<<opening for eyewitness news at eleven>>
"I actually went back to my sheriff and said this is too big for me, I've got to get some help."
A TWIGGS COUNTY FRAUD INVESTIGATION HAS GROWN BEYOND COUNTY LINES... AND INVESTIGATORS HAVE CALLED FOR HELP AT THE STATE LEVEL.
GOOD EVENING AND THANKS FOR JOINING US.. I'M LEAH JOHNSON... FRANK MALLOY HAS THE NIGHT OFF.
WE'LL HAVE MORE ON THAT STORY IN A MOMENT... BUT FIRST...
ABOUT FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER A MAN ROBBED A DUBLIN GAS STATION... A GRIFFIN WOMAN SAYS OFFICERS ORDERED HER OUT OF HER CAR AT GUN POINT.
AS ELEANOR LISSITZYN EXPLAINS...
BROOKE WRIGHT AND HER FAMILY WERE DRIVING FROM VIDALIA HOME TO GRIFFIN... WHEN SHE SAYS A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY MADE HER THE FOCUS OF A MANHUNT.
"They just were screaming at me and yelling at me to get my hands up and get out of the car and get on the ground."
IT WAS AROUND SEVEN THIRTY SUNDAY EVENING... BROOKE WRIGHT WAS DRIVING HER HUSBAND AND SON IN THE FAMILY'S WHITE FORD EXPLORER PAST DUBLIN ALONG I-16... WHEN A DUBLIN POLICE OFFICER STOPPED HER.
"I looked up in the rear view mirror and saw 10 or so officers."
WRIGHT SAYS SHE COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING.
"An officer said I don't think you're the one. But stay right here."
THE ONE... ACCORDING TO POLICE... IS THIS MAN... ROBERT COLE.
HE ALLEGEDLY USED A PELLET GUN TO ROB THIS DUBLIN NEIGHBORS EXPRESS GAS STATION ... JUST FIFTEEN MINUTES BEFORE WRIGHT GOT PULLED OVER.
A WITNESS'S 911 PROVIDED POLICE WITH A DeSCRIPTION..
"Laurens County 9-1-1."
"We just had a white man rob this store... he's leaving now in a white Ford Explorer."
"A white Ford Explorer?"
"And the tag numbers BKW...."
"We didn't match the description of who they were looking for. I mean there's thousands of people who drove white ford explorers."
BUT THE MOST UPSETTING PART... SAYS WRIGHT... IS THAT HER FIVE YEAR OLD SON WITNESSED EVERYTHING.
"My five year old is not a typical child. He's autistic. So you just can't explain what happened to him. He watched it all, and he was so upset he cried for two hours until he threw up."
SHE KEEPS THESE STICKERS ON HER CAR... TO LET PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT HER SON'S CONDITION.
"I know he didn't understand the guns part. He just saw someone was trying to hurt his mommy."
AND SHE SAYS SHE WISHES POLICE HANDLED THE SITUATION WITH MORE SENSITIVITY.
"It was a terrible experience...It just could have ended so badly"
TO BE FAIR AND BALANCED WE CONTACTED THE DUBLIN POLICE DEPARTMENT.
DUBLIN POLICE CHIEF WAYNE CAIN SAYS THE OFFICERS WERE "VERY PROFESSIONAL" AND COURTEOUS.... AND HANDLED THE STOP PROPERLY.
WRIGHT AND HER HUSBAND FILED A COMPLAINT AGAINST THE OFFICERS.
CAIN SAYS HE'S INVESTIGATING AND COULDN'T COMMENT ON CAMERA.
TWO WARNER ROBINS RESTAURANTS WERE ROBBED ABOUT HALF AN HOUR APART... AND POLICE THINK THE CRIMES MAY BE CONNECTED.
FIRST... WARNER ROBINS POLICE SPOKESWOMAN TABITHA PUGH SAYS A MAN WITH A GUN ROBBED THE KRYSTAL'S ON WATSON BOULEVARD AROUND 9-15 TONIGHT.
SHE SAID THE MAN RAN FROM THE RESTAURANT WITH SOME CASH.
AROUND 9-45... PUGH SAYS THE HARDEE'S ON NORTH DAVIS DRIVE... ABOUT A MILE AND A HALF AWAY WAS ALSO ROBBED.
PUGH SAYS POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING WHETHER THE TWO CRIMES WERE CONNECTED... AND IF THE RESTAURANTS WERE ROBBED BY THE SAME MAN.
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION... YOU CAN CALL THE WARNER ROBINS POLICE AT 478-929-1170.
MORE PEOPLE ARE FACING CHARGES IN A GROWING IDENTITY THEFT AND FRAUD CASE THAT STARTED IN TWIGGS COUNTY.
THE TWIGGS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE SAYS A TAX PREPARER IN JEFFERSONVILLE FILED PEOPLE'S TAXES WITHOUT THEM KNOWING.
CANDACE ADORKA HAS MORE.
<< ROBERT RODGERS WITH THE TWIGGS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE SAYS WHEN HE STARTED INVESTIGATING ONE COMPLAINT OF TAX FRAUD IN NOVEMBER 2008... HE COULDN'T IMAGINE HOW WIDE-SPREAD THE DAMAGE WAS.
Rodgers: "In 2010 it really broke, and we got a lot of information on the street level. I actually went back to my sheriff and said this is too big for me, I've got to get some help."
TWIGGS COUNTY SHERIFF DARREN MITCHUM SAYS SHARON CHAPPELL... CHASITY PITTS... AND LATRICIA GRIFFIN HAVE BEEN ARRESTED FOR SELLING PEOPLE'S IDENTITIES TO JACKIE ELVINE... A JEFFERSONVILLE TAX PREPARER.
Mitchum: "Some of these people would have all of y'all's information... your name, your date of birth, your social security number. They would actually sell that information to Miss Elvine, who would then in some cases file income taxes on those names."
Candace: "Elvine was arrested in late May on 43 felony charges. She is now out on bond. Rogers says she worked out of this building on highway 80 just across from the Sheriff's office. He says they are still investigating how many people were defrauded and how much money is involved... but in Twiggs County, there's at least 7."
Rogers: "We had a couple people that were in prison and their tax returns were fiiled without their knowledge and they also filed complaints with us and that kind of kicked off the whole investigation."
MITCHUM SAYS THE FOUR ARRESTS ADD UP TO 96 CHRAGES... AND ROGERS SAYS THAT'S JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.
INVESTIGATORS SAY THEY FOUND MORE CLUES AT LATRICIA GRIFFIN'S HOME THAT COULD EXPAND THE CASE EVEN MORE.
Rogers: "We've got a lot of victims, a lot of offenders involved and we look forward to doing more arrests."
ROGERS SAYS THE FOUR WOMEN ARE OUT ON BOND AND ARE AWAITING TRIAL.
CANDACE ADORKA 13 WMAZ EYEWITNESS NEWS. >>
THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE AND THE SHERIFF'S OFFICES OF BIBB AND TWIGGS COUNTIES ARE WORKING CASE.
A DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE INVESTIGATOR SAYS JACKIE ELVINE IS STILL PREPARING PEOPLE'S TAXES... UNDER THE NAME S-AND-Y ASSOCIATES.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY IS STANDING BY ITS STATEMENTS THAT STATE SENATOR CECIL STATON'S COMPANY OWES THEM MORE THAN 50,000 THOUSAND DOLLARS.
THE SCHOOL SAYS IT REJECTED A CHECK FROM STATON YESTERDAY FOR NEARLY 25 THOUSAND.
THEY SAY THEY WANT THE FULL AMOUNT HE OWES.
THEY RELEASED A STATEMENT THAT SAYS...IN PART...
GEORGIA SOUTHERN IS RETURNING THE CHECK TO AVOID ANY CONFUSION THAT THE AMOUNT PAID SATISFIES THE CONTRACT.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN CONTINUES TO COMMUNICATE WITH GEORGIA EAGLE MEDIA TO SEEK FULL PAYMENT.
STATON'S COMPANY.... GEORGIA EAGLE MEDIA OPERATES THE SCHOOL'S SPORTS RADIO NETWORK... AND ITS CONTRACT SAYS IT MUST SHARE THE ADVERTISING REVENUE.
THE COLLEGE IS ENDING THE CONTRACT THIS WEEK....BECAUSE OF THE UNPAID MONEY.
STATON HAS NOT RESPONDED TO OUR PHONE CALLS.
BUT TODAY...HE POSTED A STATEMENT ON HIS TV STATION'S WEB SITE....CRITICIZING OUR REPORTING...AND SAYNG THAT HE PERSONALLY DOES NOT OWE THE SCHOOL ANY MONEY.
ONE MACON MAYORAL CANDIDATE SAYS HE INTENDS TO FIGHT CRIME BY FIGHTING POVERTY.
FORMER MAYOR C. JACK ELLIS SAYS IF ELECTED... HE WOULD FORM A POVERTY TASK FORCE.
HE WANTS THE GROUP TO CREATE A PLAN TO CUT POVERTY IN THE CITY BY 50 PERCENT OVER THE NEXT EIGHT YEARS.
THE DEMOCRAT SAYS HE'S ALREADY ASKED COMMUNITY LEADERS TO VOLUNTEER FOR THE TASK FORCE.
HE WOULD ALSO CONSIDER ADDING JOB TRAINING... DAYCARE FOR WORKING PARENTS... AND SUBSIDIES FOR EMPLOYERS THAT HIRE LOCAL WORKERS.
C. Jack Ellis, Candidate for Mayor: so if we can have jobs, we can reduce poverty, if we reduce poverty, we reduce crime, they're all linked together and we're going to work hard on that."
WE ASKED ELLIS ABOUT THE COST OF THE PROJECT.
HE AGREED THAT IT WOULD PROBABLY COST MILLIONS OF DOLLARS... BUT HE SAID HE'D ASK FOR STATE AND FEDERAL MONEY TO COVER THE COST.
YOU CAN JOIN THE HERO ARMY THIS WEEKEND... BY ROLLING UP YOUR SLEEVE AND GIVING BLOOD FOR CENTRAL GEORGIANS WHO NEED IT.
IT'S TIME FOR THE EVERYDAY HEROES BLOOD DRIVE.
TODAY ON EYEWITNESS NEWS AT FIVE... JACKIE CONNORS AND TERRELL LANGSTON JOINED US TO TALK ABOUT WHY BLOOD DONATION HITS SO CLOSE TO HOME FOR THEM.
"We didn't realize it until it happened to us how important it is to give blood. So it's real important. matthew has to have blood whenever he gets his treatments and surgeries. So it's very important that we give."
FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF TIMES AND LOCATIONS TO DONATE... LOOK FOR THIS STORY AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.
YOU'LL FIND IT IN THE "CHECK IT OUT" BOX ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE HOMEPAGE.
HOMELESS PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE TURNING TO SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES TO GET HELP AND STAY CONNECTED.
KARA FINNSTROM TAKES A LOOK AT HOW FACEBOOK... TWITTER AND BLOGS ARE HELPING THOSE WHO NEED IT.
RD PLASSCHAERT WAS DESPERATE-
I needed some way to stay sane.
SHE'D LOST HER JOB AND LOS ANGELES HOME. SHE NEEDED HELP AND FOUND IT AT HER FINGERTIPS.
It's the way people are finding housing. It's the way people are finding food banks.
"IT" IS SOCIAL NETWORKING-- BLOGGING, FACEBOOKING AND TWEETING. AND WHILE PLASSCHAERT NEVER CONSIDERED USING IT BEFORE, MANY HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE EMBRACING IT. AFTER FIVE YEARS OF LIVING ON CHICAGO'S STREETS, ANNMARIE WALSH BECAME A VORACIOUS TWEETER TO CONQUER HER FEARS AND LONELINESS.
Just knowing somebody was out there, someone was reading my tweet. It was an awesome feeling.
NOW BOTH WOMEN'S TWEETS HAVE INSPIRED A NEW WEBSITE AIMED AT HOMELESS PEOPLE.
I was creating wearevisible to empower homeless people.
MARK HORVATH, WHO HAD ONCE BEEN HOMELESS HIMSELF, WAS MAKING A CAREER VIDEOTAPING AND POSTING THE STORIES OF HOMELESS PEOPLE. HE CREATED WEAREVISIBLE.COM AFTER MEETING THE TWO WOMEN VIA TWITTER AND REALIZING SOCIAL NETWORKS ENABLED THEM TO TELL THEIR OWN STORIES.
THE SITE OFFERS BASIC TUTORIALS ON SOCIAL NETWORKING. BUT HORVATH HAS A BIGGER GOAL: TO CREATE A VIRTUAL COMMUNITY OF SUPPORT.
A homeless person in Phoenix would say I'm hungry and then a homeless service organization would say ok here we are and we'll help you.
"SO HOW CAN THOSE LIVING ON THE STREETS AFFORD TO GO ONLINE? MANY PEOPLE TELL US THEY HAD PHONES BEFORE BECOMING HOMELESS AND KEEPING THEM IS PRIORITY. THEY'RE ALSO USING SHELTERS AND LIBRARIES WHERE COMPUTERS AND FREE WI-FI HAVE BECOME LIFELINES."
THIS HOMELESS NEW YORKER REUNITED WITH HIS LONG-LOST DAUGHTER VIA TWITTER. BLOGGER BOSTON HOMELESS RAISED MONEY FOR A MEMORIAL DAY BARBECUE FOR THE VETERANS AT HIS HOMELESS SHELTER. AND THIS YEAR, PLASSCHAERT AND WALSH GOT INTO PERMANENT HOUSING. BOTH CREDIT TWITTER. THERE'S NO ACCURATE COUNT OF THE GROWING NUMBER OF HOMELESS PEOPLE ONLINE, BUT SINCE HORVATH'S SITE LAUNCHED LESS THAN A YEAR AGO, IT ALONE HAS ATTRACTED THOUSANDS OF FOLLOWERS.
It's important to have that sense of community and the social media will let every person have it.
>> IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN CENTRAL GEORGIA... WE WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT.
TELL US ABOUT THE HEROES IN YOUR AREA... AND WE COULD FEATURE THEM ON HERO CENTRAL.
GO TO 13WMAZ DOT COM AND CLICK ON "HERO CENTRAL" UNDER THE FEATURES TAB ON THE HOMEPAGE.
THEN... LOOK FOR THE LINK THAT SAYS 'CONTACT 13WMAZ'S HERO CENTRAL'.
IF YOU KNOW A HERO....NEED A HERO... OR WANT TO BE A HERO... JOIN THE HERO ARMY TODAY.
TONIGHT'S FACEBOOK FAN OF THE DAY... DONNA HUNTER GLENN!
CONGRATULATIONS DONNA... YOU'LL OPEN YOUR MAIL TO A 13WMAZ COFFEE MUG ONE DAY SOON.
NOW... GETTING INTO THE RUNNING FOR FAN OF THE DAY IS AN EASY THREE-STEP PROCESS.
ONE... VISIT FACEBOOK DOT COM SLASH 13WMAZ.
TWO... BECOME A FAN... AND THREE... GET IN ON THE CONVERSATIONS.
WE PICK OUR FAN OF THE DAY RANDOMLY.
YOU CAN NOW EXPERIENCE A BIGGER AND BETTER MOVIE WITH THE ALL NEW IMAX SCREEN AT AMSTAR 16 IN MACON.
MANAGERS CUT THE RIBBON THIS MORNING TO OFFICIALLY WELCOME THE GRAND IMAX THEATER TO BIBB COUNTY.
IMAX LETS THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE A BETTER QUALITY PICTURE AND SOUND.. ALL IN 3D.
AFTER THE RIBBON-CUTTING.. GUESTS COULD TAKE IN A 45 MINUTE PREVIEW OF AN IMAX FILM.
SOUTHERN THEATERS AND IMAX ALSO DONATED ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS TO THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL TO MARK THE OCCASION.
MANAGER OF AMSTAR 16... WESLEY CLARK SAYS HE HOPES THE NEW SCREEN ENCOURAGES OTHERS TO COME OUT AN EXPERIENCE IMAX FOR THEMSELVES.
Wesley Clark, Manager "One of the goals was with the Imax was to pull from surrounding counties and broaden our audience"
Joe Allen, County Commissioner "This is it, Imax is here and I think this is one of the best things you can see"
THE THEATER HELD A SPECIAL SHOWING OF TRANSFORMERS- DARK OF THE MOON IN IMAX LAST NIGHT.
TRANSFORMERS IS CURRENTLY SHOWING ON THE SCREEN... THE NEXT FILM WILL BE HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2.
WHILE YOU'RE TAKING PHOTOS THIS SUMMER... YOUR FURRY FRIENDS LOVE TO STEAL THE SPOTLIGHT AND GET IN ON THE ACTION.
THIS IS PRINCE... AND HE SEEMS TO BE WONDERING WHETHER THAT FAN SHOULD BE TURNED ON.
AND HERE'S D-J... CHECKING OUT THE CAMERA.
SEND US YOUR PHOTOS...LOOK FOR *PHOTO GALLERIES* UNDER FEATURES IN THE MENU BAR ACROSS THE TOP OF OUR HOMEPAGE...
THANKS FOR JOINING US.... FIRST MORNIN COMES YOUR WAY AT 5 A-M.
THE NEWS IS ALWAYS ON AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.
HAVE A SAFE NIGHT EVERYONE.