Webb Running for School Board — Former candidate for Congress Mike Webb says he’s running for Arlington School Board against incumbent James Lander. “Every problem that we face in Arlington’s public schools can find a solution in opening public charter schools,” Webb wrote in a Facebook post. [Blue Virginia]
Handbag Schemer Led Lavish Lifestyle — Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, the Arlington resident who was just sentenced to 30 months in prison for a fake handbag scheme, led a lavish jet-setting lifestyle that she documented on Instagram while perpetrating the $1 million fraud. [The Sun, Daily Mail]
Metro Installing More WiFi — After a six-station pilot program, Metro has announced that it will be installing public WiFi at all of its underground stations. The work is expected to begin this summer and wrap up by the end of 2018. [The Hill]
VHC to Expand Mental Health Facilities — Virginia Hospital Center is being pushed to expand its behavioral and mental health facilities as part of a proposed expansion of the hospital. Currently, the facilities are located in the hospital’s basement and only include 18 beds. There are an estimated 6,000 people with serious mental illness in Arlington County. [InsideNova]
Arlington Suicide Prevention Survey — Arlington is conducting an online survey about the county’s suicide prevention resources and services. [SurveyMonkey]
Photo courtesy Mark T.
An Arlington woman arrested earlier this year for a counterfeit handbag fraud has been sentenced to jail time.
Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Praepitcha Smatsorabudh would buy luxury handbags online, then return high-quality knockoff handbags to the store while selling the real bag online, netting big profits in the process
She was sentenced today to 30 months in prison and more than $800,000 in forfeiture and restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
More from a press release:
Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, 41, of Arlington, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for running a multiyear scheme to defraud department stores across the country. Smatsorabudh was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $403,250.81 in forfeiture and the same amount in restitution to her victims.
Smatsorabudh pleaded guilty to wire fraud on August 3. According to court documents, Smatsorabudh bought brand name purses online and then returned in their place counterfeit purses, which were smuggled into the country from China. She then sold the authentic purses on Instagram for more than $2,000 each. In order to avoid detection, Smatsorabudh made fraudulent returns at over 60 department store locations in 12 states. In total, her scheme defrauded department stores out of more than $400,000.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer prosecuted the case.
Willbrod Frank Lukamilwa, 42, is accused of using a friend’s credit cards after stealing them from her home near Columbia Pike.
He has also falsely represented himself as a medical professional to defraud victims hoping to obtain employment, police say.
ACPD issued the following press release Tuesday morning.
The Arlington County Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit is investigating a suspect charged in a fraud case and are seeking additional victims. Willbrod Frank Lukamilwa aka Frank Wilbert Ramaphosa, 42, of an unknown address, has been arrested and charged with unlawful entry, credit card larceny, and credit card fraud.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on November 28, officers responded to the 2500 block of S. 9th Road for the report of a burglary in progress. Through the course of the investigation, officers determined that the suspect, Willbrod Frank Lukamilwa, had unlawfully entered the female victim’s apartment while she was away. He had befriended the victim several weeks prior. The suspect was found to be in possession of and had completed transactions with the victim’s credit cards.
In June 2016, Lukamilwa was arrested by Montgomery County Police for committing a theft scheme in Maryland. In 2012, Lukamilwa met the victim in that case and fraudulently represented himself as “Head of Nursing” at a local hospital. Lukamilwa told the victim that he could help him enter a nursing program. Over three years, Lukamilwa accepted $13,500 in “tuition” from the victim at various locations in Montgomery County. Once Lukamilwa received the money, he stopped communicating with the victim.
The suspect has a history of fraud schemes and detectives believe there may be additional victims. The suspect is known to befriend men and women under the reuse that he is a doctor or is associated in the medical field. He may make promises of obtaining employment for the victims in exchange for a monetary fee. No employment is ever secured. Lukamilwa may also defraud individuals by gaining their trust and then beginning to borrow large sums of money, without the intent to repay.
Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to call Detective P. Marseilles at 703.228.4237 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
The hotline, which launches on Tuesday, Nov. 15, “will offer a confidential and secure way to report suspected incidents of financial fraud, waste and abuse.” It expands on a similar hotline for County employees to report activity that negatively impacts County operations.
“Ethics are at the core of what we do as public stewards,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “Our employees, by and large, do the right thing every day. We successfully launched an employee financial waste, fraud and abuse hotline in May of 2015. We are pleased to expand this hotline to the public, as another easy way for anyone to report suspected instances of financial fraud, waste and abuse.”
The hotline, operated by third-party provider Ethical Advocate, can be reached via phone at 866-565-9206 or online at arlingtonva.ethicaladvocate.com. Tipsters can opt to remain anonymous.
Complaints will be examined by a “Review Committee” that will then “determine appropriate action,” including potential review by the Arlington County Police Department.
Separately, the Arlington County Board announced at its Wednesday meeting that it had hired a new County Auditor, after the county’s first independent auditor left the job in July.
The new auditor, Dr. Chris Horton, previously served as audit manager for the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Office of Auditor General.
More about the hire from a county press release, after the jump.
Arlington County Police released photos today of a man they say sold fake tickets to a recent Drake concert on Craigslist.
“The subject posted ads on Craigslist for tickets to the Drake concert on August 19 and met the victims in Pentagon City,” police said in a Facebook post.
The photos show a heavyset white male with facial hair and glasses standing in front of the Pentagon City Metro station entrance. He’s wearing a SwissGear (or similar backpack), a baseball cap and cargo shorts.
“If you have any information about this incident or can identify this subject, you are asked to contact Detective Marseilles at [email protected],” said ACPD. “You can also report tips anonymously to Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.”
The Summer Sixteen Tour, featuring Canadian rapper Drake and Atlanta rapper Future, visited Verizon Center on Friday, Aug. 19 and Saturday, Aug. 20. The price of tickets to the show on ticketing websites started around $100.
Memorial Day in Arlington — It was an active Memorial Day in Arlington. Among the activities: a ceremony was held at the Air Force Memorial; volunteers handed out 30,000 roses to families of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery; President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns; and Arlington’s annual Memorial Day ceremony was held in Clarendon. [WJLA, WJLA, New York Daily News, Twitter]
Quarterdeck Owner Opening Restaurant in D.C. –Patrick Morrogh, who owns the Quarterdeck near Rosslyn, is reportedly opening another crab-centric eatery, “District Anchor,” in the former Rumors space at 1900 M Street NW in D.C. [Borderstan]
Arlington Woman Arrested for Handbag Scheme — Federal authorities have charged Arlington resident Praepitcha Smatsorabudh in a major fraud scheme. The feds say Smatsorabudh would buy luxury handbags online, then return high-quality knockoff handbags to the store while selling the real bag online, netting millions of dollars in the process. Per a news report: “The scheme was so prolific that at one point she was a major department store’s top online customer in the entire world.” [ABC News]
Metro Train’s Brakes Catch Fire — Blue Line service was shut down for more than an hour Saturday while Arlington County firefighters battled a brake fire on a Metro train at Arlington Cemetery station. [WJLA]
Home Prices Dip in Arlington — Real estate firm Long and Foster reports a six percent year-over-year drop in Arlington County median home sale prices for April. The number of units sold, however, rose 5 percent. [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Post Investigates Chinese Rice Customs — In a follow-up to the saga of the diners who received insults on their bill at Peter Chang’s restaurant in the Lee-Harrison shopping center, the Washington Post has taken a closer look at the rice-serving customs of restaurants in China. Could it be, the Post asks, that the servers were driven to frustration due to erroneous “mansplaining” about rice? [Washington Post]
County Considering Fraud Hotline for the Public — Arlington County staff is considering a proposal to expand the county’s new waste, fraud and abuse hotline, making it open to the public. The hotline is currently set up for county employees. [InsideNova]
Market Common Clarendon Sells for $406 Million — The Market Common Clarendon shopping center and apartment complex has sold for $406 million. The buyers are Florida shopping center developer Regency Centers and Arlington-based real estate investment trust AvalonBay. [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]
County Board Race Donations By ZIP Code — New maps show the percentage breakdown of campaign contributions to Democratic County Board contenders Libby Garvey and Erik Gutsthall, by ZIP code. According to the maps, Garvey is strongest in the north Arlington 22207 ZIP, while Gutshall’s strongest zone is the Crystal City and Pentagon City 22202 ZIP. [Data for Humans]
Review of New Synetic Theater Production — “The action-packed shows of Synetic Theater always have cinematic flair, but the second act of the company’s new ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ takes on surprising storytelling depth. The always-superb fights are accompanied by unexpectedly gripping scenes of high melodrama and even flickers of camp.” [Washington Post]
The hotline was announced today by outgoing Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan. It will be run by an “experienced third-party provider” and will be “a confidential and secure way” to report suspected financial malfeasance, via phone or a secure website, the county said today.
Employees calling in or logging on to the 24/7 hotline may include their name or remain anonymous when reporting.
“By putting in place whistleblower protection and a fraud, waste, and abuse hotline, we are reinforcing County government’s deep commitment to good and ethical government,” Donnellan said in a press release.
The press release says the hotline is “part of the emphasis [Donnellan] has placed on high ethical standards during her tenure as County Manager.” Each report will be reviewed by a “County Review Committee, composed of staff appointed by the County Manager.”
Employees who do identify themselves in their reports will be protected by a new administrative whistleblower policy, the county said.
Summers and Soccer — Summers Restaurant in Courthouse, set to close after Dec. 31, is being eulogized as the Washington area’s premier soccer bar. Though holding out hope for a “miracle,” owner Joe Javidara says he is being forced to close due to financial woes. With more international soccer games available via cable and at other, newer bars, business at Summers has “dropped… off the cliff.” [Washington Post]
Moran Objects to Killing Birds Near Airports — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) wants airports, like Reagan National, to deploy new avian radar technology and stop the practice of euthanizing birds that live near airports. NBC4’s I-Team reports that more than 100,000 animals, including birds, have been “chased away” from the runways at Reagan, Dulles and BWI, to reduce the risk of animal strikes. [NBC Washington – WARNING: Autoplay video]
Arlington Contractor Settles Civil Claim — Arlington resident Keith Hedman, 55, has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims related to a fraud sceme. The government sued Hedman, the CEO of security contracting firm Protection Strategies, Inc., alleging that he fraudulently obtained $31 million worth of government contracts intended for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses. Last year Hedman pleaded guilty to criminal charges. [U.S. Attorney’s Office]
Arlington Woman Sentenced for Sex Trafficking — Arlington resident and Peruvian national Ruth Antuanet Miller, 35, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for leading a sex trafficking company. Miller pleaded guilty last year to charges that she led a criminal enterprise that prostituted women at hotels and motels around Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and in Fairfax County. On Dec. 19, Miller was sentenced to 84 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $341,437 in restitution.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
County Seeks Fraud Hotline Vendor — Arlington County has issued a request for proposals for a new fraud hotline. The hotline is intended to provide “a safe and confidential process for employees to report ethical issues anonymously through a third-party vendor and to be assured that their concerns are heard and dealt with.” [InsideNova]
Eden Center Tenants Sue Landlord — Tenants at the Eden Center in Falls Church are suing the shopping center’s landlord, saying that the building is crumbling due to poor maintenance and nothing is being done about it. [Washington Post]
Kudos for Barcroft — The $3 million ballpark at Barcroft Park, which was paid for and is used by George Washington University, has been named the top college baseball facility in the A-10 conference and the 68th-best college ballpark in the nation. [GW Sports]
1812 Overture Concert Tomorrow — The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will be performing the famed 1812 Overture Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The concert will be held at Summerall Field and will feature cannon fire to accompany the classic Tchaikovsky composition. [Ode Street Tribune, U.S. Army Band]
JBMHH Firefighters Battle Arlington Blaze — Firefighters from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, who often are dispatched on calls in Arlington County as part of a mutual aid agreement, helped to extinguish a fire at a Columbia Pike apartment complex last week. [DVIDS]
Photo courtesy Larry Bowring
Noise Ordinance Approval Delayed — The Arlington County Board decided to delay approval of an update to the county’s noise ordinance after hearing concern from swim clubs that the ordinance could make cheering at swim meets illegal and punishable by fines or jail time. County staff will now try to craft an exemption for the summer swim leagues. In addition to strengthening prohibitions on loud TVs and music, the noise ordinance update calls for a “quiet period” in single-family home neighborhoods that would impact morning swim meets. [InsideNoVa]
Chatman Addresses Fraud Conviction — Fresh off the announcement that Oprah Winfrey would headline her upcoming fundraiser in Arlington, congressional candidate Lavern Chatman is trying to downplay word that she was found liable for $1.4 million in damages in a decade-old fraud case involving a D.C. nursing home operator. Chatman called the case a “nightmare” and said she “didn’t pay much attention to the details” when she agreed to provide a loan to a “trusted friend” — a friend who ended up withholding the wages of nearly 300 employees of the nursing home company. [Blue Virginia]
Arlington Honors ‘Women of Vision’ — Arlington County’s Commission on the Status of Women has announced the winners of the 2014 Arlington County Women of Vision awards. They are political strategist and Young Democrats of America president Atima Omara, Dominion regional manager Deborah Tompkins Johnson and Bowen McCauley Dance founder Lucy Bowen McCauley. [Arlington County]
Chamber Honors Hospitality Workers — On Tuesday the Arlington Chamber of Commerce honored more than 80 “frontline” hospitality workers at its 10th annual Hospitality Awards. One winner was Gadisa Bulla, who rescued a co-worker’s son from a fire across from the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Rosslyn Company Scores Angel Investment — Encore Alert, a Rosslyn-based social analytics startup, has raised a $390,000 seed round from the local investment group NextGen Angels. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Keithhall
Richmond Named Acting AED Director — Cynthia Richmond has been named the acting director of Arlington Economic Development following the untimely death of Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died of a sudden heart attack over the weekend. Richmond was serving as the deputy director of AED. Arlington County plans to begin a recruitment process to find a permanent director for AED soon. [Arlington County]
FBI Cracking Down on Corruption in N. Va. — The FBI has created a task force to investigate public corruption in Northern Virginia. Public corruption is the FBI’s “number one criminal investigative priority” at the moment and the agency has “cases in all categories in Northern Virginia.” [Loudoun Times]
Man Sentenced in $30 Million Fraud Scheme — A Florida man has been sentenced in a $30 million scheme that defrauded NASA into awarding contracts on false pretenses. Michael Dunkel, 60, was awarded contracts by NASA intended for minority-owned businesses by claiming he was an employee of an Arlington company supposedly run by a woman of Portuguese descent. Dunkel in turn paid kickbacks to the company. [Associated Press, U.S. Justice Department]
APAH to Purchase Apartment Building — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is purchasing the Arna Valley View apartments near Glebe Road and I-395. The purchase will allow 101 apartments to remain as committed affordable housing for at least the next 60 years. [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising for Pike Documentary Book — Photographer Lloyd Wolf is raising money to print a book based on photos taken by the Columbia Pike Documentary Project. [GoFundMe]
Photo courtesy Kimberly Suiters/All News 99.1 WNEW
Ruth Antuanet Miller, 35, originally from Peru but now an Arlington resident, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion. She admitted to trafficking at least five victims.
Miller admitted in a statement filed in federal court that from May 2011 through July 2013, she was the leader of a criminal enterprise that prostituted women at hotels and motels around Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and in Fairfax County.
Some of the women involved were undocumented immigrants. Miller coerced some of them into prostitution by claiming she had ties to immigration agencies in the United States, and she could have the women removed from the country if they refused to engage in prostitution. Other women were told they would be arrested by local law enforcement agencies if they did not perform sex acts for money. Miller also claimed to have affiliation with a street gang and implied the women would be harmed if they didn’t comply.
Miller reported keeping half of the money the victims earned from prostitution while the victims kept the other half. Co-conspirators assisted Miller with operations such as booking hotel rooms, transporting the victims, collecting money and advertising on the internet.
The Arlington County Police Department and the City of Falls Church Police Department assisted Homeland Security Investigations and the Fairfax County Police Department with the investigation.
Miller will be sentenced on March 28, 2014, and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Syed “Farhan” Huda, 38, and his wife, Deeba Mallick, 36, were among 11 people charged in a 17-count indictment unsealed in federal court today.
Prosecutors say Huda and Mallick masterminded a scheme in which they imported non-FDA-approved prescription drugs from various parts of the world, then switched the labels and sold the drugs to doctors, hospitals and medical practices across the U.S. The scheme is alleged to have generated more than $8.6 million in revenue over the past four years.
The couple and their alleged co-conspirators face various fraud and medical-related charges. They appeared before Judge John F. Anderson in Alexandria federal court today.
On its website, Gallant Pharma promotes its ability to deliver wholesale prescription drugs for “20-80% off your current supplier.”
“Due to our strong international supply chain, we are able to provide products at deep discounts compared to what you are currently paying,” the site says.
The press release about the charges, after the jump.
Joseph Richards, 52, of Arlington and David Lux, 66, of Springfield were sentenced today to 27 and 15 months in prison respectively.
They pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit major government fraud in a scheme that falsely portrayed their company as being minority-owned in order to win millions of dollars in contracts intended for “disadvantaged small businesses.”
Arlington resident Keith Hedman, 53, also pleaded guilty in the scheme and is awaiting a sentencing hearing scheduled for June 21. Federal prosecutors say Hedman formed the company Richards and Lux worked for, and also formed a second Arlington-based security contractor that obtained more than $31 million in contract payments under false pretences.
The second company qualified for disadvantaged status as part of the Small Business Administration’s Section 8(a) program — and thus was eligible for preferential treatment in government contracts — after Hedman, a former Marine, selected a Maryland woman to “serve as a figurehead owner.” The woman qualified for the program “based on her Portuguese heritage and history of social disadvantage.”
The Associated Press previously identified the two companies involved as Security Assistance Corp. and Protection Strategies Inc. Both have a listed address in an office building at 2300 9th St S., near Columbia Pike.
“In total, the scheme netted government contracts valued at more than $153 million,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a press release today. The full press release, after the jump.
Flickr photo by Joe Gratz