Local News Archives

Women Sentenced To Prison For Welfare Fraud

A Michigan woman and her two daughters have been sentenced to prison for bilking the federal government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The U.S. Attorney’s office said Friday that a judge sentenced Cruz Gonzalez to 33 months in prison and her daughter, Fabiola Garcia, to 20 months. Gonzalez’s other daughter, Gisela Mendoza, was sentenced in November to six
months in prison and two months home detention. The three were convicted on conspiracy charges. They have been ordered to pay more than $722,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Authorities say that between February 2008 and January 2014, they defrauded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by exchanging benefits for cash, cellphones and other items at a Shelby store. Gonzalez owned that story and her daughters worked there.... [Read Full Story]

Takata To Pay $1 Billion For Hiding Airbag Problems

Takata Corporation has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal charge and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution for concealing a deadly defect in its air bag inflators. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit announced the plea deal on Friday.
Takata will pay a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million to individuals who were injured by the air bags and $850 million to automakers that purchased the inflators. The U.S. district court in Detroit has appointed attorney Kenneth Feinberg to distribute restitution payments. Payments to individuals must be made soon. Money due to automakers must be paid within five days of Takata’s anticipated sale or merger. Takata is expected to be sold to another auto supplier or investor sometime this year.... [Read Full Story]

Michigan Man Ticketed For Leaving Car Running In Driveway

A Detroit-area man has been ticketed for leaving a vehicle running unattended in his driveway as he warmed it up. Nick Taylor, of Roseville, says the incident happened on a chilly morning earlier this month. He says he went inside his home and left his car running for about 5 minutes. When he went back outside, he had received a $125 fine for a local ordinance violation of leaving a motor vehicle unattended. Taylor posted a photo of the ticket on Facebook. The post has been shared more than 6,000 times and garnered more than 5,000 comments. Roseville Police Chief James Berlin is standing by the officer who issued the ticket, saying it’s a public safety issue because a thief could have easily taken the car.... [Read Full Story]

Amtrak Sued Over 2014 Stabbing Attack In Niles

One of the people stabbed on an Amtrak train as it was pulling into the Niles depot in December 2014 is suing Amtrak. The lawsuit from Gayle VanVorst of Colon and her husband is the second against the rail service. She was stabbed in the chest by Michael Williams, who also stabbed three other people. In a lawsuit filed in St. Joseph, she argues Amtrak should have kicked Williams off the train at any stop between Chicago and Niles instead of just moving him to a new car when he started acting unruly. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in October 2015.... [Read Full Story]

Bill Introduced To Keep Ibrahim Parlak In U.S.

Legislation to prevent Ibrahim Parlak from getting deported has once again been introduced in the U.S. House. The private bill submitted by Congressman Fred Upton aims to provide the Harbert restaurant owner with permanent legal residency status so he doesn’t get sent back to his native Turkey. The bill is intended as a preventive measure to stop Parlak’s deportation until his case is re-examined by an immigration judge. Upton has introduced the same bill in every Congress since 2005. Parlak was granted political asylum in the U.S. in the 1990s, but things changed when the U.S. State Department declared a group he was affiliated with in Turkey, the PKK, to be a terrorist organization. He’s been fighting to stay in the U.S. ever since.... [Read Full Story]

SWM Schools Do Well In Mackinac Center Rankings

A new report card from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been released, ranking 639 high schools in Michigan. Education Policy Director Ben Degrow tells WSJM News the Mackinac Center rankings are based on 11th grade test scores and are adjusted to account for the poverty level in the area each school serves.... [Read Full Story]

St. Joseph Schools To Take Part In The Great Kindness Challenge

St. Joseph Public Schools is gearing up to celebrate kindness this month. The district has announced all five of its schools will take part in the Great Kindness Challenge the week of January 23. The challenge calls on students and staff alike to commit to doing something kind for someone else each day of the week. The acts could include complimenting someone or leaving them a thank you note. Kids for Peace created the Great Kindness Challenge in 2012 to encourage more positive learning environments. In 2016, more than 5 million kids took part, resulting in 250 million acts of kindness.... [Read Full Story]

Suspect Arraigned In Fatal Cass County Stabbing

An Elkhart man arrested this week in the stabbing death of a coworker in Cass County has been arraigned on a charge of open murder. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office says 23-year-old William Henderson was denied bond at Thursday’s hearing in district court. Police arrested Henderson early Wednesday after he allegedly stabbed a co-worker in the neck during a fight at the Ameri-Kart factory in Mason Township. The victim has been identified as 23-year-old Jan Mendez, of Elkhart. Henderson could get life in prison if convicted.... [Read Full Story]

New Lawmaker From South Haven Gets To Work

State Representative Mary Whiteford of South Haven is now in her first full term in the House after winning a special election to replace the expelled Representative Cindy Gamrat. Whiteford talked on the first day of session Wednesday about what she wants to be sure gets done over the next two years.... [Read Full Story]

Michigan Economy, Tax Revenues Projected To Grow Modestly

Continued economic growth will ease the ability of Governor Rick Snyder and lawmakers to enact a new state spending plan.
The administration and legislative experts agreed Thursday that tax revenues in Michigan’s two biggest accounts will grow by about 2.8 percent this fiscal year and 2.5 percent the next budget year. That is about $144 million more combined than projected at the last revenue-estimating meeting eight months ago. The figures are being welcomed as positive news. But officials also are cautioning that job gains – which have occurred for seven straight years – will slow and there is uncertainty over what policy changes could be coming under President-elect Donald Trump. The consensus figures will be used by Snyder to propose his next budget in February.... [Read Full Story]

Audit: State Not Doing Enough To Collect Unemployment Taxes

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan’s auditor is again finding fault with the state Unemployment Insurance Agency, finding that it has only partially complied with a past audit that criticized efforts to collect delinquent taxes employers pay into the system. The audit released Wednesday is a follow-up to an audit done five years ago. It also comes after the state last week reassigned the agency’s director due to thousands of jobless people being wrongfully accused of fraud by a computer-based unemployment benefits system.... [Read Full Story]

West Michigan Woman Becomes Hand Transplant Donor

A Norton Shores woman who died in September has become the first hand transplant donor for Michigan’s federally designated organ and tissue donation program. The Detroit News reports that 21-year-old Shayna Sturtevant died after
developing a brain abscess stemming from an ear infection. She was a registered eye, organ and tissue donor. MLive reports that Sturtevant’s parents granted special permission necessary for the hand transplant to go forward. Sturtevant’s kidneys, lungs, pancreas and liver were also donated for transplants. Officials from Gift of Life say the transplant was successful, but that the organization doesn’t release details about recipients. According to United Network for Organ Sharing, 30 people have received hand transplants, including 18 single-hand transplants and 12 double-hand transplants, in the United States since 1999.... [Read Full Story]

Kalamazoo Beer Week Starts This Weekend

It’s time once again for Kalamazoo Beer Week. The fun kicks off officially Saturday, but many local breweries will be holding special events Friday. Brian Steele, with Boatyard Brewing, tells us there will be all sorts of special events to celebrate west Michigan’s strong beer culture, including a cornhole tournament.... [Read Full Story]

Two MSP Troopers From Paw Paw Honored

Two Michigan State Police troopers who serve out of the Paw Paw post have been honored with an award in Lansing. Troopers Steve Shiel and Paul Plangger have been given the Corporal Samuel A. Mapes Criminal Patrol and Investigation Award for their work on southwest Michigan highways and in communities. The MSP gives out that award each year to troopers who “look past the traffic stop” to get proactive in stopping crimes. Troopers Shiel and Plangger now get to wear a special ribbon on their uniforms, and they’ll be given first crack at driving a couple of commemorative cruisers coming to the post as part of the state police 100th anniversary.... [Read Full Story]

Legislature Begins New Term

Michigan lawmakers have commenced a new two-year term. A veteran Republican senator on Wednesday planned to quickly propose eliminating the state income tax – a proposal that’s unlikely to be embraced by Governor Rick Snyder but which could prompt discussions about a cut in the tax. New leaders take the helm of the House, where representatives are taking the oath of office and picking seats. Republicans will again control the agenda in both chambers. It’s a day of pomp, swearings-in and proud moments for new House members and their families. Lawmakers will meet next week to hear the Republican governor’s State of the State address. His budget proposal is expected in February and will be based on numbers to be set Thursday at a revenue-estimating meeting.... [Read Full Story]

Benton Harbor Natives Killed In Atlanta Crash

Police in Atlanta, Georgia say three people from Benton Harbor are dead following a crash over the weekend. It happened Sunday when the car they were in hit a utility police and then burst into flames. Killed were 36-year old Joi Whaley Barnes, along with a man identified as her boyfriend, and another woman who has not yet been identified. Whaley was the sister of former NBA star Robert Whaley. Staff at Harbor Shores, where Whaley’s mother works, have launched a GoFundMe to help the family.... [Read Full Story]

Arrest Made In Theft Of Toys For Tots Jar

An arrest has been made in the theft of a Toys for Tots donation jar in Cass County last month. On December 12, Dowagiac police were called to a Shell Mart station after a man made off with the jar. Police posted surveillance photos of the suspect to social media, leading to a whole lot of tips from the public. That eventually led them to 30-year-old Michael Ted Doane, of Laporte, Indiana. He’s now charged with felony larceny in a building, which could get him up to four years in prison. Police thank everyone who offered them tips to catch the Grinch.... [Read Full Story]