7 married couples from ultra-Orthodox Jewish community accused of welfare fraud

Seven married couples from the same New Jersey shore town, including a rabbi and his wife, now face charges that they misrepresented their income to get a combined $2 million in public welfare benefits they weren’t entitled to.

Three couples were arrested late Tuesday in Lakewood after four couples, including Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin, of Congregation Lutzk, and his wife, Tzipporah, were arrested Monday.

The three couples – Yitzchock and Sora Kanarek; Chaim and Liatt Ehrman; and William and Faigy Friedman – were released without bail after appearing through video conference in state court Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

Prosecutors say the three couples misrepresented their income and then collected more than $674,000 in benefits. They say the couples failed to disclose income from numerous sources on applications for Medicaid, housing, Social Security and food assistance benefits.

The state and federal investigation centers on Lakewood, which is home to a large and growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Yitzchock Kanarek previously ran a school in Lakewood for special-needs students that closed in 2015 after facing more than $250,000 in federal and state tax liens, according to public records.

“It really bothers me when people take advantage of programs like this,” Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles told the Asbury Park Press. “I have a waiting list of Section 8 (housing assistance) vouchers of maybe 2,000 families that really need it. I hate to see things like this.”

Duvi Honig, who leads the Lakewood-based Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper that thousands of Jewish families in Lakewood need public assistance but some are tempted to take more than they need.

“The pressure of the community overhead – especially the (cost of) private schooling – is unsustainable,” he said. “People are forced to find ways to bend the system.”

Lakewood is the state’s fastest growing town and has more than 100 private religious schools. The population increase has intensified concern over how public money is spent and sparked complaints from neighboring communities that say they face overly aggressive solicitation from real estate agents looking to find homes for the Jewish community.

The town had nearly 93,000 residents in 2010, up from about 32,000 more than a decade earlier, according to census figures. Lakewood officials estimate the population is now closer to 120,000 residents.

In the arrests Monday, the Sorotzkins were charged with collecting more than $338,000 in benefits prosecutors say they weren’t entitled to. Their attorney said they will plead not guilty.

They were charged in state court along with Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin, who prosecutors said collected more than $585,000 in benefits they weren’t entitled to.

Zalmen Sorotzkin’s brother, Mordechai, and his wife, Rachel, were one of two couples charged in separate federal complaints with conspiring to fraudulently obtain Medicaid benefits.

They made more than $1 million in 2012 and in 2013, the complaint alleges, but still received more than $96,000 in Medicaid benefits, including $22,000 to pay for medical expenses when their sixth child was born in November 2013.

“Everything is going to work out and all will be vindicated,” said Rachel Sorotzkin’s attorney, Fred Zemel.

According to a federal complaint, Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum hid their income by creating companies that were run by relatives on paper but that the couple actually controlled. They made a total of $1.8 million in 2013, but still received Medicaid, food benefits and housing assistance into 2014, prosecutors said.


With Gaza ailing, PA accused of slashing medical aid by nearly 90%

The feud between Palestinian factions that has led to an electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip has also brought about a serve shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the Hamas-run enclave, a rights watchdog said this week, detailing a worsening humanitarian situation.

According to information given to Physicians for Human Rights (PHRI) Israel by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, “one-third of essential medicines and more than 270 medical equipment items for operating rooms and intensive care units can no longer be obtained in the Health Ministry’s storerooms and in Gaza hospitals.“

The organization said the cause of the shortages is the Palestinian Authority’s slashing of funds sent to Gaza, including for healthcare operations and medical supplies.

The PA, according to information given to PHRI, used to pay $4 million monthly for the regular operations of 13 government hospitals and 54 primary care centers. In April it was down to $2.3 million, and in May it fell to just $500,000, the organization said.

In April, the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas who said Ramallah is slashing the health care budget for Gaza as part of the series of measures meant to coerce Hamas to relinquish some control of the Strip and give it back to the PA.

“We realize this sounds cruel, but in the end, after 10 years of the split and Hamas rule in the Strip, [Hamas] must decide whether it will control things in every sense, including ongoing expenses, or let the Palestinian government rule,” the adviser said.

On Sunday, Israeli ministers decided to heed a request by Abbas to slash the amount of electricity provided to Gaza, significantly ramping up tensions with Hamas, which warned the move could lead to an outbreak of violence.

Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if the group didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.

With the cuts, the amount of power the Strip’s 2 million residents receive will be cut by around 45-60 minutes a day from the 4-6 hours they currently get.

The power cuts could hit hospitals particularly hard, with little fuel to keep emergency generators running.

The silhouette of Palestinian boy is seen on their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on April 19, 2017. (Mahmud Hums/AFP)

According to a Gaza health ministry document given to The Times of Israel by PHRI, the stocks of fuel to power hospital generators will run out by mid-July.

The monthly average fuel needed to meet the demand for the ministry’s hospitals, the document states, is 430,000 liters per month, costing approximately $450,000.

According to the physicians group, there is also a severe lack of medicines and equipment in the Palestinian enclave.

PHRI, quoting statistics from the Hamas-run ministry, said most cancer patients are not able to receive proper treatment because of shortfalls.

One of the hardest hit groups due to the medicine shortage are 321 patients suffering from the chronic lung disease of cystic fibrosis, mostly children, who can’t get the relevant pills and vitamins.

“In the Gaza Strip, there are 321 patients who require 40,000 Creon pills, but the storerooms are completely empty and the supply level reached zero,” said Ashraf A-Shanti, Chair of the Association of Cystic Fibrosis Patients in Gaza, according to a statement released by PHRI.

The electricity crisis in the Strip also means the patients cannot use their breathing regulating devices due to the frequent power failures.

In addition, some 240 infants with developmental deficits have no more access to therapeutic milk formula, to treat complicated severe acute malnutrition, which “is essential to the infants’ physiological and cognitive development,” PHRI said.

A newborn is seen inside an incubator at the neonatal intensive care unit at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on April 23, 2017. (Said Khatib/AFP)

PHRI Executive Director Ran Goldstein told The Times of Israel on Monday that he believes Israel is also partly responsible for the current crises in Gaza.

“The responsibility is not only on one side.The fact that the PA isn’t transferring funding for the health system is their responsibility, but the fact that Israel still controls, together with Egypt, every port in Gaza…imports and exports, it still has a lot of responsibility,” he said.

“Israel can choose a better approach that can save innocent people from dying,” he added.

The Jewish state, he said, can provide funds, medicines, electric power and open Gaza to the outside world for “urgent” humanitarian help.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the Strip, which Jerusalem says is needed to keep materials that could be used for terror activity or in fighting against Israel. The border authority allows in humanitarian goods and also gives some Gazans permits to enter Israel for medical care.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry Branch that deals with Palestinian Civilian Affairs, emphasized “the list of equipment entering Gaza is run by the Palestinian Authority and is decided in accordance to their considerations.”

COGAT argued that Israel works in the background “to promote civil policies in order to assist the residents of Gaza.”

This, despite the fact, COGAT said, Hamas “continuously attempts to take advantage of the civil steps promoted by Israel,” including using the permits given to Gazans “to transfer terror funds, weapons, instructions and intelligence to perform terror attacks in Israel.”

According to COGAT, in 2016, 30,768 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical attention. In 2017, so far, 13,530 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical attention, and in June that number is 732.

In April, the Shin bet security service said it had caught two sisters, one of whom is a cancer sufferer, attempting to sneak explosives from the Strip into Israel, disguising it in medicine.

Nearly 900 ‘at risk of death’

Gaza’s health ministry spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al Qidra warned Monday of “dangerous consequences for the sick and general public health” in Gaza should the reduction in electricity take place.

Gazan Jumana Daoud carries her 7-month-old daughter Maryam at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on February 20, 2017, as they meet for the first time since the baby's premature birth. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

According to the ministry’s document given to The Times of Israel by PHRI, 212 ICU and NICU patients as well as another 647 patients on hemodialysis “are at risk of death” due to the power shortages.

In Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, according to the document, over 1,000 “elective” surgeries are currently postponed.

Gazans are also dependent on water desalination plants to provide them with drinking water. Without power, the operation of these plants will be further compromised.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant, who is a member of the Israeli security cabinet, told The Times of Israel during a briefing with reporters on Monday that Israel is “willing to get any kind of support” from the international community to ease the humanitarian crisis.

“We have to make sure there is enough water and medicine in the Gaza Strip. We are doing our best,” he said, without elaborating on what exactly Israel is doing.

Alan Dershowitz (Kike) explains why he is assisting a group accused of promoting female genital mutilation

Alan Dershowitz

(JTA) — Alan Dershowitz is advising a Muslim group accused of promoting female genital mutilation to instead adopt a variation of the Jewish circumcision ritual.

Dershowitz, the retired Harvard law professor who has worked on a number of high-profile cases, was hired recently as a consultant to a team defending two Detroit-area doctors and a wife one of the doctors who are charged with conspiring to perform female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota.

The Associated Press first reported that Dershowitz and a Michigan-based defense attorney, Mayer Morganroth, were hired by Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an international organization representing a small Shia Muslim sect.

Dershowitz will not be representing the defendants in court. On Monday, he told JTA that he is advising the group as to how its followers can fulfill its religious legal obligations while protecting the rights of young girls and staying within the bounds of U.S. law. Dershowitz stressed that he opposes female genital mutilation, which often involves the removal of parts or all of a girl’s labia or clitoris.

Instead, Dershowitz is advising the group to adopt a ritual in which the girl undergoing the rite will receive a pinprick that draws a drop of blood from the clitoral hood. Men who convert to Judaism and have already been circumcised undergo a similar ritual, called “hatafat dam brit,” which is the basis for Dershowitz’s suggestion.

“I am categorically opposed to female genital mutilation and I agreed to consult with this group in order to help end it,” Dershowitz said. “If that happens, it will be a win-win. It will help protect young girls and it will help protect religious rights.”

Dershowitz, whose high-profile clients included O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow, has recently challenged critics of President Donald Trump who claim the president should be charged with obstructing justice if testimony by former FBI Director James Comey is true.

In his interview with JTA, Dershowitz clarified that he opposes many of Trump’s actions, but that the president has the legal authority to stop the FBI investigation into conversations that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had with the Russian ambassador. Comey testified that he felt “directed” by Trump to do just that.

On Friday, Trump retweeted a tweet by Dershowitz saying, “We should stop talking about obstruction of justice. No plausible case. We must distinguish crimes from pol[itical] sins.”

Dershowitz said he doesn’t like the fact that Trump fired Comey nor had a private meeting with the former FBI chief.

“I’m not defending Trump or the administration,” he said. “I’m defending civil liberties. I don’t want to see statutes expanded beyond all reason.”

We should stop talking about obstruction of justice. No plausible case. We must distinguish crimes from pol sins 

Photo published for Dershowitz: No Plausible Case That Trump Obstructed Justice

Dershowitz: No Plausible Case That Trump Obstructed Justice

Alan Dershowitz reminded everyone that President Trump could have just pardoned former national security advisor Michael Flynn and stopped the FBI’s investigation into Flynn’s conversations with the…


Jewish group gets information on mass graves with appeal on radio station accused of anti-Semitism

(JTA) — A Jewish group’s appeal led hundreds of radio listeners to provide information about mass graves and burial sites of Jews to a Catholic radio station that has been accused of promoting anti-Semitism.

Some 300 calls have been received by the call center at Poland’s Radio Maryja with information about sites of mass executions of Jews, stolen tombstones and unknown hiding places of Jews during the Holocaust, according to the From the Depths group, which made the appeal for information last week and again Wednesday on Radio Maryja.

The hosting at Radio Maryja’s studios of Jonny Daniels, the London-born Israeli Jew who founded the From the Depths group in 2013, follows a controversy over a visit last year by the station’s director, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, to the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw.

Rydzyk spoke there with Ambassador Anna Azari in a meeting that liberal watchdog groups said was inappropriate in light of accusations that Radio Maryja and Rydzyk personally promote anti-Semitic hate speech.

According to a U.S. State Department report from 2008, “Radio Maryja is one of Europe’s most blatantly anti-Semitic media venues.” A Council of Europe report stated that Radio Maryja has been “openly inciting to anti-Semitism for several years.”

In July 2007, Rydzyk was recorded making “a number of anti-Semitic slurs,” the report also stated. Rydzyk said Jews were pushing the Polish government to pay exorbitant private property restitution claims, and that Poland’s president was “in the pocket of the Jewish lobby,” according to the report.

Daniels disagrees with individuals and groups that believe this background should preclude cooperation by Jewish groups with Radio Maryja.

“More often than not this so-called Polish anti-Semitism is based on a lack of knowledge and openness,” Daniels said.

He was interviewed on Radio Maryja, which has millions of listeners, for the first at the end of 2016. Daniels’ group has received some 200 emails and phone calls with information on execution and burial sites, which the group attempts to preserve.

In a statement, Rydzyk claimed the airing of content that is deemed anti-Semitic by his radio station represents its commitment to free speech.

“After 50 years of communism, our radio is the only live radio in Poland where whoever wants can call and be put on air, every opinion is welcome. This creates an honesty and openness,” he said. “Sometimes there are controversial opinions, but we still let people talk.”

Trump’s Latest Appointee Was Accused of Sexually Assaulting Male Students — 5 TIMES
By Matt Agorist

Washington, D.C. — Earlier this year, President Donald Trump promised to seek out sexual predators and those who are participating in the “human trafficking epidemic” and bring them to task. However, his recent actions in the White House appear to be doing the exact opposite.

Last week, the Free Thought Project reported on Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta. As TFTP noted, former U.S. Representative, Cynthia McKinney, is none too pleased with this confirmation, tweeting shortly after the news,

“He (Acosta) let Jeffrey Epstein off pedophilia charges with a wristslap; now he’s Trump’s SecLabor….”

Epstein is a convicted child molester and sexually abused no less than 40 underage girls. Despite this fact, Acosta protected him while serving as a U.S. Attorney in Florida.

These are undisputed facts — yet Trump still appointed Acosta.

Acosta’s appointment should come as no surprise, given Trump’s outspoken praise for Epstein, including referring to the convicted pedophile as a “terrific guy,” he is “fun to be with,” and “he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Giving Trump the benefit of the doubt with Acosta would be easier had he not made those comments. It would also be easier to overlook if he didn’t just appoint another alleged sexual predator to his cabinet.

According to ProPublica, a political appointee hired by the Trump administration for a significant State Department role was accused of multiple sexual assaults as a student several years ago at The Citadel military college.

Steven Munoz was hired by the Trump administration as assistant chief of visits, and has been accused of sexually assaulting male students — not once — but at least five times.

As ProPublica reports, at The Citadel, five male freshmen alleged that Munoz used his positions as an upperclassman, class president and head of the campus Republican Society to grope them. In one incident, a student reported waking up with Munoz on top of him, kissing him and grabbing his genitals. In another, on a trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a student said that Munoz jumped on him in bed and he “felt jerking and bouncing on my back.”

“Munoz coerced, threatened, and convinced me to allow inappropriate touching, grabbing, and kissing by leading me to believe it was what I needed to do to gain acceptance in the corps of cadets,” one accuser said in their statement. “He threatened to call my upperclassmen who would be upset if I did not comply with him.”

Another victim described how Munoz “instructed me to sit on his bed during these meetings. … After a few meetings he began to rub my leg with his hand. He moved his hand under my shorts and the first time I pushed his hand off my leg he said he was just playing and that he did it with his other knobs so I shouldn’t mind. I had seen this in the past and when I asked my classmates about the interaction, they said when they resisted, he yelled at them for not trusting him and Mr. Munoz made them stay longer in his room.”

In another meeting, Munoz “put his other hand down my underwear until I again pushed him away, but he did not stop. He said as a new leader I had to learn to trust other leaders on the team and this was how I should show him I trusted him.” Munoz said “he read the Bible and knew what it said and I should not question his love of God. He continued to rub my leg and rub my private area. … He said this needed to stay between us and dismissed me.”

In spite of an investigation finding that these assaults “likely occurred,” a local prosecutor reviewed the case and declined to go after Munoz. Instead of charging Munoz with assault, he was let off with a warning only to be given several awards for “leadership, sound character, and service to others” upon graduating in 2011.

After he graduated, even more students came forward. These claims prompted an investigation by police. After the investigation by police in 2012, Munoz was banned from campus and all students were sent an email notifying them of this ban.

In spite of the Citadel investigation finding that  “certain assaults likely occurred,” Munoz was able to weasel his way back onto the campus. Later that year, ProPublica writes, the school partially rescinded the no-trespass order, “permitting general access to public facilities and events, but no direct cadet interactions.” Asked why, the school pointed to the prosecutor’s decision not to seek indictments.

Despite the very public allegations of sexual assault, in 2012, staunch Christian, and RINO, Rick Santorum found no problem hiring Munoz either.

BuzzFeed reported that Munoz “ran Santorum’s presidential campaign’s advance team,” and, more recently, that Munoz was paid for event planning for the Romney presidential campaign, on two occasions this summer.

So how does a five-time accused sexual predator find his way on to the Trump train? Well, the answer to that question is fairly simple.

As Vice News points out, the Trump administration is no stranger to allegations of assault. Aside from his “grab ’em by the pussy” comment, the president himself has been formerly accused of sexual assault in court. In the 1980s, Trump’s former pick for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, was accused of domestic abuse, and Steve Bannon was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in 2001, although the case was later dropped.

As the Free Thought Project reported last month, during Trump’s presidential run last year, Judge Tim Nolan of California, Kentucky, was serving as the chair of his campaign. In April, Nolan was arrested and charged with numerous felonies for the sex trafficking of children — all which took place while he worked on the Trump campaign.

Children and the vulnerable, take note: steer clear of the Trump swamp as you may be raped, abused, or otherwise sold into sex slavery by many of the people with which the president chooses to surround himself.

This article originally appeared on The Free Thought Project.

US files charges against teen accused of JCC bomb threats

The US Department of Justice said on Friday it had filed charges against an Israeli-American teenager accused of making over 200 bomb threats against mainly Jewish institutions in the United States.

The teen, whose identity remains under gag order in Israel, was arrested last month in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon after a joint investigation by Israeli and US authorities, including the FBI.

On Thursday an Israeli court extended his remand until April 24.

The 18-year-old living in Israel left scores of messages graphically describing children’s deaths in calls to Jewish community centers and schools across the United States, using an online calling service to disguise his voice as a woman and hide his identity, according to the federal indictment filed Friday in Florida.

He was charged with 28 counts of making threatening calls and conveying false information to police, according to the indictment filed in federal court in Orlando.

Separately, he was charged with three more counts of making threatening calls, conveying false information and cyberstalking in an indictment filed in federal court in Athens, Georgia.

The calls to the Jewish community centers and schools stoked fears of rising anti-Semitism and led to campus evacuations.

Online federal court records in Florida showed no attorney listed for the suspect.

The Florida indictment said that he made 245 threatening calls, most of them to Jewish community centers and schools, from January to March, using an online calling service that disguised his voice and allowed him to hide his identity. He recorded each of the calls himself and kept them in organized files at his home in Ashkelon, along with news articles describing the police responses to the threats, the indictment said.

He also paid for the online calls using the semi-anonymous currency Bitcoin. A large antenna at his apartment building allowed him to make long-distance, outdoor wireless connections, the indictment said.

The Florida indictment said recordings of the calls stripped of the software-enabled disguise revealed a speech impediment in the caller’s voice that matched his.

The Georgia indictment connects him to several incidents of “swatting” in which authorities are called to respond to an emergency that ends up being fake. The indictment alleges that in January the University of Georgia Police Department received a phone call about a home invasion that ended up being untrue.

The JCC Association of North America said in a statement that it welcomed the charges and that it was “enormously proud of the extraordinary commitment to safety and security” at the community centers.

“Today’s charges into these violent threats to Jewish Community Centers and others represent this Department’s commitment to fighting all forms of violent crime,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “These threats of violence instilled terror in Jewish and other communities across this country and our investigation into these acts as possible hate crimes continues.”

FBI Director James Comey added: “This kind of behavior is not a prank, and it isn’t harmless. It’s a federal crime. It scares innocent people, disrupts entire communities, and expends limited law enforcement resources. The FBI thanks our partners for working with us here at home and around the world.”

The suspect, said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth E. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, “allegedly took extraordinary steps to conceal his identity and location through several technological means, including voice alteration, use of proxy IP addresses, virtual currencies and caller ID spoofing.”

A wave of bomb threats to American Jewish institutions since the start of the year helped spread fear amid an apparent increase in hate crimes and anti-Semitic acts in the United States. Some said that the rise of Donald Trump as US president encouraged the extreme right and emboldened hate groups.

Shira Nir, a lawyer of an American-Israeli teenager suspected of calling in fake bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the world, shows the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court what she says is an image of a cancerous growth in her client's brain, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

The arrest of a Jewish teenager over dozens of the threats complicated the debate, however.

He is also alleged to have made threatening phone calls over the past two to three years targeting schools and other public institutions in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition, Israeli police say he is suspected of a bomb threat to Delta Airlines in February 2015 that led to an emergency landing.

His lawyer has said that he has a brain tumor and suffers from autism. His parents have also argued that he is unfit to stand trial, though they have apologized for his alleged actions.

During Thursday’s remand hearing, the teenager’s parents asked the court to replace their son’s attorney with a public defender, but the defendant insisted that his current lawyer, Shira Nir, remain on the case, Channel 10 reported. The court ruled that Nir should remain the suspect’s counsel.

“After I saw documents related to the suspect’s past, I decided to ask his parents to bring a private psychiatrist to the prison, in order to help clarify that he is not fit for detention,” Nir told Channel 10. She said the suspect’s father refused to pay for a private psychiatrist and subsequently asked the court to replace her with a public defender.

Former teacher accused of kidnapping ‘troubled’ teenager captured at a remote California cabin


During the nearly six weeks that Tad Cummins and 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas were missing, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received more than 1,500 tips.

Late Wednesday night, the tip they were desperately hoping for finally arrived.

It came from a caller who told investigators that the 50-year-old Cummins and the teenager he is accused of abducting might be living in a remote cabin near Cecilville, Calif., a onetime mining town about 100 miles from the Oregon border.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference Thursday afternoon, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said investigators quickly coordinated with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, which was able to locate a silver Nissan Rogue belonging to Cummins and keep the vehicle under surveillance for several hours.

“The area where the pair was reported to be is a very remote, isolated area with no or limited cellphone services,” DeVine said. “As daylight broke this morning, they were able to take Tad Cummins into custody and safely recover Elizabeth without incident.”

Authorities said Elizabeth was physically unharmed, but they declined to comment on her emotional well-being or where the pair has been since they vanished last month.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn said Elizabeth will be flown back to Tennessee in a TBI aircraft to be reunited with her family. At the same time, he noted, investigators from TBI, the FBI and the Maury County Sheriff’s Office are on their way to Northern California to continue their investigation.

NEW: Here’s the mug shot of Tad Cummins from California. He’s now facing state and federal charges.

Gwyn said Cummins — who is being held by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department without bond — faces charges that “could keep him behind bars for many years.”

“What happened in California this morning, however, proves it only takes one person to lead to a successful end,” he added. “We are extremely thankful the hard work of all partners in this search has paid off. We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.”

Once Cummins is extradited to Tennessee, he will be charged with sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping, authorities said.

Acting U.S. attorney Jack Smith said his office had also filed a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for criminal sexual intercourse — a charge that carries a minimum 10 year sentence.

Anthony Thomas, Elizabeth’s father, told NBC affiliate WSMV-TV that he wasn’t surprised that they were in the northwest and said he’d heard the pair were in a commune.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “She’s probably going to be hungry.”

“We’re going to have to figure out what kind of state of mind she’s in, of course, and probably get her some help,” he said. “Maybe a long road, but at least we’ve got her back.”

Maury County Public Schools also issued statement Thursday, calling Elizabeth’s return “wonderful news for our community.”

“Thanks go to all who have kept the message of finding Elizabeth Thomas and working on her safe return as top-of-mind throughout the nation,” it said.

The teen and Cummins — a 50-year-old from Middle Tennessee — had been missing since March 13, when an Amber Alert was issued. Cummins was Elizabeth’s high school teacher at Culleoka Unit School.

“Investigative efforts have revealed a troubling pattern of behavior by Tad Cummins, suggesting the 50-year-old may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her,” the agency said in a statewide Amber Alert.

“Having now been on the run for more than five days, Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere,” the agency said last month.

On March 13, video surveillance at a Columbia gas station showed Cummins filling up his silver Nissan Rogue. A short time later, investigators say, he drove to a Shoney’s restaurant, where Elizabeth had been dropped off by a friend and was waiting. Investigators said they think he manipulated her into leaving with him, but he wasn’t authorized to take a minor, and she wasn’t old enough to consent. That afternoon, investigators say, they determined Elizabeth was 80 miles away in Decatur, Ala.


Then, nothing. After their disappearance, investigators said they had received hundreds of tips from 24 states, but not enough information to tighten the dragnet despite a multi-state manhunt and Cummins’s addition to Tennessee’s most-wanted list.

In a news release, the TBI said Cummins might be keeping Elizabeth out of sight of authorities, possibly sleeping in his car or in a rural community.

Last month, the agency released new images of Cummins in an effort to keep the case in the spotlight. The pictures were from a week before Cummins and Elizabeth disappeared, and they showed him wearing a camouflage cap and pushing a shopping cart at a store.

Accused San Bernardino Shooter’s Facebook Fawning Disguised Homicidal Rage


At the start, the photographs, the Facebook postings, the video — it all looked so, so right. Godly even. At least that’s the way Cedric Anderson depicted it.

Anderson wrote as if he and his vibrant, striking bride — school teacher Karen Smith — had been destined for each other. The evidence appeared in his frequent Facebook postings: a gentle wedding kiss, the video of the newly married couple cooing at the camera over a sumptuous dinner, then more baby talk and snuggling during their honeymoon in Sedona, Arizona. He called himself “blessed.”

But all that would resonate with painful incongruity after Monday’s horrific shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, California — with 53-year-old Smith and one of her 8-year-old students killed, her husband of less than three months dead of an apparent self-inflicted gun shot and another student, 9, in stable condition, according to authorities.

Before Monday’s deadly outburst, most of what appeared in Anderson’s Facebook-curated world seemed just right, belying what police described as the couple’s estrangement.

They had been together for several years, but Smith grew terrified of Anderson, her family said. She never filed a police report, but went into hiding, keeping the details of their marital troubles under wraps.

“She didn’t deserve to die like this, she didn’t. She deserved better,” son Adam Smith told NBC Los Angeles.

“Personally, she was my rock, my best friend and my world,” added daughter Jennifer Smith.

Related: Student, Teacher Dead in ‘Murder-Suicide’ at Elementary School

Anderson seemed to share a similar view. Three weeks after their Jan. 28 wedding, the smitten husband described a nearly perfect two days. It began with a visit to Saddleback Church in Orange County, where Anderson, 53, routinely found inspiration in the form of evangelical pastor Rick Warren. In a jean jacket, brilliant orange dress and wide smile, the seemingly content Karen posed in front of a waterfall and the “Prayer Tree.”

In a video posted to his Facebook page, the newly minted husband rhapsodized about the time that followed: “Last night, cuddling, listening to the rain after watching my wife choice (girly movie.) This morning ‘BAM!’ Breakfast is served! I love this lady!”

A day earlier, he had typed out an even more effusive tribute: “My wife Karen is such a pure spirit,” wrote Anderson, who posted multiple videos of himself touring around a plant where he appeared to work. “She has no guile or pretense. She has no ill will toward anyone. (It amazes me!) … I praise God for such a wonderful Lady!”

Image: Karen Smith and Cedric Anderson
Karen Smith and Cedric Anderson via Facebook

There are no obvious signs in Anderson’s busy Facebook feed of a rift in the union during the two months that followed, before the shooting. At least not in Anderson’s mostly-gauzy social media prescribed world. He called his wife “sexy” and “an angel” and seemed to covet their time together, as in an early February post when — fresh off their Sedona honeymoon — he noted that even his wife’s work as a teacher provided a surprise bonus: “We have to visit the museums! And I just happen to love museums!”

But Anderson’s social media persona was not without hints, at least in a couple of videos, that the alleged shooter seemed to be drawn to violent imagery.

On March 12, he posted a more than two-minute New York Post video of a man making an unprovoked attack on an elderly woman — the attacker beginning his assault with a kick to the victim’s head. The story came with the headline: “Can you hear me now?” Anderson’s offered it without much explanation, just this: “Deranged? Yea!”

Feb. 20 brought an expression of Anderson’s apparently aggressive worldview. Titled “The sacrifices of a Father,” the alleged shooter wrote of how he had driven 500 miles in one day and eventually applied to 50 colleges, as his son sought a college football scholarship. He said that he “almost personally attacked 3 Coaches to get my son Jared a scholarship,” adding, “A father is like a lion. He will kill you for his Blood!” And this: “A real man must be willing to submit to his father!”

In more than one other Facebook missive, Anderson touted admonitions from a woman pastor who he appeared to follow closely. In a late February post, he strikes out against those who he suggests have stood in his path. The writing begins with the hashtag “Enemies” and hammers the unnamed individuals who “call around and block you, outright lie on you, build alliances against you, compete with you, out do you and more.”

The post goes on to quote the words of the favored minister, saying that “THIS is the year” that things will change, continuing: “(You can mark THESE here words and TAKE THEM TO THE BANK), BEFORE the year is out, your enemies will have retreated. WHY? Because your CONTINUED victories have left them bruised, battered, and scorned.”

Anderson’s darker writings — replete with anger, alienation and predictions of his ultimate triumph — seemed hard to square with the ones from the effusive newlywed, a man who had filled his Facebook page with sunny aphorisms. “It’s hard to beat a person who NEVER GIVES UP,” Anderson said, quoting Babe Ruth.

Just 41 days later, police say, Anderson walked into North Park Elementary School at about 10:30 a.m. and told the front office that he had to drop something off to his wife. He quickly opened fire in a classroom of 15 students. An 8-year-old boy standing behind the gunman’s wife was fatally shot, and a 9-year-old who was also wounded was rushed to a hospital.

His principal target, Karen Smith, the woman who he once said fulfilled all of his dreams, was dead. Anderson also lay dead on the ground. His .357 Magnum was found by his side.

St. Louis man accused of 8 bomb threats in plot against ex pleads not guilty to cyberstalking

NEW YORK (JTA) — A St. Louis man accused of making eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions, allegedly in a plot to take revenge on a former romantic partner, pleaded not guilty to cyberstalking.

Juan Thompson, 31, made his plea on Monday in a New York City federal court, BuzzFeed reported.

He is facing cyberstalking charges for threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League, which federal prosecutors say were copycat crimes during a wave of nearly 150 bomb threats to Jewish institutions since the beginning of the year.

Thompson, who has worked as a journalist, reportedly made some of the threats in the name of a former romantic partner he had been cyberstalking and some on his own in an attempt to portray himself as the victim of a frame-up.

He was arrested March 3 for the threats, which carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Bail had been denied at the time of his arrest.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation complaint says Thompson threatened institutions including the ADL, JCCs in San Diego and New York City, schools in New York and Michigan, and a Jewish history museum in New York City.

Nearly three weeks later after Thompson’s arrest, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel for allegedly making the bulk of the threats.

U.S. diplomat arrested, accused of conspiracy with Chinese intelligence agents

A longtime State Department employee was arrested Wednesday and charged with repeatedly lying about her contacts with Chinese businessmen who had plied her with thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to glean inside information about U.S. economic policy, U.S. officials said.

Candace Claiborne, 60, has training in Mandarin and a top secret clearance. She worked for the department for 18 years, rotating on assignments in China, Sudan, Libya, Morocco and most recently in Washington in the department’s office of Caucasus affairs.

The case offers a window into Beijing’s efforts to gain an advantage in its economic jockeying with the United States, and how business owners in China often double as agents for state intelligence.

While stationed in China in 2007, Claiborne began dealings with two Chinese businessmen, including a Shanghai importer — not identified in the documents — who federal authorities believe was gathering information for Chinese state security.

“Clairborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit,” said a statement by Mary B. McCord, acting assistant attorney general for national security.

In 2011, the importer wired $2,500 to Claiborne’s U.S. account and a month later asked her for information about how the U.S. government was evaluating economic negotiations with Beijing, the affidavit says. She responded with publicly available information.

“What they are looking for is what they cannot find on the Internet,” the businessman responded, according to the affidavit.

Claiborne received about $3,000 cash for herself, authorities say. Most of the rest of the gifts went to a younger family member who was not identified. He wanted to study fashion in China but Claiborne could not afford it on her State Department salary, officials said.

The relative received plane tickets, dinners, an apartment and tuition at the Raffles Design Institute in Shanghai, the affidavit says. When he was charged with a serious crime in China in 2013, the two businessmen helped him leave the country, a sign of their influence, the government says.

Worried that she could get in trouble, Claiborne asked the younger relative to cut ties with the men, authorities said. “I really don’t want my neck or your neck in a noose regarding another party/person that has made this possible for you,” she wrote at one point, according to the affidavit.

In interviews with State Department and law enforcement officials, Claiborne repeatedly failed to report the contacts.

Two months ago, the FBI sent an undercover ethnic Chinese agent to her door pretending to seek assistance. He mentioned the names of the businessmen and identified himself as an agent of Chinese intelligence.

Claiborne didn’t deny her previous work, but refused to help him or accept his money, authorities say. She did not report the encounter.

Later, upon questioning by the FBI, Claiborne acknowledged that she eventually realized the two were trying to get information for the government. She said she also passed them information about a dissident who was living at the U.S. Embassy, but insisted that she always provided unclassified information.

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