9 men charged in scamming nearly $5M from Ga. mill
ATLANTA - Nine men have been arraigned on federal fraud charges accusing them of tricking a Rome paper mill into paying $4.8 million for "phantom loads" of timber.
The defendants are accused of scamming the Temple-Inland paper mill from 2004 to 2006. Eight of the men were arraigned on Monday.
According to the indictment, Aaron Freeman worked as a scale house operator at the mill and learned how to manipulate the computer system to produce two weight readings when a single truck passed through the mill's scale.
One reading would be the weight of timber actually delivered and the other would be for a phantom load. Freeman then allegedly recruited truck drivers to take credit for the phantom loads and share the profits.
They were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Employee shot in Georgia bank robbery
ATLANTA - A bank employee was shot during a robbery at a SunTrust bank in north Atlanta.
FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett says the victim was pulled from a side office and shot in the leg Monday morning after two men entered the bank brandishing weapons.
Emmett called it a "takeover-style" robbery, as both the gunmen announced their intentions after walking into the branch around 10:16 a.m. He says at one point a suspect pointed a gun directly at the head of a bank customer.
He says both the suspects escaped with an undisclosed amount of money. He says they left the building on foot and then jumped into a blue or black minivan.
The FBI and DeKalb County police are investigating. Anyone with information should call the FBI at (404) 679-9000.
Foreclosures focus of congressional hearing
ATLANTA - Foreclosures in the metro-Atlanta area and bank failures throughout Georgia were the focus of a congressional field hearing at the state Capitol.
Monday's hearing was led by an unlikely pair of congressmen - Dennis Kucinich and Lynn Westmoreland. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, is among the most liberal members of Congress and Westmoreland, of Georgia, is considered one of the most conservative. Kucinich is chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He blamed "ruthless and largely unregulated predatory lenders" for trying to make a quick profit in Atlanta's low-income neighborhoods.
Westmoreland said the region's high number of foreclosures are "destroying wealth."
Ga. Aquarium beluga dies on visit to Sea World
ATLANTA - Georgia Aquarium officials say a beluga whale has died unexpectedly while on a temporary stay at Sea World in San Antonio.
Greg Bossart with the aquarium said Monday that Nico, a 25-year-old beluga, died Saturday morning. He was scheduled to return to Atlanta in mid-December after renovations on the beluga habitat at the Georgia Aquarium are complete. Bossart said an initial necropsy was inconclusive on what caused the death.
He said veterinarians are running more tests to determine why Nico died.
The whale came to Atlanta in 2005 from a Mexico City facility. Bossart said the whale had intestinal and other medical problems dating back to his time in Mexico but seemed in good health recently.
The aquarium has two other belugas staying at Sea World until work is complete on their home in Atlanta.
Georgia fireman charged with sex solicitation
ATLANTA - A 21-year-old firefighter was arrested on charges that he attempted to solicit a minor child for sex.
The FBI says Rocky Davis Jr., a Walker County firefighter and EMT, was arrested on Friday after he engaged undercover officers in a series of chats on the Internet.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jones says that Davis is incarcerated at the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department jail.
Stimulus saved, created 16K education jobs in Ga.
ATLANTA - A new federal report shows that more than 16,000 Georgia education jobs were saved or created through stimulus funding.
According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, Georgia has received $1.8 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That money has gone to programs for low-income students, to beef up technology in the classroom and to help homeless students, among others.
The money also helped districts like Muscogee County keep from laying off teachers and other workers. The district saved 100 jobs with the funding.
Officials say nearly 400,000 education jobs nationally have been retained or established thanks to $100 billion in stimulus money.
Ga. health care insurers fined
ATLANTA - Georgia's insurance commissioner signed a consent order directing major health insurance companies to pay a combined fine of $750,000 for delaying payments on thousands of health claims.
United Healthcare Insurance Co. and sister companies United Healthcare of Georgia Inc., American Medical Security Life Insurance Co. and Golden Rule Insurance Co. will pay the fees.
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said Monday "it is unfortunate that fines must be imposed to encourage compliance."
Oxendine issued a directive that required all healthcare plans licensed in Georgia to submit claims every quarter.
United Healthcare issued a statement saying it processes 97 percent of its claims within 15 days in Georgia, and 99 percent within 30 days. The statement says the settlement involves only the claims not processed within 15 days.
Ga. school reopens after flu outbreak
BUFORD, Ga. - Elementary school students returned to their campus in Buford on Monday after the building was sanitized to prevent the spread of stomach flu.
Public health department officials recommended closing the Harmony Elementary School campus on Friday after more than 20 percent of the school's nearly 640 students as well as eight teachers showed symptoms of the virus.
Officials with the East Metro Health District visited Harmony Elementary Friday to investigate the cause of the students' illness as Gwinnett Schools crews cleaned the building. Health officials suspected the outbreak was caused by gastroenteritis, but wanted confirmation.
Health officials have not concluded their investigation, but the number of children out sick dropped from 130 to 42 students.