Local News Articles

James Pleads Guilty To 15 Counts of Wire Fraud- Faces Possible 8-10 Year Federal Prison Sentence

March 2, 2007
Dwayne Page

With attorney Hilton Conger by his side, B. Don James stood before U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell in Nashville Friday afternoon and pleaded guilty to all 15 counts of wire fraud totaling more than $1.8 million dollars as charged in the indictment against him.

While each count carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, Judge Campbell announced during the hearing that the anticipated recommended sentencing range, under the plea agreement, is 97 months to 121 months imprisonment and a fine range of $15,000 to $150,000. The court may also impose an additional fine amount to cover all or part of the costs of any term of incarceration, supervised release, or probation as provided by federal law.

James has not yet been sentenced. That will come during a sentencing hearing set for Friday, May 25th at 1:00 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

James will remain free on his current conditions of release pending further order of the court.

During the hearing, Judge Campbell summarized the charges in the indictment and then asked James to tell the court in his own words what he did that led to these offenses. James replied, \" I was proposing to do things with the investors money that I didn't do. I didn't think it would fail, but I was wrong.\"

Judge Campbell asked James if he was under the influence of any medication that would keep him from understanding the charges against him or the terms of his plea. James answered that he was taking prescribed medication for high blood pressure, ulcers, and a mental condition, but that he only took those medicines at night and that they had no affect on his mental state during the hearing.

Investigator Terry Hembree of the 13th Judicial District presented a summary of the prosecution's case against James, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Williamson.

Hembree told the court that \"From on or about 1997 up to and including on or about 2004, James defrauded investors by telling them that their funds would be used to purchase premium financing contracts when in fact James did not intend to use the funds in that manner. In fact, from at least 1997, Investors Insurance Finance did not invest any funds in premium financing contracts.\"

James operated an insurance-related business known as \"B. Don James & Son's Insurance\" and another business known as \"Investors Insurance Finance\" which was brokering investment in insurance premium financing.

According to Hembree, \" James made additional representations to potential investors that if they invested their funds with Investors Insurance Finance, he would invest their funds in premium financing contracts, that the investors would received fixed and guaranteed rates of return, and that the only way that the investors could lose the money that they invested with Investors Insurance Finance would be if James himself stole it.\"

\"In fact, James knew that there were no guaranteed rates of return because he was not investing the money in the manner promised, and that even if he had invested the money that way, he could not have guaranteed the rates of return promised. In order to convince his investors that their money was invested in the manner James represented, he made payments to his investors which he represented to be interest payments accruing as a result of premium finance contracts that James had purportedly purchased on the investors' behalf when, in actuality, the funds used to make the supposed interest payments were other investors' funds that James was using to disguise the fact that he had not invested any funds in premium financing contracts.\"

Hembree explained that on at least fifteen occasions, James caused interstate wire communications to be transmitted from Tennessee to Alabama in order to make deposits of investors funds totaling more than $1.8 million dollars although the total loss caused by the instant fraud, including conduct not charged in the indictment, exceeded $7 million dollars. In addition, more than 50 people were defrauded by James' scheme.\"

The wire fraud apparently amounted to James making deposits in a local bank, which were later electronically transferred to a bank location in another state.

Only two of the investors were present for Friday's hearing but neither of them were asked to speak during the proceedings.

Family Escapes Burning Home Unharmed But Loses All Belongings In Midnight Fire

March 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

A fire late Friday night destroyed the home of Jerry Ashford at 215 West Spring Street, Smithville.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department received the call around 11:39 p.m. but the fire was well underway by that time and they could not save the home.

Ashford and his wife and son were sleeping at the time of the fire but awoke to the smoke and were able to escape the burning house just in time without injury. However, at least one of the family dogs died in the blaze.

In addition to the home, the family lost all their belongings in the fire.

The cause of the blaze was undetermined at last report.

In addition to city fire fighters, others at the scene included members of the Smithville Police Department and DeKalb EMS.

Dowelltown Man Arrested By Sheriff's Department on Marijuana Charges

March 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested a 28 year old Dowelltown man Friday night on drug charges at his Toad Road home.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says officers executed a search warrant at the home of Jason Lee Allen and charged him with sale and delivery of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana), simple possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Allen's bond is set at $27,000 and he will be in General Session Court on the charges March 22nd.

Sheriff Ray says Allen rents the home from Darren Keith Rhea, also of Toad Road, and while officers were at the Allen home Friday night, Rhea showed up to see what was going on and was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law.

Rhea's bond was set at $1,500 and his court date is set for March 15th.

Local Illusionist Wins Magic Contest

March 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

Local Illusionist, 10 year old Devon Owens, along with his assistant, 11 year old Glenna Beaty attended the Winter Carnival of Magic in Pigeon Forge Tennessee this past weekend to compete in the stage magic contest. They performed their Tribute to ?The Most Famous Magician Ever, Harry Houdini? against 2 other youth contestants. Devon brought home not only the first place trophy but also a lot of encouragement from magicians from around the country.

Devon is the son of Greg and Tammy Owens of Smithville and Glenna is the Daughter of Kim Griffin also of Smithville and Philip Beaty of McMinnville. Both are in the 5th Grade at Northside Elementary School.

To see videos of their performance you can visit Devon?s MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/magicianboy or the Tennessee Magical Society's Web Page at http://www.tnmagic.org.

Smithville Police Make Four Arrests In Recent Days on Various Charges

March 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has made several arrests in recent days for public intoxication, theft of property (shoplifting), possession of drug paraphernalia, violation of the implied consent law, and domestic violence assault.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says 42 year old Terri Hooper of 181 Hurricane Road, Smithville is charged with public intoxication, shoplifting, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He says \"On February 26th, police responded to a shoplifting complaint at Rite Aid Pharmacy where they met the manager who advised them that a white female, still present in the store, had stolen numerous items.

Stufano says officers made contact with Hooper, who was apparently under the influence. Further investigation noted that she had stolen numerous makeup items and concealed them on her person.

Hooper was placed under arrest for public intoxication and shoplifting. While an inventory was being made of her vehicle, officers also found in the console, a partially loaded syringe containing a yellow residue.

Chief Stufano says Hooper admitted that she was currently using K-4 Dilaudid daily. Hooper was transported to the DeKalb County Jail where she was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond was set at $3,000.

In a separate case, 45 year old Rhonda Kay Cains of Smithville was charged on March 1st with theft under $500.

Chief Stufano says officers had responded to a shoplifting complaint at Walmart after security had seen her conceal a BB gun and clothing items on her person. She then tried to leave without paying for them.

Cains was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail. Her bond was set at $2,500.

Meanwhile, 61 year old Danny Marlin Rigsby of 801 Fisher Avenue was arrested by Smithville Police for the crime of domestic violence-assault.

According to Chief Stufano, \"Officers responded to 803 Fisher Avenue where they made contact with a white female victim, the victim's daughter, and a neighbor. The victim was found lying on the floor bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. Further investigation noted that the victim had just returned home from the store when Rigsby accused her of writing a check. Enraged, Rigsby pinned the victim to the floor and began hitting her with a closed fist 4-5 times in the head and face area. EMS determined that the victim may have had a broken nose along with other injuries. She was treated at DeKalb Community Hospital.\"

Rigsby, who had left the residence, was arrested and charged with domestic assault and booked into the DeKalb County Jail under a $3,500 bond.

In another case, Chief Stufano says 30 year old Armando Arellano Suastegui of 1230 Smith Road, Smithville was arrested on Sunday and charged with violating the implied consent law. He was booked into the DeKalb County Jail and his bond is set at $1,500. Chief Stufano says Suastegui is also an illegal alien from Mexico.

He says \" On March 4th at approximately 9:30 p.m., Smithville officers were dispatched to a reported drunk driver traveling on Highway 70. A concerned citizen stated that the vehicle had almost hit vehicles head on and had run up on a curb.

Officers spotted the vehicle and also observed the driver maneuver the vehicle across the center line twice and then sweep widely back over into the breakdown line. Smithville Police were able to stop the vehicle in the Northside School parking lot.

Chief Stufano says standard DUI Sobriety tests were performed and it was apparent that the driver was intoxicated.

Chief Stufano says \"The continued support the citizens of Smithville are providing is making a substantial impact in combating crime, drugs and drunk driving in our city. The Smithville Police would like to thank you for being vigilant and reporting suspicious activity immediately.\"

Authorities Say Smithville Water Quality Good Despite Deficiencies

March 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

Officials of the Cookeville Environmental Field Office of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation say customers of the Smithville Water System should not be alarmed about the quality of their water, despite a 76 inspection score based on recent violations that has placed the system in the State's \"Provisionally Approved\" category.

Personnel from the Division of Water Supply visited the Smithville Water System and performed a Sanitary Survey on February 8th and 9th, apparently at the request of concerned citizens and, according to sources, the Environmental Protection Agency.

The findings revealed several violations, but none that apparently were serious enough to cause the city to be fined or sanctioned by the state or EPA. City officials say some of the violations have already been addressed and others are in the process of being corrected.

In a letter to Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Johnny Walker with the Division of Water Supply, Cookeville Environmental Field Office, addressed the violations as well as the \"improvements made since the turbidity violation last February. In particular, the implementation of controls for automatic shutdown is a welcomed improvement. This will help eliminate finished water turbidity spikes and/or chlorine feed malfunctions providing an extra line of defense to protect the general public.\"

Tisha Calabrese Benton, Public Information Officer for the Cookeville Environmental Field Office, says the purpose of the Sanitary Survey is to check for potential problems. \"When inspectors do the sanitary surveys, they perform a comprehensive review of the water system and the score is based on that review. An \"approved\" score is 90 or better. \"Provisionally approved\" rates a score of 70-89, and a 69 or below is \"unapproved\".

\"In this case, the sanitary survey did note several things that needed to be done and the water system has certainly been agreeable to that, but I want to stress that none of these things are affecting the quality of the water. We feel the quality of the water at the Smithville system is very good. We do these sanitary surveys and we look for things before they ever affect the quality of the water. But again, nothing in this survey is affecting the quality of the water. The water is as good or better than it ever has been. The system has put better protections in place now than they have had in the past and we have asked them to make some corrections and we have every reason to believe that they will comply with that.\"

Benton further explained that the sanitary survey manual has changed in recent months with some revisions in the regulations and certain things cited in this survey as a violation now may not have been a violation in the past.

Among the violations noted in the report are:

* The Division of Water Supply has approved four construction projects for the City since the last sanitary survey. We do not have on file any construction start notifications for these projects. Smithville or the contractor performing the work must return the construction start notifications to the Cookeville Field Office prior to beginning construction on any project.

* Smithville failed to provide a Tier 2 public notice within 30 days of learning of the violation. Specifically, public notice was not provided until May 2006 for a turbidity violation, which occurred in February, 2006

* Smithville's distribution system standard operating procedures were unavailable at the time of the inspection. The city has since filed a manual with the state for approval.

* Documentation for calibration of turbidimeters was not available. City officials say that issue has since been corrected.

* Bulk chemical storage tanks at Smithville do not have level indicators or a retention basin with a drain around the tanks. Regulations for public water systems require both. Additionally, the chemical feeders and supply lines are in need of maintenance. Smithville must submit a plan to the Cookeville Field Office by April 1, 2007 that describes how the bulk tank chemical storage will be addressed including provisions for day tanks and supply line renovations

* Chlorine feed lines are vented in the chlorinator room. Regulations require chlorine feed lines to be vented to the outside atmosphere. Smithville must vent the chlorine lines to the outside atmosphere by March 15th, 2007. City officials say proper ventilation is on site and was missed by the inspector.

* Smithville collected all bacteriological samples for July 2005 on the same day. Regulations require samples to be collected throughout the month. City officials say employees have been instructed on the proper collection procedures.

* Smithville incurred a treatment technique violation in February, 2006 for having greater than 5% of the turbidity measurements less than or equal 0.3 NTU. We would like to commend Smithville for installing automatic shutoffs at the plant for turbidity. The plant shuts down for turbidity anytime the combined filter effluent stays at 0.2 NTU for 2 consecutive readings. Automatic shutoffs have also been installed for hi and low chlorine readings.

*The City of Smithville has a Cross Connection ordinance, however improvements must be made in operating procedures to ensure regular testing of backflow prevention devices. Said devices have not been inspected since the last survey. All identified backflow prevention devices must be inspected before March 12th, 2007 and documentation detailing said inspections forwarded to the Cookeville Environmental Field Office by March 15th, 2007. Any devices found to not be in good working order must be repaired or replaced by March 31st, 2007

* The intake pump house needs some improvement. Specifically, the interior ceiling needs to be repainted by May 15th, 2007. The floors and equipment need to be cleaned by March 31st, 2007. City officials say those improvements will be made.

* The Smithville Water System did not collect the required number of bacteriological samples after line extensions. City officials say that this procedure will be followed in the future.

The report also stated that \" The bacteriological sampling rate for the Smithville Water System will remain at six bacteriological samples each month based on the population served. State approval to conduct analyses for: turbidity, alkalinity, Ph, temperature, iron, manganese, hardness and chlorine residual is granted to Kenny Dyal (water plant manager). This approval is valid until the next sanitary survey and is contingent upon proper operation, calibration, and maintenance of analytical equipment.\"

Federal Grant Helps Provide Transportation for DeKalb County Residents.

March 14, 2007
Dwayne Page

A portion of a $2 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant will help Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency provide transportation for DeKalb County residents who need it, U.S. Representative Bart Gordon announced today.

\"The Bus and Bus-Related Facilities program provides funding for new and replacement buses and related equipment and facilities,\" Gordon said. \"Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency will use the funds to replace 12 vans.\"

UCHRA's Transportation Program provides more than 193,643 trips for 14,532 individuals in their service area, using an average of 72 vehicles a day and traveling 2.6 million miles per year, according to Transportation Director Rebecca Harris. \"Therefore, it is necessary to replace vehicles with more than 175,000 miles to continue this much needed service in the Upper Cumberland region.\"

Harris and UCHRA Executive Director Phyllis Bennett expressed their appreciation to the state's congressional delegation for its support and efforts on behalf of the Upper Cumberland Area Rural Transit System Program. UCARTS provides public transportation to rural residents of all ages giving first priority to the elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged with medical needs.

\"The agency's board of directors wish to express their appreciation to Congressman Bart Gordon for his continued dedication to providing funding to enable residents to move from dependence to independence,\" Bennett said.

UCHRA serves 14 Upper Cumberland counties, including DeKalb County.

DeKalb County Sheriff's Department Nabs Alleged Cocaine-Meth Dealer

March 7, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Sheriff's Department Tuesday arrested a man described as a \"major cocaine and methamphetamine dealer\" in DeKalb and Warren Counties.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 34 year old Jose Antonio Bautista Morales of 10580 West Green Hill Road, Smithville is charged locally with unlawful possession of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid), unlawful possession of a schedule III (Hydrocodone), unlawful possession of a schedule IV (Xanax and Valium), possession of a schedule VI (Marijuana), possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Public Intoxication. Total bond is $32,000.00. Morales has a Smithville address but he actually lives in Warren County.

According to Sheriff Ray, \" On the 6th day of March, a Detective with the DeKalb Sheriff's Department stopped a vehicle on 1st Street in Smithville. Upon a search of the vehicle, the Detective found illegal narcotics including Dilaudid, Xanax, Valium, Marijuana, and Hydrocodone. Also found was drug paraphernalia and $1,765 in cash believed to be from the sale of illegal narcotics.\"

Sheriff Ray says \"Morales has been a major cocaine and methamphetamine dealer here in DeKalb and Warren Counties for sometime. Both departments have been working in cooperation with each other and we finally got the break we needed.\"

Warren county authorities were contacted about the DeKalb County traffic stop and a search warrant was executed on Morales' home in Warren County. The search netted approximately one ounce of cocaine, approximately one ounce of ice which is a purer form of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia including digital scales, gravity scales, pipes, and assorted baggies.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department seized the $1,765 and Morales' vehicle which is a 1998 Ford Mustang. The Tennessee Department of Revenue will also be contacted.

Alexandria Mayor Position Not On City Ballot This Fall

March 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

Alexandria voters will be electing three aldermen this fall, but not a mayor.

DeKalb County Election Commission Officials say that despite reports in the local media, the office of Mayor will not be on the September 6th ballot.

The office of Mayor was on the ballot in 2005 for a 4 year term. If a vacancy occurs before the end of that 4 year term, a mayor must be appointed by the aldermen on the city council.

The office of Mayor for the City of Alexandria will not be on the ballot until 2009.

Incumbent Mayor David Cripps was appointed by the Alexandria Aldermen last summer after the elected Mayor Clara Lee Vantrease resigned.

Cripps says he will resign the office, effective in September.

Election Commission Officials say if Cripps resigns, the Alexandria Aldermen will have to appoint another Mayor to serve.

The qualifying deadline for the Alexandria election is June 21st at 12 noon. Petitions may be picked up at the Election Commission office beginning March 23. The last day to register is August 7.

For more information please contact the Election Commission office.

Drug and Alcohol Enforcement Lead To More Arrests By Smithville Police Department

March 9, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have again been active in drug and DUI enforcement which has resulted in numerous arrests over the last week.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says \"On Saturday March 3rd Smithville Police Officers arrested 51 year old Jackie Sanders of 632 Highland Street, Smithville for DUI 2nd Offense while Intoxicated or Drugged. The event started when an off-duty Alexandria Police Officer reported to 911 Dispatch that he had seen a Ford Explorer driving recklessly in the area of Foster and Dry Creek Roads. Smithville Officers responded to the area and were able to find the vehicle and establish that the driver was in fact driving in a manner consistent with drunk driving. Smithville Officers performed the standardized field sobriety tests and found Sanders to be in violation of the state's Implied Consent Law. He was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail and booked under a $3,000 bond.\"

Meanwhile, on Tuesday March 6th , Chief Stufano says \"Smithville Officers arrested 29 year old Sharon Roseann Barnwell of 831 J E Evins Avenue, Smithville for Simple Possession of a Scheduled IV Drug. Officers were dispatched to the address to break-up a reported fight between Barnwell and her female cousin over the ownership of some jewelry. The women agreed to a search of their persons for some of the reported missing items. Found hidden inside a package of cigarettes on Barnwell was a white pill identified as SOMA. Barnwell was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,500 bond. Barnwell gave her listed occupation as a Nurse.\"

In a separate case, Smithville Police responded to a second disturbance on Wednesday March 7th located at 632 Restview Avenue, Smithville. Chief Stufano says \" Upon arrival Officers saw several neighbors pointing to a disturbance. Once at the residence they made contact with an elderly victim who stated that she told her daughter, 35 year old Patsy Estes McCoy and her husband, 39 year old Mark McCoy to leave her property earlier in the morning and not return. At the time of the disturbance, the two had returned trying to gain entry into the residence. The victim stated she was in fear as the two attempted to push the door open and she told them that she had a bat and would use it if they came in. Mark McCoy then pushed the door open and was struck in the head with the bat. He responded by grabbing the bat from the elderly victim, raising it as if to strike her, and then pushed her hard into the kitchen table causing a bruise. A second party in the house, who witnessed the incident, gave the same story.\"

Chief Stufano says \"While Officers attempted to reconstruct the story and calm the participants down, Patsy McCoy became irate causing a continuing disturbance. After numerous attempts by Police to separate the individuals Patsy McCoy was arrested for Disorderly Conduct and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $5,000 bond. Mark McCoy was arrested for Aggravated Burglary and Assault with a bond of $30,000.\"

Smithville Police Officers also responded to Green Brook Park regarding a citizen's complaint of a woman, who had passed out inside a mini van. Chief Stufano says \"Upon arrival Officer's made contact with the driver now known as 26 year old Virginia Ayala of 1650 Old Snow Hill Road, Dowelltown. Upon further investigation Officer's found that Ayala was missing 56 Hydrocodone pills from a prescription bottle that had just had 60 refilled the day before. Ayala stated that she had been consuming the pills at a rate of 1 per hour.\"

\"Her mother was later contacted and told Police that she was holding 18 of the pills for her daughter because she knew Ayala had a drug habit. Standardized sobriety tests were performed and it was determined that Ayala was in fact under the influence. Due to the fact that Ayala was in physical manual control of the vehicle and just attempting to leave she was placed under arrest for DUI. She was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail and booked under a $1,000 bond\"

Chief Stufano says \"Smithville Police are committed to the safety and security of the residents and guests of the City of Smithville. As springtime fast approaches, it also brings the infusion of more people enjoying our area. The Police Department will remain vigilant for DUI and other traffic hazards that could disrupt our motoring public. \"


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