By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
The FBI put the brakes on a scheme to transport and sell infectious human heads and other body parts that were packed in coolers wrapped in trash bags to medical and dental schools.
An investigation revealed that Arthur Rathburn and his wife Elizabeth Rathburn, owners and operators of International Biological, Inc. (“IBI”), knowingly transported and sold body parts infected with HIV and hepatitis and committed wire fraud.
A jury found Arthur Rathburn, 63, found guilty on 7 of 9 wire fraud charges and one count of illegal transporting hazardous material. He was acquitted on a charge of making a false statement, following the two-week long trial. When sentenced, he faces a maximum of five years in prison for one charge of Transporting Hazardous Material under 49 U.S.C. §46312 and a maximum of five years in prison for each of three counts charging him with making false statements to the United States Government.
Elizabeth Rathburn, 56, pled guilty to wire fraud in March, 2016. She admitted to providing human remains infected with Hepatitis B and HIV to a customer and falsely claimed the remains were disease-free. She is awaiting sentencing.
“The jury has delivered justice in this case, and we thank trial prosecutors John Neal and Tim Wyse and our law enforcement partners for their outstanding work in investigating and prosecuting these particularly gruesome crimes,” said United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.
IBI purchased diseased remains at a reduced rate. They dismembered donated bodies and rented the parts to training facilities without disclosing the diseases they contained. The human head of an individual known to have died from bacterial sepsis and aspiration pneumonia was loaded onto Delta Cargo, an air carrier, in violation of federal regulations.
“The fraud scheme orchestrated by IBI shocked even the most experienced of our investigative team as individuals, even in death, were victimized as IBI intentionally and recklessly marketed and transported contaminated human remains despite regulations prohibiting such practices,” said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “Once again, personal greed overcame decency. And, once again, the message should be clear that protecting the public from fraudulent business practices will remain a priority of the FBI and our federal partners.”
DTE to respond to illegal shutoffs of
electricity to thousands of clients
LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) recently ordered DTE Electric and DTE Gas companies to prove they did not violate the Commission’s billing rules when the utility converted to a new billing system that led to numerous complaints by customers of improper power shutoffs.
In an evidentiary show cause hearing ordered (Case No. U-20084), DTE must explain to the MPSC the extent and nature of any improper shutoffs since January 2017.
The company had filed an initial report Jan. 22 in Case No. U-18486 about customer issues related to the launch of its SAP C360 billing system in April 2017. A week after filing the report, DTE said it identified a potential error regarding improper notice of shutoff for nonpayment, causing about 5,000 customers out of 9,000 shutoffs to lose service without proper notification under the statutory billing rules. DTE said it has restored service to all 9,000.
Commissioners cited misinformation provided by DTE to MPSC staff as the reason for its order for a hearing to examine alleged billing rule violations, obtain an accurate assessment of the extent of shutoffs and billing errors, and determine whether the errors have been resolved.
The Consumer Standards and Billing Practices for Electric and Natural Gas Service are authorized by state law and codify the practices regulated utilities must follow when billing residential and commercial customers.
A prehearing conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 2 before Administrative Law Judge Lauren G. VanSteel at the Commission’s Lansing offices, 7109 W. Saginaw Highway.
New tax law doesn't affect 2017 taxes
With the passage of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Michigan Department of Treasury reminds taxpayers the 2017 tax year will not be affected when tax season begins later this month.
Taxpayers should file their taxes like they have in previous years when the state Treasury Department begins accepting 2017 state income tax returns on Jan. 29. Any changes to tax laws will be experienced during the 2018 tax year and next year’s state income tax filing season.
“The new federal tax law does not affect the 2017 tax year,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group. “Please continue to file your income tax returns as you have in previous years.”
Taxpayers are encouraged to gather tax-related documents and update their home addresses with current and former employers so W-2s and other financial documents can be mailed to the correct address. Incorrect addresses typically lead to information being mailed to the wrong location and could cause delays when filing tax returns.
When tax season opens, taxpayers can e-file their state tax returns instead of mailing a paper return. To learn more, go to www.mifastfile.org.
Later this month, forms and instructions may be viewed and downloaded from www.michigan.gov/taxes. In addition, commonly used forms will continue to be available at Treasury offices, most public libraries, northern Michigan post offices and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services county offices.
All state income tax returns must be e-filed or postmarked by April 17, 2018. For the benefit and convenience of taxpayers, both the beginning and end of the state income tax filing season are the same as the Internal Revenue Service.
To learn more about the state of Michigan’s state income tax, go to www.michigan.gov/incometax. Federal tax information is available at www.irs.gov.
Grosse Pointe Park couple convicted of selling infectious human remains
Detroit man pleads guilty to terrorist threat
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Nheru Littleton, 41, of Detroit, has pleaded guilty to one felony count of Making a Terrorist Threat. He was charged with that crime as a result of social media posts that threatened the lives of police officers.
“The men and women in law enforcement across the state put themselves directly in the line of fire to protect each and every one of us. They already have a difficult, and often dangerous job without fearing an unprovoked attack,” said Schuette. “This plea should serve as a reminder that threatening the safety of these men and women will be treated with the utmost significance and those that make these threats will be faced with the highest consequences.”
Littleton pleaded guilty on February 6, 2018 before Judge Vonda Evans in the 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit. His sentencing date is scheduled for April 10, 2018.
Charges against Littleton were upheld through multiple motions and appeals. A motion to dismiss was filed in the district court which was denied. A preliminary examination was held in the district court, and the defendant was bound over to circuit court for trial. Littleton then brought a motion to quash in the Circuit Court, Judge Vonda Evans denied this motion. Littleton then filed an appeal with the State Court of Appeals which ruled the terrorism charge could proceed. Littleton then filed an appeal with the State Supreme Court, they decided not to hear the request and it was sent back to trial court.
"I certainly want to thank and acknowledge the work of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and his staff,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “Any violence directed towards a police officer is a crime and should be taken very seriously. A threat against a police officer is a threat against all of us. When left unchecked it gives the perception that it’s acceptable and can send the wrong message to those who want to harm us.”
Between July 8-9, 2016, Littleton allegedly posted numerous direct threats to law enforcement officers on social media. With more than 500 Facebook friends, Littleton’s posts received attention and were reported to the Dearborn Police Department by a Michigan resident.
The Dearborn Police Department then issued a Law Enforcement Information Network message to all area law enforcement agencies indicating that a significant threat had been made to the lives of police officers.
The suspect had described himself as a “Former Killing Machine at United States Marine Corps” on social media, and has a valid Concealed Pistol License and owns a Smith and Wesson .45 caliber firearm.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig brought the case to Schuette for review after law enforcement agencies in multiple counties responded to the threats. Upon learning of the threats, more than a dozen police officers from multiple police agencies searched for Littleton.
On July 7, 2016, a day before Littleton made his threats, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a nationwide bulletin to law enforcement warning of online messaging that could inspire attacks against police.
The threats allegedly posted by Littleton include the following:
7/8/16: “To those sniper’s in Texas, I commend your bravery and actions!!! #blacklivesmatter.”
7/8/16: “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives matter!!!! Kill all white cops!!!”
7/8/16: “Kill all white cops!!!”
7/8/16: “Kill all white cops!!!”
7/8/16: “F that!!! Nobody called for prayer after Alton Sterling got shot to death!!! F them police!!!!”
7/8/16: “Yes!!! #blacklivesmatter #purgeoncops”
7/8/16: “Why isn’t that white man shot dead!!! #wakeupblackpeople # itsnotagame”
7/8/16: If these racist a white cops want to PURGE on Black Lives!!! Then let’s PURGE on these racist a white cops!!! I’m sick of this s !!! If you don’t like what I said, UNFRIEND ME!!!! #rugonberue”
7/9/16: “F them racist a white cops!!! Kill them ALL!!! Black Lives Matter!!! Black people should start killing all white cops just like they killing us!!! Then and only then will this s stop!!! Why you ask? Because white people will be dropping like flies!!!”
State shuts down Barksdale Funeral Home for filth
Barksdale Funeral Home, Inc., located at 1120 East State Fair Street in Detroit, MI was recently shut down by the Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
The home, which has been operating since 1968 and is owned by Francine Barksdale Neal and managed by Millie L. Stewart, was cited with multiple violations, including having unsanitary conditions and being infested with rodents. An expired licensed was used to sell funeral services and merchandise.
“Michigan residents trust funeral home directors, owners, and their establishments to follow the law especially when dealing with the death of a loved one,” said Julia Dale, director of Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau. “We will continue to aggressively hold every funeral home in Michigan to the highest standards of public health and safety when providing final arrangements.”
State inspectors and auditors uncovered multiple violations during an investigation consisting of:
•Unclean and unsanitary embalming room used as a storage area with inadequate ventilation system and ceiling tiles missing, stained, and sagging. •Preparation room also used as a storage area, included a blood-stained box used to transport a body, and floor, sink, and countertops were not clean and sanitary with ceiling tiles missing, stained, and sagging. •Improper storage of cremated remains in funeral home and its garages, four that lacked any form of identification. •Poor condition of cremated remains due to water damage or suspected rodent infestation. •A failure to deposit at least $2,036 in funds related to three prepaid funeral contracts with an authorized escrow agent or within 30 days of receipt, under the Prepaid Act. •Fraud, deceit, or dishonesty, incompetence, and gross negligence in practicing an occupation.
Engaging in or attempting to engage in the practice of an occupation regulated under the Occupational Code without a license is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a criminal fine of not more than $500.00 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both. A person who converts funds paid under a prepaid contract to his or her own use or benefit or who fails to escrow or trust funds according to the Prepaid Act is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both, for each violation. A person who violates any other provision of the Prepaid Act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, for each violation.