Investigations


Inquiries into deaths of disabled Georgians fall short, report says

When a woman with developmental disabilities drowned in the bathtub, state investigators took two months to conclude she had suffered no neglect. But even then, the investigators missed critical information: Two state-provided caregivers were supposed to keep the woman in sight at all times. Instead, they had once let her go to McDonald’s on her own – and left her alone in the tub for...


Faith, family, firearms drive Georgia’s devotion to Second Amendment

Faith, family, firearms drive Georgia’s devotion to Second Amendment

An outsize American flag flies above the factory where Daniel Defense makes some of the world’s highest-priced assault rifles. At NASCAR races, the No. 3 car flashes the Daniel Defense logo. And when the company’s founder talks about his values, he distills them to three potent words: faith, family, firearms. Daniel Defense, based in Bryan County, 25 miles northwest of Savannah, is...
Feds accuse Roswell lawyer of helping orchestrate client’s Ponzi scheme

Feds accuse Roswell lawyer of helping orchestrate client’s Ponzi scheme

From left, Credit Nation attorney Marc Celello, ex-CFO Michael Sullivan and CEO Jim Torchia. Sullivan, who had a falling out with Torchia, provided this 2007 photo. Federal regulators say attorney Marc Celello did more than just whisper advice in the ear of a Cherokee County businessman accused of running a massive Ponzi scheme. The general counsel for Jim Torchia&rsquo...
AJC Watchdog: Did the system fail murdered movie worker?

AJC Watchdog: Did the system fail murdered movie worker?

Last month, police arrested Delvin Gates, 17, and charged him with the murder of 50-year-old Joseph Livolsi, a special effects technician who worked on blockbuster movies filmed in Atlanta. Gates’ arrest raises some troubling questions, including why he wasn’t in jail to begin with. Going back to 2015, Gates was known to Atlanta police as a “top, repeat juvenile offender&rdquo...
Atlanta dietary supplement mogul faces new criminal charges

Atlanta dietary supplement mogul faces new criminal charges

Atlanta dietary supplement CEO Jared Wheat is once again in the crosshairs of federal authorities, this time facing 18 criminal charges that cover a variety of business practices. An indictment, unsealed Thursday, lays out a laundry list of allegations against Wheat and his Norcross-based company, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, that, if proven, could send the well-known supplement entrepreneur to prison...
Film worker’s alleged killer had a long record. Why wasn’t he behind bars?

Film worker’s alleged killer had a long record. Why wasn’t he behind bars?

Last month, Delvin Gates was charged with murder in the shooting death of Joseph Livolsi, a 50-year-old father of two who worked special effects for some of the blockbuster movies that film in metro Atlanta. Livolsi’s body was discovered July 15 in his apartment on Candler Road near I-20. An Xbox was missing. Gates is 17, hardly a babe by today’s standards of juvenile violence...
These are the oldest mass shooters in U.S. history

These are the oldest mass shooters in U.S. history

Las Vegas authorities have named 64-year-old Stephen Paddock as the shooter in the deadliest rampage in U.S. history. While most mass shooters have been ages 20-50, at least three others were in their 60s. William D. Baker, 66. The former Navistar International worker armed himself with an AK-47 assault rifle and other weapons and went to the company’s Chicago-area plant, where he...
Georgia slow to investigate when nursing home patients may be at risk

Georgia slow to investigate when nursing home patients may be at risk

Georgia nursing home patients who may be at imminent risk of serious injury or death have not been able to rely on the state to immediately investigate, according to a new report by a federal watchdog agency. When a patient may be in immediate jeopardy, states are federally required to conduct onsite investigations within two days of receiving the complaint. But with hundreds of complaints, Georgia...
Former CEO of Atlanta Medical Center added to federal kickback case

Former CEO of Atlanta Medical Center added to federal kickback case

Another former Tenet Healthcare executive has been criminally charged in a federal healthcare fraud case that now accuses two former CEOs of Atlanta area hospitals of paying kickbacks and bribes in exchange for patient referrals. William Moore was the CEO of Atlanta Medical Center William Moore, the CEO of Atlanta Medical Center from 2001 to 2014, was accused in a 13-count federal indictment...
Ga. waits on feds to improve lax nursing home rules after Fla. deaths

Ga. waits on feds to improve lax nursing home rules after Fla. deaths

Officials in Florida moved quickly to tighten regulations on nursing homes and assisted living facilities following the heat-related deaths of 11 senior citizens in the power outage caused by Hurricane Irma. But in Georgia, where regulations on emergency power generators in senior facilities are just as lax, officials are waiting for federal regulations to go into effect. But even the new...
AJC Watchdog: Florida nursing home deaths could have happened here

AJC Watchdog: Florida nursing home deaths could have happened here

Eleven deaths in a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home are blamed on excessively high temperatures during the power outages caused by Hurricane Irma. Following the tragedy, Gov. Rick Scott directed state officials to enact emergency regulations requiring the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators and 96-hours of fuel on hand to run the air conditioner during power...
Georgia to pay $550,000 to convicted murderer because of amputation

Georgia to pay $550,000 to convicted murderer because of amputation

The state of Georgia has agreed to pay $550,000 to a diabetic inmate serving a life sentence for murder to settle his lawsuit alleging that he lost his left leg because of improper care and neglect by a prison doctor. The settlement means Michael Tarver’s case against Dr. Chiquita Fye, the medical director at Macon State Prison, won’t go to trial as scheduled this month and ends an improbable...
Feds surveying Irma damage, aid expected

Feds surveying Irma damage, aid expected

Tropical Storm Irma left cities and counties across Georgia with millions of dollars in damage and tons of debris to haul away. This looks like a job for the federal government. Teams of disaster experts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency fanned out across the state this week to survey the damage, the first step in unlocking disaster aid under President Donald Trump&rsquo...
AJC Watchdog: Keep a close eye on Irma disaster aid

AJC Watchdog: Keep a close eye on Irma disaster aid

Disasters assistance experts have fanned out across Georgia to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, the next step in freeing up millions of dollars in federal aid. Some of the heaviest damage is in Glynn County , where last week Irma flooded the streets of Brunswick and St. Simons Island, leaving a huge mess in its wake. County spokeswoman Kathryn Downs was in a...

Did Atlanta’s veterans crisis hotline fall short in helping suicidal veterans?

VA officials touted a crisis hotline center launched in Atlanta last December as a cornerstone of a renewed push to curb the problem of veteran suicide. More than 300 staff were hired and trained in Atlanta, and by April VA officials testified before Congress about the crisis line’s success answering the needs of suicidal veterans. The new center and the one operating...
Irma victims now may face insurance struggles

Irma victims now may face insurance struggles

Jill Ebrecht stood outside her flooded Tybee Island home Thursday as workers hauled her soggy furniture into her yard. Like many houses on Tybee, Ebrecht’s home was extensively damaged a year ago by Hurricane Matthew. Now, Irma has left another trail of destruction. “Matthew messed me up,” she said as she took stock of another round of belongings destroyed by a hurricane. &ldquo...
In Newark, a final word on Beverly Hall

In Newark, a final word on Beverly Hall

  Beverly L. Hall was the state-appointed school superintendent in Newark, New Jersey, before taking over Atlanta Public Schools in 1999. ELISSA EUBANKS / AJC   The final word is finally being written on the long and controversial career of the late Beverly L. Hall. When New Jersey took over Newark’s failing school system in 1995, it tapped Hall &ndash...
CDC to scientists: Shh!

CDC to scientists: Shh!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is the largest federal agency headquartered outside Washington. JENNI GIRTMAN/Special The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly cracking down on the release of information to the public by its scientists and other staff members. Axios, an online political-news site, obtained a memo...
Gwinnett lab implicated in Tennessee ‘pill mill’ indictment

Gwinnett lab implicated in Tennessee ‘pill mill’ indictment

Federal prosecutors in Tennessee say a Gwinnett County drug testing lab paid bribes and kickbacks and filed fraudulent reimbursement requests to the state and federal government. But no one from Lawrenceville-based Confirmatrix Labs has been charged, despite a lingering federal interest in the urinalysis lab and its founder, Khalid Satary. The indictment filed in East Tennessee stems from ...
Settlement drops claim that drug company improperly promoted risky drug for children

Settlement drops claim that drug company improperly promoted risky drug for children

A pharmaceutical company accused of downplaying the potential cancer risk of a best-selling diabetes drug will pay about $60 million to settle lawsuits, the U.S. Justice Department has announced. Novo Nordisk was supposed to make sure that physicians and patients knew that its drug Victoza had an unknown risk of a certain type of thyroid cancer. Instead, the government...
AJC Watchdog: Gwinnett urine lab implicated in bribery scandal

AJC Watchdog: Gwinnett urine lab implicated in bribery scandal

A federal indictment filed in Tennessee claims a Gwinnett County urinalysis lab paid bribes and filed fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement requests. The charges add to Lawrenceville-based Confirmatrix Labs’ increasingly shady reputation and that of its founder, a Palestinian foreign national with a criminal past. The indictment filed in East Tennessee stems from an alleged network...
Videos show Georgia prison guards waiting as 24-year-old commits suicide

Videos show Georgia prison guards waiting as 24-year-old commits suicide

Surveillance videos of the suicide of a Georgia prison inmate show officers standing by as the 24-year-old commits suicide. The videos, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, show how the incident unfolded in real time and conflicts with accounts filed by prison officials. Read the latest on the AJC’s investigation at myAJC.com.
Videos: 4 guards outside cell as Georgia inmate hanged himself

Videos: 4 guards outside cell as Georgia inmate hanged himself

Guards at Smith State Prison didn’t try to stop troubled inmate Richard Tavera from hanging himself until four had assembled outside his cell, videos obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show. By then, more than seven minutes had passed since the first report Tavera was attempting suicide, and nothing could be done to save his life, the videos show. The videos add to the evidence that...
Alt-right says new video shows self-defense in Charlottesville assault

Alt-right says new video shows self-defense in Charlottesville assault

A five-second video circulating on the internet shows Charlottesville, Va., resident DeAndre Harris swing a club or flashlight toward a white nationalist marcher in a tussle with another man over a flag. Alt-right activists are claiming the video is proof that Harris was the aggressor and that they were protecting themselves when they surrounded and beat him, a scene caught in another video shortly...
AJC Watchdog: Alt-right spins tales of victimhood in Charlottesville

AJC Watchdog: Alt-right spins tales of victimhood in Charlottesville

Even as Michael Ramos turned himself in to police this week on charges that he maliciously beat Charlottesville, Va., resident DeAndre Harris, white supremacists are busy developing a counter attack: Harris was the assailant. Harris is the black man seen in online videos on the floor of a parking garage in the waning hours of the Aug. 12 “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville struggling...
Georgia woman admits stealing money intended for low-income housing

Georgia woman admits stealing money intended for low-income housing

Half the population in Nicholls, Georgia, resides in the Coffee County Correctional Facility, at least according to census counts. The city is also known for horse shows at Wiregrass Arena. Now, one of its newest residents is a focus of federal attention. Lorena Loren owns a custom-built, 2,858 square foot Nicholls home, with salt water pool, 24-foot ceilings and a detached...

OSHA shrinks worker death list, cutting most Georgia fatalities

Detailed public information about U.S. workers killed on the job was removed Friday from the homepage of the federal agency responsible for workplace safety, replaced with an abbreviated list elsewhere that omits many deaths and other details. That new list, for example, includes the deaths of only two Georgia workers so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. But information ...
How much medical care has to be provided to prisoners? Question is central to Georgia inmate’s case

How much medical care has to be provided to prisoners? Question is central to Georgia inmate’s case

The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that prison inmates must receive some form of medical care. After all, what other options do they have? Far less clear is how good that care has to be. The issue, open to discussion for decades, is front and center in the case of Michael Tarver, the Georgia inmate who lost his left leg when a small scrape became severely infected...
Atlanta protest groups: Who is who?

Atlanta protest groups: Who is who?

We live in a time when the nation’s deep political divisions are played out in street protests that pit groups from the right and left against each other, sometimes with violent consequences. But even as groups are marching in the streets, a lot of the names are not familiar to average Georgians. What is “antifa”? Who is the League of the South? What do any of these groups...
Georgia doctor fails polygraph on sex with patients, gets suspended

Georgia doctor fails polygraph on sex with patients, gets suspended

The Georgia Composite Medical Board has suspended the medical license of Dr. Peter Ulbrich, a physician with a long history of sexual misconduct, according to a board order made public on Thursday. Ulbrich had already been disciplined by the Georgia medical board for sexual misconduct when another patient complained about him last year. The patient said the doctor had made...

11th Circuit hears arguments today in Wells Fargo case involving overdraft fees

By changing the order of customers’ debit transactions, Wells Fargo for years racked up extra money through overdraft charges. It worked like this: You have $100 in your checking account and first draw $25, then have a transaction for $75 and later another for $100. The bank would reorder the transactions, putting the $100 one first so it could collect overdraft fees...
AJC Watchdog: Atlanta’s activists, from A to Z

AJC Watchdog: Atlanta’s activists, from A to Z

The news these days is filled with such a dizzying array of protests, movements and organizations, one might be forgiven for getting a little mixed up. Legacy civil rights groups like the NAACP are well known and an active part of current protests. And unfortunately some equally well-known hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan are still around. But there are a lot of new players in Atlanta. Here&rsquo...
Georgia inmate’s lawsuit beats the odds, heads to trial

Georgia inmate’s lawsuit beats the odds, heads to trial

When Michael Tarver first reached out, Mike Brown didn’t immediately jump in. Tarver, an inmate doing his time at the state prison hospital in Augusta, wanted Brown, an attorney based in the city, to help with a lawsuit he had filed a year earlier. But Brown wasn’t ready to commit until he looked closely at the suit. Then he made a startling discovery: This was...
Marietta man tied to violence against black man in Charlottesville

Marietta man tied to violence against black man in Charlottesville

A Marietta man boasted he “stomped some a**” during the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., leading people across the nation to call for his arrest.  Photos taken during the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville appear to show Michael Ramos, 33, as part of a group of white men caught beating 20-year-old DeAndre Harris. “Nobody else was protecting us. Yeah...
In Trump’s crosshairs, antifascist activists defend themselves

In Trump’s crosshairs, antifascist activists defend themselves

When President Donald Trump said this week that “many sides” were guilty of violence at last weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., right-wing extremists took it as a slap at anti-fascist counter protesters. But two members of a local group, Atlanta Antifascists, said violence — in self-defense — has its place when used against racists mobs. &ldquo...
Marietta man linked to beating of DeAndre Harris in Charlottesville

Marietta man linked to beating of DeAndre Harris in Charlottesville

A Marietta resident with militia ties has been identified on social media as one of a group of men seen bloodying a counter-protester during Saturday’s racial violence in Charlottesville, Va. Michael Ramos, 33, is seen in videos online swinging at DeAndre Harris, a 20-year-old Charlottesville resident. In the video, Harris is on the ground at the entrance to a parking garage while several...
Healthcare workers say doctor deprived Georgia inmates of treatment

Healthcare workers say doctor deprived Georgia inmates of treatment

In the Macon State Prison infirmary, even the most hardened healthcare professionals were shocked as they twice watched inmates reeling with horrific symptoms. One inmate, a diabetic, was near delirium as a wound on his leg became dangerously infected. The smell of his rotting flesh was so powerful it was noticeable in the next room. The other, a former deputy sheriff from the Atlanta area with HIV...
$40 million swiped from bank accounts for “bogus discount clubs,” FTC says

$40 million swiped from bank accounts for “bogus discount clubs,” FTC says

A group of marketers – including some based in Atlanta — swiped more than $40 million from the bank accounts of consumers for “discount clubs” that the consumers never agreed to join, the Federal Trade Commission says. The companies got in touch with consumers through websites and telemarketing calls that were selling payday loans and cash advances....
AJC Watchdog: Who are Trump’s ‘troublemakers’?

AJC Watchdog: Who are Trump’s ‘troublemakers’?

President Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on his “many sides” take on Charlottesville, casting equal blame for violence associated with the racist “Unite The Right” rally on the neo-Nazi’s and “troublemakers” on the other side. “Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black...

VA executive who exchanged offensive messages earns $100K+

The VA executive who exchanged unprofessional and offensive instant messages with another VA employee earned $96,586 last year, according to the latest federal salary data available. But that was before Angel Lawrence was elevated last fall to the top job at the national Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta. Past directors of the center were at a GS-15 pay grade...
Mistakes by gas supplier led to deputy’s death at sperm bank

Mistakes by gas supplier led to deputy’s death at sperm bank

Weeks before a deputy was killed at a Georgia sperm bank, the company and its gas supplier knew that a tank could improperly release nitrogen inside the facility, according to findings by the state fire commissioner’s office and by OSHA. Sgt. Greg Meagher died in the February incident. Indeed, other people had been exposed to asphyxiation hazards before...
Atlanta court urges “extreme caution” about new web app that promises to cut traffic fines

Atlanta court urges “extreme caution” about new web app that promises to cut traffic fines

The Atlanta Municipal Court is warning ticketed drivers to exercise “extreme caution” before using a new web-based app that promises it can get its customers lower fines on their traffic citations. A new Florida-based company called “TIKD” is advertising a service that claims it can reduce what its customers will pay for a ticket by sending an attorney...
Just released: Campus guide to countering alt-right

Just released: Campus guide to countering alt-right

Host alternative “joyful” events, pass out buttons, make YouTube videos — but mostly ignore them. That’s part of the advice the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center is issuing in a new campus guide to dealing with so-called “alt-right” speakers targeting college campuses. “When an alt-right personality is scheduled to speak on campus, the...
Did Confederate constitution of 1861 spur sovereign immunity ruling?

Did Confederate constitution of 1861 spur sovereign immunity ruling?

An opinion by the Georgia Supreme Court this summer that the state cannot be sued by citizens has its share of critics, but an Athens attorney has a novel complaint. Stephen Humphreys, who has sued state officials a number of times on behalf of his clients, said the court erred by basing the decision, in part, on an interpretation of the Georgia Constitution written during the Civil War by the...
Medical board orders Georgia doctors to get training on opioids

Medical board orders Georgia doctors to get training on opioids

Every doctor in Georgia is now required to get training on proper prescribing of opioids, under a rule approved Thursday by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. “Almost everybody in the state knows we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic right now,” said Dr. E. Dan DeLoach, a plastic surgeon from Savannah who is the chairman of the medical board. “We’re seeing the number...
Medical board sending Georgia’s doctors to opioid training

Medical board sending Georgia’s doctors to opioid training

Every doctor in Georgia must get training on proper prescribing of opioids under a rule approved Thursday morning by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. “Almost everybody in the state knows we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic right now,” said Dr. E. Dan DeLoach, a plastic surgeon from Savannah who is the chairman of the medical board. “We’re seeing the number of people...
Watchdog: Is Georgia whistling ‘Dixie’ on sovereign immunity?

Watchdog: Is Georgia whistling ‘Dixie’ on sovereign immunity?

Earlier this summer, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a sweeping, unanimous opinion that the state is immune from lawsuits, a precedent that brought cries of tyranny from the left and right. The Georgia justices pinned their analysis to a centuries-old tradition in English law called “sovereign immunity” — a legal theory that the king (or, in our case, Gov. Nathan Deal and the...
Elderly may be blocked from suing nursing homes for neglect, abuse

Elderly may be blocked from suing nursing homes for neglect, abuse

The Roswell woman’s plea was hand-written. Please, she wrote to federal officials, ban mandatory binding arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. Cheryl L. Bishof wrote that she wanted to file a lawsuit after her husband died in January in a skilled nursing facility. “He died from sepsis caused by a bedsore that was discovered too late and then improperly...
Mom of Georgia crash victims fights for safety measure for trucks

Mom of Georgia crash victims fights for safety measure for trucks

Crash into the back of a tractor trailer, and an underride guard could mean the difference between a broken nose or having your head ripped off. An underride guard is a steel, energy-absorbing bar that hangs off the back of a semitrailer, or along its sides, keeping cars from getting jammed underneath in a collision. A Chevrolet Malibu underrides a semitrailer in a 35 mph...
Abused as children, victims may get more time to sue

Abused as children, victims may get more time to sue

Christopher Gaba thought he was the only one. He could not imagine that others who attended the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, also had been sexually abused. He certainly had no idea that others had accused the same teacher who molested him. So he said nothing. The statute of limitations for a civil case passed years ago. But this summer, other Darlington alumni went public with allegations...
High-rise fires worldwide weren’t enough to curb flammable cladding

High-rise fires worldwide weren’t enough to curb flammable cladding

The Grenfell Tower disaster in London has the world’s attention on the hazards of flammable paneling on the exteriors of high-rise buildings. A deadly fire rages up the 24-story Grenfell Tower in a tragedy blamed on the building’s exterior wall paneling. GURBUZ BINICI / GETTY IMAGES But there had been warnings before, going back at least a decade. Despite a...
Fiction no stranger than fact in this novel about sex abuse

Fiction no stranger than fact in this novel about sex abuse

Thomas Keech spent 16 years as legal counsel for a medical board, so the fact that he has written a novel about a doctor who sexually abuses a teenage patient immediately raises several questions. Is the doctor based on one Keech encountered during his years with the State Board of Physicians in Maryland? And is the story based on a case he helped resolve? The answer to both...
It’s cheap, it looks good on buildings, but it burns — hot and fast

It’s cheap, it looks good on buildings, but it burns — hot and fast

The same stuff that makes buildings look shiny and new is the stuff that burned hot enough to destroy an I-85 overpass and to send flames roaring up an apartment high-rise in London, killing 80 people. The material is on multi-story buildings across the U.S., a review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. Building inspectors have allowed it. Manufacturers have encouraged it. Developers and building...
Darlington case could lift limits on sex-abuse lawsuits

Darlington case could lift limits on sex-abuse lawsuits

  Banners celebrating the Darlington School’s honor code are posted throughout its campus in Rome.  BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM Following reports of decades-old sexual abuse at a northwest Georgia boarding school, state lawmakers will consider giving victims more time to sue their abusers – and the institutions that gave them cover. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine)...
Fake police got $1 million in surplus military hardware

Fake police got $1 million in surplus military hardware

Police have scooped up M16s, armored vehicles, grenade launchers and other military equipment – billions of dollars worth – declared surplus by the Department of Defense. Georgia law enforcement agencies have gotten their fair share, more than $13.8 million worth last year alone. Mine resistant vehicle. Defense Dept. photo by William D. Moss The bounty includes 11 mine resistant...
The mysteries of auto insurance pricing

The mysteries of auto insurance pricing

With auto insurance costs spiking, Georgia drivers looking for a better deal may be focused on avoiding accidents and speeding tickets. A clean driving history, after all, is what insurers are looking for – right? These days, not so much. Insurers mine all sorts of personal information that has a huge influence on how much individuals pay for auto coverage. Consider this: A bad credit score...
Flammable cladding used on buildings in Georgia, other states

Flammable cladding used on buildings in Georgia, other states

For decades, architects and developers have put cheap, highly flammable wall panels on the exteriors of multi-story buildings. A four-story drug and alcohol treatment center in Atlanta has them. So does a six-story building at California State University. The panels might be on a 15-floor federal courthouse in Florida and a 33-story Marriott hotel in Baltimore. They apparently cover a front wall and...
Ga. judges crack down on smart phones in the courtroom

Ga. judges crack down on smart phones in the courtroom

A council of Georgia judges approved a new rule this week that may make what goes on in their courtroom less transparent to those outside. The rule, known as Rule 22, governs recording and broadcasting of trials and has generally been used by professional journalists looking to get permission for photographers or television cameras to record the proceedings. Fears of intrusion from smart phones prompted...
No Trump bump for the gun industry

No Trump bump for the gun industry

President Donald Trump with Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, at the group’s April convention in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com President Donald Trump may yet rejuvenate coal mining or bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. But his election already seems to have been detrimental to at least one economic...
Long a bastion of transparency, Ga. courts act to dim the lights

Long a bastion of transparency, Ga. courts act to dim the lights

No one is going to accuse judges of enthusiastically embracing modern society. They speak in Latin phrases and trace much of their behavior from the bench back centuries to English common law. Plus, who else wears robes to work? Yet daily they are forced to deal with Twitter. And Facebook. And Periscope. And a tide of technology — from laptops to smart phones and tablets — that can wreck...
Illegal fees collected on traffic tickets at Atlanta Municipal Court, lawsuit alleges

Illegal fees collected on traffic tickets at Atlanta Municipal Court, lawsuit alleges

A private probation company working at the Atlanta Municipal Court collected illegal fees from people who were placed on “pay only” probation to pay off traffic tickets, according to a new civil rights lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against Sentinel Offender Services, the company that formerly provided private probation services for the Atlanta court. The lawsuit...

Auto insurance: Which Georgia companies hiked your bill the most?

Georgia led the nation in 2016 for increases in auto insurance rates. But which insurers hit their customers the hardest? The AJC scoured the rate filings at the Georgia insurance commissioner’s office to study how rates have changed and to find out which companies were imposing the biggest — and smallest — increases. AllState took the cake with an average...
Auto insurance bills skyrocket in Georgia but regulator powerless

Auto insurance bills skyrocket in Georgia but regulator powerless

Georgia led the nation with the highest increase in personal auto insurance rates in 2016, according to a new analysis, but rising rates is nothing new for the state’s drivers. Georgia ranked either first or second nationally for increases in the three previous years, too. State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said there is little he can do about skyrocketing rates because...
Commissioner silent as car insurance rates soar

Commissioner silent as car insurance rates soar

A decade ago, when Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens was a state lawmaker, he backed a bill that would free auto insurers from a rigorous pre-approval process when they wanted to jack up rates. “The information we were given at that time is if you let free-market principles take effect, competition was going to drive rates down,” Hudgens said. But since Georgia passed the bill...
Atlanta feds nail more international cybercriminals

Atlanta feds nail more international cybercriminals

Some of the world’s most notorious criminals have been brought to Atlanta in recent years. Known online by such names as M.U.R.D.E.R.E.R., Kolypto, RainerFox, Gribodemon and Track2, they are  cybercriminals, involved in schemes that collectively stole hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, there’s news that two investigations out of Atlanta have ties to the takedown of...

Are Georgia judges making the courts less open?

The Council of Superior Court Judges is considering changes to the rule allowing news cameras in the state’s courtrooms, raising alarms among transparency advocates. The council is attempting to rewrite a courtroom rule known as “Rule 22,” which governs how and when news organizations and others can shoot photos and roll cameras during trials. The council...
Drug screening lab under federal investigation heads for auction

Drug screening lab under federal investigation heads for auction

A drug testing lab in Gwinnett County that had been in the center of a campaign donation bundling scandal is up for auction amid a federal investigation. Confirmatrix Laboratory in Lawrenceville was raided by the FBI last November. Two days later, the firm filed for bankruptcy, citing a drop in business tied to lower Medicare payments for urine drug screenings, its bread-and-butter lab procedure...

Atlanta wealth adviser defrauded investors, federal agency says

How do you get wealthy? Atlanta resident Arthur Toole III said he knew the way. His burning desire, his website says, is to “destroy the barriers between you and your wealth.” What he destroyed, a federal agency says, were investments by people who followed his advice. They are out more than $293,000, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Thursday...
Watchdog: Drug lab raided by feds made millions. Now it’s for sale.

Watchdog: Drug lab raided by feds made millions. Now it’s for sale.

In November, federal agents raided a Lawrenceville toxicology lab, serving warrants and taking away boxes of papers. Two days later, the lab filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Next month it heads for the auction block after years of Medicare reimbursements at one of the highest rates in the nation, according to one study. The firm is Confirmatrix Laboratory, and if that name sounds at all familiar it&rsquo...
AG’s consumer case: When the hot air balloon ride you booked doesn’t happen

AG’s consumer case: When the hot air balloon ride you booked doesn’t happen

Be careful when you search online for that next big adventure outing — a hot air balloon ride, a sky diving trip or a helicopter tour. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed an action on Wednesday to stop Marvelay LLC  — a company operating online under the names “Spot Reservation” and “Rushcube” — which he said was defrauding...
Georgia adviser to star athletes heading to federal prison

Georgia adviser to star athletes heading to federal prison

Dozens of NBA stars once turned to Charles Augustus Banks IV for guidance on their investing their wealth. Wine lovers also looked to Banks, who owned prestigious vineyards and wineries. Now, the UGA graduate is heading to federal prison for wire fraud in connection with an investment scheme said to have duped former San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan...
Lucrative drug discount program gets attention of Congress

Lucrative drug discount program gets attention of Congress

A lucrative drug discount program that is a lifeline for charity hospitals and a money-maker for some health systems will be the subject of a congressional hearing next week. The 340B program requires drug makers participating in the Medicaid program to give deep discounts on outpatient drugs to hospitals that treat low-income patients. The program was created in 1992...
Gun was main concern when Atlanta hospital suspended surgeon, court says

Gun was main concern when Atlanta hospital suspended surgeon, court says

An Atlanta plastic surgeon reportedly said she was the reincarnation of ax murderer Lizzie Borden. She may have said the military wanted to hire her for her psychic powers, and that the government may be after her because she removed a microchip implanted in a patient in the federal witness protection program. But those statements aren’t the primary reason that Northside...
Georgia assisted living homes in limbo after SEC case settled

Georgia assisted living homes in limbo after SEC case settled

In 2014 and 2015, an eager businessman named Dwayne Edwards made the rounds in Georgia and Alabama, talking up his plans to buy and renovate assisted living facilities to serve frail elderly people. Before long, Edwards got what he was seeking from local officials: almost $62 million in bond financing that allowed his companies to buy and renovate nine assisted living homes...
Owner of The Intercept assisting accused NSA leaker’s legal defense

Owner of The Intercept assisting accused NSA leaker’s legal defense

The arrest of a National Security Agency contractor on an espionage charge last month had the world asking, who is Reality Winner? Court documents have shown how her identity became known in the first place: In trying to confirm a top-secret NSA report on the Russian government’s attempts to hack into U.S. election systems, a news outlet essentially led federal investigators to her as the source...
Too good to be true? Covington company’s health claims draw federal scrutiny

Too good to be true? Covington company’s health claims draw federal scrutiny

Does a company in Covington, Georgia have the secret to stimulating sexual energy, reducing wrinkles, spider veins and menopause symptoms, slowing the aging process, enhancing breasts, treating depression, improving sleep, increasing the size of lips, restoring thinning hair and decreasing body fat? On its website, Covington-based Star Health and Beauty made such claims for...
Prisons profit by ‘gouging’ poor families for calls

Prisons profit by ‘gouging’ poor families for calls

Advocates for prison reform say a federal court decision last month on the costs of prison phone calls hurts poor families. “The felons aren’t the ones paying the bills. It’s the families,” said Paul Wright, executive director of the Washington, D.C.,-based nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center. “It’s just exploitation. It’s just gouging people.&rdquo...

$2.4 million settlement ends Atlanta hospice lawsuit

Another hospice serving Georgia patients has agreed to a multi-million-dollar settlement as a result of a lawsuit filed by whistleblowers. In the latest case, Compassionate Care Hospice Group agreed to pay $2.4 million to resolve allegations that its subsidiary, Compassionate Care of Atlanta, paid kickbacks to five physicians to get them to refer patients and...
Watchdog: Court decision penalizes inmate families

Watchdog: Court decision penalizes inmate families

A federal court’s decision last month to strike down caps on inmate phone call charges allows one of the more corrupt government programs to continue in Georgia and around the nation. If you aren’t aware of how this scam works, state prisons and local jails contract with a small group of companies to provide phone services for inmates, usually selecting the company that agrees to kick...
Foreigners own 1 million+ acres of Georgia ag land

Foreigners own 1 million+ acres of Georgia ag land

Georgia is among nine states where foreign interests own more than 1 million acres of land deemed agricultural, according to a recent report by The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The roster of foreign owners shows companies or individuals from at least 39 countries own Georgia crop, pasture, timberland or other land. Companies from tiny Liechtenstein own 6,398...
Suit accuses boarding school of turning ‘blind eye’ to sexual abuse

Suit accuses boarding school of turning ‘blind eye’ to sexual abuse

A group of former students from the Darlington School, a private boarding school in northwest Georgia, filed a lawsuit late Friday claiming a teacher sexually abused them for years and that administrators did nothing in response. “Darlington turned a blind eye to the pain and suffering of its students,” according to the lawsuit, filed in Floyd Superior Court in Rome, where the school was...
VA’s $500 million technology project faced ‘catastrophic failure’

VA’s $500 million technology project faced ‘catastrophic failure’

A costly VA program to track medical equipment and prevent patient infections has been delayed a year because of troubled implementation, the Austin American-Statesman reveals in a new investigation. The Statesman reported that the $543 million project to digitally track medical equipment faced “catastrophic failure” for a host of problems implementing ...
Blurred lines and a tolerance of sex abuse at Georgia boarding school

Blurred lines and a tolerance of sex abuse at Georgia boarding school

One summer day in 1988, as he prepared to return to boarding school, Timothy Lee broke down crying. He refused to go back. Then he begged his mother not to tell anyone why. Lee’s mother called the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, anyway, and repeated what her son had told her: A teacher named Roger Stifflemire had sexually abused him for the previous two years. This was at least the...

Two Atlanta doctors joining colleagues in federal prison

When William Richardson and Nevorn Askari report to federal prison for their roles in a pill mill operation, the two former Atlanta-area doctors could find themselves in some familiar company. At least a dozen other Georgia-licensed physicians have been sentenced to federal prisons since 2014 for violations involving opioids or other addictive substances. The AJC’s Becca Godwin wrote earlier...
Dancer drops racketeering claims against Cheetah; other suits remain

Dancer drops racketeering claims against Cheetah; other suits remain

A former exotic dancer has dropped a racketeering lawsuit against her former club, The Cheetah in midtown Atlanta, a move the club’s attorney says undermines her claims that the club fostered an atmosphere of sexual violence against its dancers. Cheetah attorney Kevin Ward called the lawsuit, filed in February in federal court, “nonsense and unsupportable, both under the law and based...
Historian: Civil War debate is about ‘who controls history’

Historian: Civil War debate is about ‘who controls history’

The demotion of Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, following his decision to distribute to colleagues an article challenging that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War raises an interesting question. Why did he do it? After all, the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago. Why is a Georgia state legislator so bent out of shape about its causes? “All of this is...
Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

When House Speaker David Ralston punished fellow Republican Rep. Tommy Benton last week, stripping him of his committee chairmanship and removing him from a study committee on civics education, it came after nearly two years of provocative political acts. But it was the distribution to his House colleagues of an article from the magazine “Confederate Veteran” that triggered Ralston&rsquo...
Elderly at Johns Creek assisted living homes given unneeded physical therapy in billing scheme, feds say

Elderly at Johns Creek assisted living homes given unneeded physical therapy in billing scheme, feds say

In a wide-ranging scheme, SunDance Rehabilitation Corp. bilked U.S. taxpayers out of millions of dollars by billing Medicare for unnecessary physical therapy, a federal whistleblower lawsuit charged. On Friday, the government announced that the parent company of SunDance would pay $5.3 million to resolve the case. Georgia resident Teresa McAree filed the lawsuit in 2012, accusing SunDance of harassing...
Court rules feds can’t stop massive charges for many prison phone calls

Court rules feds can’t stop massive charges for many prison phone calls

A federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to block phone companies from charging as much as $14 for a one-minute phone call on in-state prison phone calls, according to a recent report. Advocates for inmates have complained for more than a decade that a handful of private phone companies charge such high fees that the cost of calls can add up to thousands...
Hospitals chase lucrative drug discounts

Hospitals chase lucrative drug discounts

At Grady Memorial Hospital, where Atlanta’s poor and uninsured are welcomed, the pharmacy charges most patients $5 or less for outpatient medications that treat everything from diabetes to cancer. One reason Grady can offer patients such a good deal on costly pills and treatments is a little-known federal program called “340B.” That program, which saved Grady $29 million last year...
Ala. cities sue Georgia manufacturers over polluted water

Ala. cities sue Georgia manufacturers over polluted water

Centre, Ala., has become the latest to sue over drinking water allegedly polluted by Georgia’s carpet industry. At issue are the chemical compounds perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluoroctane sulfonate, known as PFOA and PFOS, which were used for decades to make carpets resistant to stains. They also were used in a variety of consumer goods from cookware to fast food...
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