Travel agency caught selling canceled airplane tickets to hundreds of travelers (video)

Passengers in airplane illustration 
By: Chan Yuan

(Scroll down for video) Ten people were arrested on charges of theft after being caught selling canceled airplane tickets to unsuspecting customers, prosecutors in New York said.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of 10 individuals connected to a commercial travel scam in which the defendants, using credit card information obtained illegally, were able to steal more than $1 million from approximately 200 victims.

As a result, this fraudulent activity disrupted many victims’ long-planned international travel, in some cases preventing them from attending weddings or visiting sick family members.

The defendants are each charged in an indictment in New York State Supreme Court, with varying counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Identity Theft in the First Degree, and Scheme to Defraud, among other charges.

“During the holiday season when so many people are traveling to visit their families at great personal expense, it is especially important to be on high alert for scam artists and cybercriminals,” warned District Attorney Vance.

“This alleged scheme left a pregnant woman stranded during a multi-part trip, forced relatives to miss a family wedding abroad, and made it impossible for a son to visit his cancer-stricken father in India. I encourage individuals to report this type of fraud by calling my Cybercrime & Identity Theft Hotline at 212-335-9600,” he added.

According to the police investigation, the defendants are accused of operating a business involving multiple incorporated travel agencies — including Bombay Travel and Tours, Raj Travel, Gandhi Travel, Patel Travel and Maha Guru Travel — and several bank accounts that were fraudulently opened in the name of the aforementioned travel agencies, using falsified passports and licenses.

The defendants placed advertisements in predominantly Indian-American publications throughout the U.S., and purported to offer competitively priced tickets to and from popular destinations in India.

Travelers seeking assistance with arrangements were instructed to provide names, passport numbers, and flight information, and deposit payment checks directly into bank accounts controlled by the defendants.

However, in lieu of using customers’ checks to pay for tickets, the defendants pocketed the money and instead used stolen credit card information — including that of American Express, Citibank, and Discover card holders — to buy the tickets that were later sent to their customers.

When travelers arrived at the airport for their scheduled trips, many were informed that their tickets had been cancelled, or that they would not be able to travel using the illegally purchased tickets, for which they had already paid thousands of dollars to the defendants.

Among others, victims of the travel scam included a woman who was seven-months pregnant and unable to complete a leg of her scheduled trip, family members who were not able to attend a relative’s wedding, and an individual who was prevented from visiting a sick father in India.

Young donkey dies after fat man sat on it to take a photo

The suspect on the donkey 
By: Wayne Morin

A man was arrested on charges of animal abuse after allegedly killing an animal by sitting on it, police in Spain said.

Madrid Police said that the overweight man sat on the young donkey, and as a result, it died three days later.

The five-month-old donkey named Platero, was on display along with other animals in Lucena.

According to the police investigation, the suspect, who weighs about 330 pounds, climbed into an enclosure and sat on the animal's back in order to take photos of himself with the animal.

A photo that was uploaded to the Internet before going viral, shows the 38-year-old man, wearing a blue shirt and green pants, smiling as he poses with the donkey.

Two days later, the donkey was brought to a veterinarian after the animal could not stand up. The donkey died the next day. After the donkey’s death, police arrested the man and charged him with animal abuse.

Woman rips off clothes of her neighbor for being a prostitute

Prostitute illustration 
By: Mahesh Sarin

A woman was arrested on charges of assault after ripping off the clothes of her neighbor for being a prostitute, police in Nigeria said.

Mararaba Police said that they arrested 28-year-old Happiness Nelson on Tuesday, after being accused of beating her neighbor.

She was charged with assault and causing bodily harm.

According to the police investigation, Helen Osang sat outside her apartment and was talking with one of her neighbors when Nelson came out of her apartment.

Nelson approached the victim and called her a prostitute. Nelson proceeded to rip off the clothes of the victim, and slapped her on her face.

In court, Nelson pleaded not guilty to the charges. Nelson’s bail was set at N100,000 ($533).

Wild monkey shot by police after attacking children who fed it chocolates

Monkey illustration 
By: Tanya Malhotra

A wild monkey was shot and captured by police after attacking children who fed it chocolates, police in France said.

Marseille Police said that the aggressive monkey was Tasered after weeks of being on the loose and living on a diet of chocolates.

The monkey had been involved in more than 12 attacks in the Castellane area in recent weeks, including an incident in which it broke into an elementary school and scratched some children.

The monkey always managed to flee from the scene before police arrived. However, on Monday, police finally met the monkey and captured it using a Taser.

According to the police investigation, the monkey was abandoned after being kept as a pet illegally. The animal had been eating a diet consisting of chocolates given to it by children.

Malnutrition and suspected abuse may have contributed to the aggressive behavior of the monkey, police said. Police are looking to charge the owner with illegal possession of a wild animal, police said.

The monkey was not seriously injured, and was handed over to an animal shelter. The monkey will join the exhibition of a zoo after a cooling off period.

Father and son fatally stab man during cocaine deal in fight over $8

Bag of cocaine illustration 
By: Feng Qian

A father and son were arrested, charged and convicted in connection with the fatal stabbing of a man who purchased illegal drugs, prosecutors in New York said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that a 46-year-old Brooklyn man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, following his conviction on charges of first-degree manslaughter for beating and stabbing to death a 39-year-old man in East Williamsburg.

The defendant’s 21-year-old son pleaded guilty to assault for his part in the attack.

“A man is dead and a father and son are headed to prison, all because of a fight over eight dollars. This defendant showed a callous disregard for life when he fatally stabbed the victim – who had already been knocked to the ground. He must now pay for his crime,” District Attorney Thompson said.

The District Attorney said that the defendant, Rafael Vargas, 46, of 73 Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, was sentenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice, to a term of 12 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision.

The defendant was convicted of first-degree manslaughter last month following a jury trial.

According to the police investigation, at the Cooper Park Houses on Jackson Street, in East Williamsburg, the defendant and his son, Richie Vargas, 22, attacked 39-year-old Anthony Dash.

Richie Vargas was attempting to purchase crack cocaine from an individual. Dash was also present. When Richie Vargas held out $8 dollars, the victim grabbed it, saying that he was “owed” the money.

Richie Vargas then left the area, got his father and went back to confront Dash. He repeatedly punched Dash in the head and body, knocking him to the ground.

Rafael Vargas then pulled out a knife and began slashing at Dash, finally stabbing him in the thigh and cutting Dash’s femoral artery.

He died at Woodhull Hospital Center. Richie Vargas pleaded guilty to first and second-degree assault.

Dog shoots its owner with gun causing serious injury to his arm

Dog in truck illustration 
By: Chan Yuan

A man suffered serious injuries after being shot by his dog, police in Wyoming said.

Sheridan County Police said that 46-year-old Richard L. Fipps of Murphy Gulch Road, was accompanied by two of his employees when they got out of their truck to remove snow chains from the tires of the vehicle. Fipps had a dog in the vehicle that had been ordered to move from the front seat to the back.

While the dog was wandering around in the back seat of the truck, it stepped on a 300 Winchester Magnum loaded gun and caused it to discharge.

Fipps was out of the truck when the bullet shot through the cabin and into his left arm.

Fipps was transported from the scene to meet an ambulance on Highway 14, where he was taken to the Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

Due to the severity of the injury, he was transferred to Billings. Although his life was saved, Fipps’ arm can be amputated.

Police said that according to the evidence and testimony of witnesses at the scene, the incident points to an accident and not an intent to injure.

School teacher caught sexually assaulting 9 young female students (video)

Classroom illustration 
By: Wayne Morin

(Scroll down for video) A school teacher was arrested on charges of sexual abuse after he was caught sexually abusing nine young female students, prosecutors in New York said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that the 36-year-old Brooklyn elementary school science teacher has been arraigned on a 22-count indictment in which he is charged with crimes relating to the sexual abuse and inappropriate touching of nine of his young
female students on school property.

“This is a disturbing case in which a teacher allegedly groped young girls. This defendant is an alleged predator who surrounded himself with vulnerable victims. What should have been a safe haven became a parent’s worst nightmare. We will now seek to vindicate the rights of these children,” District Attorney Thompson said.

The District Attorney said that the defendant, Omil Carrasquillo, 36, of Selden, New York, has been arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Deborah Dowling on a 22-count indictment in which he is charged with three counts of first-degree sexual abuse, three counts of second-degree sexual abuse, eleven counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and five counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child.

The top counts are felonies, which each carry up to seven years in prison.

The defendant, who had previously been charged with sexually abusing five students, was initially arrested in September, at which time bail was set at $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash.

The judge reset bail at $200,000.

According to the police investigation, on multiple occasions, the defendant, who worked as a science teacher at Public School 249, located on Marlborough Road in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, allegedly groped or fondled nine female students who were between ages of 8 and 11.

The allegations came to light following the disclosure of one student and an ensuing investigation.