffer from “impaired executive functioning”, but he doesn’t deserve a new trial for defrauding his bank and helping drive it into insolvency, a federal appeals court has ruled. In appealing his conviction, William “Rusty” Beamon Jr. argued that after his trial he was found to suffer profound impairment in his executive functioning skills, which affected...
Contractor at heart of Atlanta City Hall bribery scheme made bank withdrawals close to billing city for contracts

Contractor at heart of Atlanta City Hall bribery scheme made bank withdrawals close to billing city for contracts

Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr., the Atlanta contractor at the heart of a million-dollar City Hall bribery scandal, withdrew large sums of money to pay bribes in close proximity to billing the city for emergency contract work his firm was awarded without going through the competitive bidding process, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.
Former White House lawyer says Trump’s ethics chief has work to do

Former White House lawyer says Trump’s ethics chief has work to do

President Donald Trump’s new ethics lawyer has a tough job, made tougher by the president’s own example, according to the man who held the same job under President George W. Bush. “If he can’t persuade the president to divest his holdings, then he is in a situation of convincing everybody else they have to divest their holdings or recuse from official matters...
‘Made in USA’ claims by Alpharetta firm were phony, FTC says

‘Made in USA’ claims by Alpharetta firm were phony, FTC says

Alpharetta-based iSpring Water Systems proclaimed that its water filtration systems and parts are “Built in the USA, ” and “Proudly Built in the USA.” But in fact, those claims – published on its own website and in ads on the websites of Amazon, Sears, Home Depot and others – are false, the Federal Trade Commission alleged in a complaint. “In fact, in many...
AJC Watchdog: minefields await Trump’s new ethics chief

AJC Watchdog: minefields await Trump’s new ethics chief

When the White House announced last week President Donald Trump’s selection of Atlanta attorney Stefan Passantino to be his chief ethics lawyer, the choice was met with nods of appreciation by those who know him. “You couldn’t ask for anybody who is a more sincere or honest person,” said attorney Ben Keane, who co-authors Passantino’s “Pay to Play” blog...
FBI: With one email, Brookhaven man made off with $566,000

FBI: With one email, Brookhaven man made off with $566,000

With a single email, a Brookhaven man persuaded county government officials in Kansas to pay him more than half a million dollars that should have gone to a road contractor, federal prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint.
AJC named a finalist for national investigative reporting award

AJC named a finalist for national investigative reporting award

Another national contest has honored The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s series on doctors who sexually abuse their patients. On Monday, the series was chosen as one of six finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy announced. The center, based at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, honors...
Tom Price, health nominee, belongs to group that calls Medicare ‘evil’

Tom Price, health nominee, belongs to group that calls Medicare ‘evil’

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, nominated as President Donald Trump’s health secretary, belongs to a doctors’ group that considers Medicare “evil” and physicians who accept it “immoral.” That is one of many controversial positions taken by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. The 3,000-member group represents a tiny fraction of American doctors but possesses...
Alpharetta couple defraud company of $1.4 million, sometimes a dollar at a time

Alpharetta couple defraud company of $1.4 million, sometimes a dollar at a time

An Alpharetta couple has admitted helping to defraud office supply company Staples of more than $1.4 million in a complex scheme involving customer loyalty rewards and rebates. John Douglas and a conspirator created more than 1,100 fake customer loyalty accounts using fictitious names, then John created a computer program to claim rewards for purchases they did not make, according to the U.S. Attorney&rsquo...
Update: VA exempts dozens of jobs from hiring freeze

Update: VA exempts dozens of jobs from hiring freeze

Update: VA will exempt almost 75 jobs from hiring freeze. If you’re job hunting, you can cross some Georgia openings off your list for now, because of the hiring freeze President Trump ordered.
Senate committee says no to transparency measure

Senate committee says no to transparency measure

The Rules Committee of the Georgia Senate this week struck down a proposal that would allow a single senator to request a recorded vote on amendments made from the chamber floor. Committee members said Senate Resolution 24, sponsored by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, would slow down work and allow the minority Democrats to control the agenda by requesting a recorded vote on amendments. Under the...
AJC Watchdog: Ga. Senate rejects more transparency on votes

AJC Watchdog: Ga. Senate rejects more transparency on votes

Every citizen knows the baseline measure of political accountability is the vote. How you vote says something about your values, priorities and perspectives on society. And how our elected officials vote says the same about them, which is why over the years voters have demanded a greater ability to track their leaders’ moves. This week, the Senate Rules Committee declined to shed a little more...
Who’s a civil rights champion? Super PAC says Jeff Sessions is

Who’s a civil rights champion? Super PAC says Jeff Sessions is

Images of iconic Democrats float across the television screen: former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, U.
Ominous message meant to silence Atlanta bribery suspect

Ominous message meant to silence Atlanta bribery suspect

A construction contractor with deep connections in the Atlanta government has been accused of paying more than $1 million in bribes to win city contracts. After his expected guilty plea, he could become federal prosecutors’ star witness in a corruption case now gripping City Hall, legal experts say. But 16 months ago, somebody wanted him to keep quiet, because he was already talking to the feds...
Atlanta Mayor Reed: City is cooperating with feds in bribery case

Atlanta Mayor Reed: City is cooperating with feds in bribery case

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed briefly addressed a federal bribery case involving city contracts Thursday, saying the city and its attorneys have been cooperating with federal investigators for months and will “let the facts go wherever they go.” E.R. Mitchell Jr., a prominent city contractor, is expected to plead guilty to bribery and money laundering charges before the end of the month, the...
Norcross diet pill maker loses costly lawsuit to silence critic

Norcross diet pill maker loses costly lawsuit to silence critic

The litigious world of Jared Wheat has turned again, this time in a federal courtroom in Boston, and the outcome wasn’t what the Atlanta dietary supplement entrepreneur had hoped for.
AJC Watchdog: Atlanta sex-trafficking tour reveals ‘the hell of it’

AJC Watchdog: Atlanta sex-trafficking tour reveals ‘the hell of it’

The red-and-white charter bus slowed to a crawl, pausing by a shadowy parking lot wedged between a budget motel and several down-market strip clubs a block off Fulton Industrial Boulevard. The tour guide, former exotic dancer Kasey McClure, directed riders’ attention to several parked tractor trailers. McClure, founder of 4Sarah, a non-profit that does outreach in the world of adult entertainment...
Atlanta city contracts at center of federal bribery probe

Atlanta city contracts at center of federal bribery probe

Federal prosecutors expect the owner of a prominent construction company to plead guilty to his role in an alleged bribery scheme involving more than $1 million in payments to secure city of Atlanta contracts. The plea deal, expected before the end of the month, jarred City Hall with the revelation that for years, some lucrative city contracts may have been for sale. Legal experts said the deal and...
Strippers’ lawsuits challenging the industry

Strippers’ lawsuits challenging the industry

This week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News published an explosive story about alleged sexual assaults inside midtown strip club The Cheetah, but the lawsuits filed by dancers against the club are part of a larger trend.
Watchdog: Georgia’s fees on electric cars highest in nation

Watchdog: Georgia’s fees on electric cars highest in nation

Electric vehicle purchases in Georgia have plummeted since the General Assembly revoked a $5,000 income tax credit in 2015 for buying one. Along with revoking the tax credit, lawmakers also slapped a $200 registration fee on the cars to make up for gas tax owners of those vehicles don’t pay. The result has been a 90 percent drop from pre-2015 levels, which some lawmakers...
Price would oversee doctor tracking system he sought to limit

Price would oversee doctor tracking system he sought to limit

You may have never heard of the National Practitioner Data Bank, but there’s a good chance your doctor has. It’s the only national database that tracks professionally disciplined doctors across the country, ensuring that they can’t hop from state-to-state to escape their troubled pasts. That unique role has also put the data bank in the crosshairs of physician advocacy groups...
Canada’s efforts to rein in predatory doctors offer lesson for U.S.

Canada’s efforts to rein in predatory doctors offer lesson for U.S.

Canada’s most populous province has long recognized the gravity of sexual misconduct by physicians. Two decades ago, Ontario passed laws mandating punishment for predatory doctors. But the reforms needed reforming, officials eventually decided. And that led to a long, tortured process that hasn’t left anyone completely satisfied. The complications experienced in Canada may serve as an...
Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia

Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia

Here’s a fact maybe not generally appreciated by commuters gazing at Atlanta’s smudgy, smoggy skyline: Georgia has the second most electric vehicles in the nation. Here’s another fact: Not for long. Georgia has about 25,000 electric cars on the road, mostly in metro Atlanta and largely funded by what was one of the most generous state tax incentives in the nation — a $5,000...
Sex acts by doctors should mean loss of license, Canada task force says

Sex acts by doctors should mean loss of license, Canada task force says

Unlike much of the United States, Canada’s most populous province has long recognized the gravity of sexual misconduct by physicians.

Is Georgia a haven for abusive debt collectors?

Getting threatened with arrest. Being called a dirt bag. Having your neighbor tell you that debt collectors want you to pay up. Such debt collection tactics are banned under federal law. In spite of the bans, various Georgia firms have been accused of employing such methods. And a new report shows that Georgians being harassed about debts are filing a record number of complaints with the Consumer...
Watchdog: Georgia elections among least competitive in nation

Watchdog: Georgia elections among least competitive in nation

Georgia is one of the least politically competitive states in the nation and money is a big part of it, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics. “Georgia is always at the bottom,” said Pete Quist, chief researcher for the Montana-based institute, which produces regular reports ranking competitiveness among states. According to their data, 81 percent of incumbents for...
Ga. lawmakers return with pockets full of PAC cash

Ga. lawmakers return with pockets full of PAC cash

The Georgia General Assembly convenes next week with virtually the same cast of characters who left the Gold Dome last March. In November all but four incumbents won their race to retain their seat, although “won” is a misleading term. According to the Center for Money on State Politics, Georgia was one of the least competitive states in the nation, with 81 percent of incumbents running...
Georgia bank socking customers with overdraft fees, consumer group says

Georgia bank socking customers with overdraft fees, consumer group says

A Georgia bank was the toughest in the nation when it comes to socking customers with overdraft fees, according to a analysis by a consumer group. Ameris Bank collected the most overdraft/insufficient fund fees per account of any U.S. bank, says the analysis, which is based on federal government data from the first three quarters of 2016. Ameris collected an average of about $176 per account, the...
Some moms accusing doctor of groping say he violated kids, too

Some moms accusing doctor of groping say he violated kids, too

Speaking little English and lacking immigration papers, they were the perfect prey. But when they found out they weren’t alone, one by one the women told police their stories of being sexually degraded by, of all people, their children’s pediatrician. They spoke to Chamblee detectives through translators, accusing Dr. José A. Rios of grabbing them from behind and groping them...
Georgia students learn sobering lesson on government transparency

Georgia students learn sobering lesson on government transparency

Filing requests for public records is one of the first things students at the Georgia News Lab learn.
AJC/WSB fraud investigation gets results in case of Hapeville tax preparer

AJC/WSB fraud investigation gets results in case of Hapeville tax preparer

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation is delivering results for Georgia taxpayers.
Former lawmakers find new careers as lobbyists

Former lawmakers find new careers as lobbyists

Georgia has a law requiring public officials to wait a year after leaving office before registering as lobbyists, but that doesn’t stop high-level lawmakers from landing plumb jobs in lobbying firms right away . “I support the idea of a one-year cooling off that limits former legislators access to the executive branch and former colleagues,” said former...
Lawmakers jump to lobbying firms despite year-long ban on advocacy

Lawmakers jump to lobbying firms despite year-long ban on advocacy

Heeding calls to “drain the swamp,” President-elect Donald Trump is requiring appointees to his administration to agree to a five-year ban on lobbying, a nod to the public’s distrust of the revolving door that allows former politicians to press their peers for legislative favors. In Georgia, the ban is one year for elected state officials and some appointees. But it doesn’t...
Georgia fraud scheme may have certified dangerous drivers, feds say

Georgia fraud scheme may have certified dangerous drivers, feds say

A fraud scheme operated out of Atlanta may have certified drivers with dangerous health conditions to drive tractor trailers, buses and other large commercial vehicles, officials say. To get commercial driver licenses, drivers are supposed to pass medical fitness tests to determine if they have lung diseases so severe or blood pressure so high that they may not be able to control the vehicles and...

Atlanta fraud scheme may have certified dangerous drivers, feds say

A fraud scheme operated out of Atlanta may have certified drivers with dangerous health conditions to drive tractor trailers, buses and other large commercial vehicles, officials say. State and federal officials hope to find those drivers and re-examine their fitness to be behind the wheel. To get commercial driver licenses, drivers are supposed to pass medical fitness tests to determine if they have...
Sex, drugs and the DEA, continued: ‘Potential criminal charges’ cited

Sex, drugs and the DEA, continued: ‘Potential criminal charges’ cited

  Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Case involving ‘serial pervert’ being heard by Georgia Supreme Court today

Case involving ‘serial pervert’ being heard by Georgia Supreme Court today

While an 18-year-old was sedated at her dentist’s office, she was left alone with a nurse anesthetist long enough for him to sexually assault her.
You may be surprised where sex offenders can – and cannot – work

You may be surprised where sex offenders can – and cannot – work

Registered sex offenders are barred from working as teachers or daycare providers in many states. Other job restrictions may surprise you: Registered sex offenders can’t drive ice cream trucks in Massachusetts.
Concern grows over unregistered lobbyists

Concern grows over unregistered lobbyists

Watchdogs at the State Capitol are concerned that a growing number of people who lobby for or against legislation are avoiding registering with the state and disclosing their activities. “There is nothing wrong with lobbying,” Stefan Ritter, state ethics commission executive director, said. “But the public should be able to look at who is lobbying.” State law is clear: Anyone...
Weak law keeps some Georgia lobbyists hidden

Weak law keeps some Georgia lobbyists hidden

State law requires lobbyists to register and report their spending on public officials, but many believe there is a hidden army of lawyers, business executives, issue advocates, and state government employees who work feverishly to pass, alter or kill bills but do so without registering as lobbyists. Stefan Ritter, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said lobbyists perform an important...
Sex, drugs and the DEA: Atlanta agent accused of improper conduct

Sex, drugs and the DEA: Atlanta agent accused of improper conduct

  In 2013, Drug Enforcement Administration agents participated in a raid on a synthetic drug lab in Avondale Estates.
Bus crash details eerily similar but these children lived

Bus crash details eerily similar but these children lived

A 24-year-old school bus driver is transporting students home after school. The weather is clear, the roadway dry. But the bus is speeding, and it veers off the road. As it careens out of control, it hits a tree that slices open the bus. But this accident was in California, not Chattanooga. And the school bus in this crash was equipped with lap/shoulder belts for all the passengers, as required by...
Raise hunting, fishing license fees, state audit says

Raise hunting, fishing license fees, state audit says

Hunters and anglers pay too little for licenses in Georgia, and the free licenses given to residents 65 and older are costing the state millions of dollars a year in federal grants and other revenue. Those are two findings from a new state audit that gives a drubbing to the Wildlife Resources Division of the state Department of Natural Resources. What’s wrong with the division? Here are 5 findings...
Exonerations reveal flaws in criminal justice system

Exonerations reveal flaws in criminal justice system

  Timothy Johnson spent 29 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit. He is one of 28 Georgians listed on the National Registry of Exonerations.
Decatur mom asked to leave early voting because of crying child

Decatur mom asked to leave early voting because of crying child

A DeKalb County mother of three was asked to leave early voting Thursday when her child wouldn’t stop crying. Citing a state law giving poll workers broad discretion to determine when children are distracting other voters, officials asked Jennifer Fair to take her 2-year-old daughter outside a downtown Decatur polling place because she was crying. Fair said she had to leave without casting a...
Ga. mother unable to vote because her crying child was ‘distracting’

Ga. mother unable to vote because her crying child was ‘distracting’

Jennifer Fair, a DeKalb County mother of three, has her hands full. Between 4-year-old Maggie, 2-year-old Casey and newborn Audrey, Fair has a lot to juggle, which is why she went to downtown Decatur Thursday morning to cast her presidential election ballot early and avoid the crowds. But even though she was in sight of an empty voting machine, Fair left without casting her ballot. Why? Blame 2-year-old...
Newton rejects proposal aimed at Muslim burial practices

Newton rejects proposal aimed at Muslim burial practices

The Newton County board rejected a county commissioner’s attempt to tighten regulations on burials in the county, but critics say the effort is a transparent and misguided attempt to discourage a mosque and Islamic cemetery proposed for his district. Commissioner John Douglas, a vocal opponent of a Doraville-based Muslim congregation who are seeking to build a mosque in Newton County, proposed...
New York to Georgia: Toughen up your gun laws

New York to Georgia: Toughen up your gun laws

  New York’s attorney general has a message for Georgians: keep your guns to yourselves. In a study released this week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman blamed lax gun laws in states such as Georgia for much of the violent crime that occurs in New York state. New York has some of the nation’s strictest gun-control laws: It bans so-called assault weapons; prohibits the sale of high-capacity...
Fear of the dead one of many fringe ideas fueling mosque debate

Fear of the dead one of many fringe ideas fueling mosque debate

Newton County dodged another attempted debacle this week when the county planning commission discarded a request to adopt burial restrictions based on junk science and anti-immigrant rhetoric. The request for new regulations by Commissioner John Douglas was a barely veiled attempt to discourage a proposed mosque and cemetery development that has upset scores of local residents and stoked fears of...

Nursing home patients hurt, taxpayers ripped off by sales goals, lawsuits say

A nursing home chain with facilities in Georgia routinely gave patients therapy they didn’t need in a scheme that sometimes harmed them and defrauded Medicare, government lawsuits say. What’s more, to keep collecting inflated Medicare payments, Life Care Center of America facilities also sought to keep some patients in nursing homes longer than necessary, the company’s own employees...

Taxpayers paid $359 million for unnecessary chiropractic care in 2013, study finds

Medicare paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013 based on improper bills from chiropractors, according to an investigation by a federal watchdog agency. More than 80 percent of payments to chiropractors should not have been made, investigators found. This isn’t the first time the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been warned repeatedly that chiropractors are billing for...
30 years later, details of disabled man’s execution still ‘state secrets’

30 years later, details of disabled man’s execution still ‘state secrets’

Protestors gathered outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison as Jerome Bowden was executed in 1986. Strapped into Georgia’s electric chair, moments from meeting his fate, Jerome Bowden uttered his last words. “I would like to thank the people of this institution for taking such care of me as they did,” said Bowden, 34, convicted of a gruesome murder in Columbus...
APS to blind mother: Walking kids to school is your responsibility

APS to blind mother: Walking kids to school is your responsibility

Continental Colony Elementary in southwest Atlanta. Daffanie Todd, a single mother of three school-age children, lost the last of her eyesight in 2013.
Victim count grows in criminal case against a doctor who’s still practicing

Victim count grows in criminal case against a doctor who’s still practicing

More potential victims have been added to the criminal case against an Arkansas family doctor who is being allowed to keep seeing patients despite facing rape and sexual assault charges.
NPR: Georgia Trump supporter considers joining militia

NPR: Georgia Trump supporter considers joining militia

For many NPR listeners, the revelation by Lawrenceville auto mechanic Jimmy Arno was a shocker. It came near the end of a 6-minute interview with “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep in a segment on voting sentiment in toss-up states called “Divided States.
What our sleuths discovered about doctors

What our sleuths discovered about doctors

Want to know if a restaurant is unsanitary? In Georgia and many other states, you can look at the inspection notice posted near the door. Want to know if your doctor may have sexually abused patients? Your only clues might be found on disciplinary orders posted on state medical board websites. But to follow the clues, you may need a law book, good Google search skills and a knowledge of some medical...
From kidnapper to doctor

From kidnapper to doctor

Gary S. Krist got a half-million dollars’ ransom, federal prison time and national infamy when he kidnapped Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle and buried her alive in a box. Then he got something else: a medical license. Nearly 50 years after the infamous crime, many still recall it, especially in Georgia. The case still pops up in news reports, including one in the New York Post this...

Atlanta debt collector ordered to pay up

The bill has come due for an Atlanta debt collection company accused of impersonating law enforcement to demand payments on payday loans. National Client Services – which was doing business under several names, including AFS Legal Services and National Payment Processing – been permanently banned from debt collection. What’s more, the company has been ordered to pay a judgment of...

Texting while governing: Smart phones outwit open meetings law

After months of public debate and hours upon hours of public hearings, Milton resident Laura Rencher found herself on the losing side of a bitter zoning fight before the mayor and City Council. Political defeats are hard to take, but this was made all the more difficult when Rencher discovered that during public hearings on the issue her opponents were vigorously lobbying Mayor Joe Lockwood. But they...
Feds will sue Georgia over segregated ‘psychoeducational’ schools

Feds will sue Georgia over segregated ‘psychoeducational’ schools

For at least six months, state and federal officials swapped proposals and counterproposals on what to do about Georgia’s unique system of so-called psychoeducational schools. But neither side budged on the key issue: whether Georgia could continue segregating children with behavioral and emotional disabilities. Now the U.S. Department of Justice says it will file a lawsuit claiming the state...

Georgia fights feds to keep schools for disabled

Under investigation for violating the rights of disabled children, Georgia is pledging to overhaul its so-called psychoeducational schools. But at the same time, the state is making clear it intends to continue resisting federal pressure to dismantle the schools, the only statewide system in the United States exclusively for students with behavioral and emotional disabilities. Last week the state...

A year later, Marietta still keeping widow’s pension

This is a tough week for Janet Cosper, a church-going, part-time dental receptionist from Cobb County. A year ago Friday, Janet lost her husband, Hal, to a sudden heart attack. Hal’s death, an evil trick of fate that robbed the couple of their golden years together, happened just months before his planned retirement from the city of Marietta after more than 20 years of service as the city&rsquo...
Shifting of campaign funds by 4 Georgia congressmen raises questions

Shifting of campaign funds by 4 Georgia congressmen raises questions

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter raised more than $360,000 in contributions over five years while running for and then serving in the Georgia Senate, much of it coming from statehouse special interests. The Pooler Republican still had money left over in his Georgia Senate account when he ran for Congress in 2014. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of disclosures found that in March of that year, he contributed...

Gwinnett case led to far-reaching tax fraud investigation

One of the largest tax preparer fraud investigations in recent Georgia history started with allegations that a relative stole a Gwinnett County couple’s $109,000 retirement account. The 2014 criminal case involving allegations lodged by David Bass against his sister-in-law, Ruth Barr, garnered public attention when Barr was elected to the Hapeville City Council last November. The day after her...
Secretive political fund tied to House Speaker Ralston

Secretive political fund tied to House Speaker Ralston

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found a secretive political fund with ties to House Speaker David Ralston, a longtime advocate for transparency in political spending. The fund, called the Ralston Conservative Leadership Fund, registered with the IRS two years ago but never disclosed its donors or how the money was spent until the AJC discovered it. The fund collected at least $67,500 in contributions...
MyAJC Watchdog: House Speaker Ralston’s secret political fund

MyAJC Watchdog: House Speaker Ralston’s secret political fund

I believe people have a right to know who is behind the money driving our political system. I’m hardly alone. Lots of good people feel just as strongly about shining a light on the darker corners of politics. Take, for instance, this quote from an interview I did with House Speaker David Ralston in February about the dangers of so-called “dark money.” “We’ve allowed these...
State lawmaker seeks dramatic cuts in welfare, food stamps

State lawmaker seeks dramatic cuts in welfare, food stamps

This week I wrote about how Georgia won’t be requiring photos on food stamp cards. But that’s just a proxy for the real battle underway to dramatically scale back the food stamp program in Georgia. State Rep. Greg Morris wants to dial back the state’s social safety net significantlyby requiring Georgia adopt only the bare minimum standards to qualify for federal welfare and food...
What did former Rep. Paul Broun know? Corruption probe inches closer

What did former Rep. Paul Broun know? Corruption probe inches closer

In 2014, then-U.S. Rep. Paul Broun repeatedly told congressional ethics investigators that a political consultant paid with tax money was a “volunteer” for his election campaigns, but a federal corruption indictment unsealed last month called that a “cover story.

Photos on food stamp cards: Why it didn’t happen

Two years ago, state lawmakers thumped their chest and proclaimed House Bill 772 the toughest anti-food stamp fraud law in the nation. Today it’s barely worth the paper it’s printed on. The bill required food stamp recipients to take a drug test if a case worker suspected them of using drugs. But that tough-talking provision was shelved by Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration almost...
Stone Mountain’s dilemma: freedom of speech or freedom from protests?

Stone Mountain’s dilemma: freedom of speech or freedom from protests?

Following violent counter protests at a white supremacist rally Saturday, authorities at Stone Mountain say they are investigating ways to “prevent or control” future rallies when public safety is an issue. But park spokesman John Bankhead, a veteran of decades of such protests as spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said the park’s options are limited since federal...
Stone Mountain exploring ways to ‘prevent or control’ future rallies

Stone Mountain exploring ways to ‘prevent or control’ future rallies

After last weekend’s unruly display of free speech, officials at Stone Mountain Park are exploring ways to further control — or even stop — future rallies on the basis that they put the public in danger, I’ve learned. “We will be looking at all additional options available to balance the safety of the public versus the right to freedom of speech,” John Bankhead...
Judge to shut down investment scheme

Judge to shut down investment scheme

A Woodstock millionaire’s empire of investment companies will be shut down and dismantled, a federal judge has ruled, breaking up what authorities allege was a Ponzi scheme that roped in investors from across the country. Jim Torchia knowingly, “or at least recklessly,” misled his investors, the judge ruled. When investigators closed in, the ruling says, he used “back-of-the-napkin...