Metro Briefs

BY DI STAFF | JANUARY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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City warns of phone scam

Iowa City officials are warning residents to beware of a phone scam in which callers attempt to defraud Iowa City residents.

The callers impersonate IRS agents and demand the apeople pay fake tax bills by loading a prepaid card with money or by sending it via wire service.

The callers use a program to make the IRS’s toll-free number appear on caller ID. The callers often identify the last four digits of some victims’ Social Security numbers to help persuade callers
The callers threaten to involve the police if the taxpayers refuse to send money.

Officials warn residents the IRS wouldn’t ask for payments through prepaid cards or wire transfers, and the agency typically notifies taxpayers through the mail. A true IRS agent would not involve the police on back taxes.

— by Stacey Murray

Bloomfield pleads not guilty

A former University of Iowa researcher, John Richard Bloomfield, pleaded not guilty on Jan. 2 to his wife’s 1997 slaying.

Bloomfield is accused of killing his then 57-year-old wife, Frances Bloomfield. She was found in a ditch outside Rockford, Ill., in September 1997. Investigators believe she was strangled at the couple’s home in Iowa City.

Authorities arrested Bloomfield in November 2013 at his home in St. Paul after investigators conducted additional DNA testing. He was extradited to Iowa, where he faces a first-degree murder charge.

Bloomfield waived his right to an in-person arraignment hearing. The hearing will take place Friday.

— by Stacey Murray

Landlord convicted of ‘peeping’

An Iowa City landlord was convicted on Jan. 2 of “peeping” on tenants through holes in their apartments.

Elwyn Miller, 64, was found guilty of six counts of invasion of privacy. Invasion of privacy is a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Miller will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 10 in 6th District Court.

Associate District Court Judge Stephen Gerard issued the ruling on Tuesday —three months after Miller waived his right to a jury trial.

Miller was initially charged with 11 counts of invasion of privacy in late October and early November 2012 for allegedly spying on tenants through manufactured holes in the ceilings and walls of the residents’ bathrooms and bedrooms.

— by Rebecca Morin

Local attorney faces license suspension

The Iowa Supreme Court will review the law-license suspension of Jeff McGinness this week.

McGinnness is a local attorney who serves on the Iowa City School Board.  He faces a six-month suspension of his law license after he admittedly violated Iowa’s rules of professional conduct when he falsified court documents.

The court will hear arguments from both sides on Wednesday in Des Moines. The state’s Court Attorney Disciplinary Board will speak for 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes will then be allotted for McGinness. The court will issue an opinion before court’s session ends on June 30.

McGinness is appealing the suspension that was recommended by the state’s Grievance Commission, claiming the suspension is excessive.

McGinness was working at the firm Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman when he falsified documents to make it seem as if they had been served earlier.

— by Stacey Murray

Branstad delivers condition of state address

Gov. Terry Branstad drove home his belief “Iowa is working” during his Condition of State address as he laid out his proposals for the 2014 legislative session on Jan. 14.

Branstad followed the strategy used by party leaders as he highlighted last years’ accomplishments while adding new proposals.

Those proposals will come in the form of four legislative acts — support for veterans, expanding rural broadband, anti-bullying efforts, and job growth. The 67-year-old Republican also formalized his support for a renewal of the tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students.

The largest show of approval came for what Branstad said would be his “centerpiece” for the session, which includes expanding support for veterans by eliminating an income tax on their pensions and more educational opportunities based on their experience.

— by Brent Griffiths

Branstad announces bid for re-election

Building on themes in his Condition of the State address, Gov. Terry Branstad announced on Jan. 15 that he would seek a sixth term this year.

“It has been our honor to serve you and the people of Iowa these past three years,” Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a campaign email. “It is an exciting time for our state, as we have restored responsible budgeting practices, transformed our education system, modernized our health care, created more than 130,000 new jobs, and signed the largest tax cut in Iowa history.”

The two announced their intentions at the Hy-Vee Conference Center in Des Moines; they told their supporters they will share their vision to build Iowa’s future.

If Branstad is re-elected, he would become the longest serving governor in American history, surpassing George Clinton, who governed New York for more than two decades — some of which came before the Constitution was ratified.

Currently, three Democrats have announced their intentions to challenge Branstad. They include Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, Jonathan Narcisse, a former co-chairman of the Polk County Democrats, and Paul Dahl of Webster City.

— by Brent Griffiths

Council to ponder change for outdoor service

The Iowa City City Council will consider a possible amendment to the City Code tonight that would allow outdoor service areas that serve alcohol to be operated in a CC-2 zone within 100 feet of a residential zone. That is currently prohibited by the code.

Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager, outlined several additional conditions for these service areas. The service areas must be associated with a restaurant, and they must only be operational when food is being served. The occupancy limit must not exceed 30 persons, and the lighting plan must be approved by the city manager.

— by Daniel Seidl

Council may hike occupancy fines

In order to combat the over-occupancy that many Iowa City apartment buildings are plagued with, the City Council will consider an ordinance tonight that will increase the penalty for failing to disclose occupants.

Currently landlords and tenants are required to sign an informational disclosure and acknowledgement form, which states the maximum occupancy of the rental unit. This form is often not completed or at least not fully completed. This can lead to over-occupancy in many cases.

The current civil penalty for not completing the form is $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second, and $750 for subsequent violations.

The penalty for over-occupancy is $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

The proposed ordinance would raise the penalty for failing to complete the form to $500 for the first violation, $750 for the second, and $1000 for subsequent violations.

— by Daniel Seidl

North Liberty man allegedly attempted to strike officer with metal rod

A North Liberty man has been accused of striking a police officer with a metal rod.

Darrell Abbott, 41, was accused Jan. 18 with assault with the intent of injuring a peace office.
According to a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office complaint, Abbott could be heard banging large objects into walls and breaking glass in his residence. He also approached a basement window and broke it out with a metal rod.

Abbott attempted to strike a police official with a metal rod, the complaint said. He was shot twice with a Taser and physically resisted officers attempting to restrain him.

Assault with the intent of injuring a peace office is a Class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

Local man reportedly threatened UIHC nurse

A local man allegedly threatened a University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics nurse.

Joshua Lawson, 30, was accused Jan. 19 with assault with the intent of injuring a peace officer.

According to a UI police complaint, Lawson was being treated at UIHC for psychological issues on a court order for treatment, when he reportedly told his attending nurse he was going to kill her.

The nurse stated she feared Lawson would inflict great injury on her, the complaint said.

Assault with the intent of injuring a peace officer is a Class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

Iowa man allegedly operated a vehicle while intoxicated

An Iowa man has been accused of smelling of alcohol and swerving while driving.

Michael Garcia, 25, was charged Jan. 18 with third-offense OWI.

According to an Iowa City police complaint, Garcia was driving recklessly and swerving over the center line. A strong odor of alcohol came from inside the vehicle, and Garcia had bloodshot, watery eyes, the complaint said.

Garcia attempted to drive away from officers and was asked to turn off his vehicle and put his keys on the dashboard. He refused to exit the vehicle after numerous warning and was eventually physically removed from the vehicle and detained.

Third-offense OWI is a Class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

UI professor allegedly found with pornography

A University of Iowa music lecturer reportedly told police officials his laptop contained pornography after falsely reporting it stolen.

Brent Sandy, 55, was accused Jan. 13 with possession of a controlled substance, a false report to law-enforcement authorities, and third-degree theft.

According to a University of Iowa police complaint, Sandy reported his laptop stolen from his office during a three-minute window. UI Information Technology Services located the laptop using a Mediacom IP address.

The IP address of the laptop was located at Sandy’s residence, the complaint said. A search warrant was executed, and the laptop was found at Sandy’s home. Police officials also allegedly located a small container of marijuana, which was found in a drawer in the living room.

Sandy reportedly told officers he took the laptop from his office because he was going to get a new laptop issued, and his current laptop contained pornography.

Possession of a controlled substance is a serious misdemeanor. False report to law enforcement authorities is a serious misdemeanor. Third-degree theft is a serious misdemeanor.

— by Rebecca Morin

Local woman reportedly forges $4,500 check

A local woman has been accused of depositing a stolen check in her bank account.

Monica Greene, 23, was charged October 2013 with forgery.

According to a Coralville police complaint, Greene deposited $4,500 from a stolen check. The money was reportedly drawn from the victim’s Gas and Electric Credit Union account to Greene’s Veridian Credit Union account.

Greene did not know the victim and was not authorized to deposit the check, the complaint said.

Greene was allegedly seen on the bank’s ATM video depositing the check.

Forgery is a Class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

Area man allegedly has more than 1,000 child pornography photos

A West Branch man reportedly admitted to having more than 1,000 child-pornography photos on his home computer and cell phone.

Brady Verlo, 22, was charged Jan. 17 with six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to an Iowa City police complaint, Verlo told police officials he had approximately 400 child pornography photos and videos with nude minors engaging in sexual acts on his cell phone, as well as more than 1,000 images on his home computer.

Verlo admitted he sexually gratifies himself when viewing the photos and videos, and he has exchanged the photos and videos with other people interested in child pornography, the complaint said.

The investigation is ongoing; additional charges are likely, the complaint said.

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a Class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

Local man accused of numerous threats

A local man has been accused of following a woman for several months.

Nelson Flores, 58, was charged in October and December 2013 with second-offense stalking.

Flores was charged in 2009 with domestic assault causing injury, and he continued to threaten the victim with further abuse, according to an Iowa City police complaint.

Between October and Decenber 2013, Flores followed the woman in his vehicle twice, confronted her outside a children’s dentist office, wrote two letters to the woman that contained threats and obscene language, and coerced the woman’s 11-year-old son into his vehicle while he was walking home from school.

Flores also knocked on the woman’s window and was seen running away, the complaint said.

Second-offense stalking is a class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

Local man reportedly found with more than 60 grams of marijuana

Authorities say local man was found with more than 60 grams of marijuana after being involved in a bicycle accident.

Robert Wickham, 57, was charged Jan. 5 with a controlled-substance violation.

North Liberty police officers were dispatched to a car and bicycle accident at the intersection of Highway 965 and 240th Street. Wickham was found near his bicycle, and officials noted the smell of fresh marijuana in Wickham’s area, according to the North Liberty police complaint.

Wickham was transported to the hospital. According to the complaint, a bag of green, leafy substance that smelled like marijuana was attached to the bicycle in plain view.

The green, leafy substance tested positive for marijuana by the police department. The bag of marijuana weighed 66 grams.

Controlled-substance violation is a Class-D felony.

— by Rebecca Morin

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