One arrested in check scheme
By Carol McLeod
A man police say is one of a group of people involved in a check cashing scheme has been arrested.
Wrens police charged the man, identified as 34-year-old Kavin Lashon Gibbs Sr. of East Point, with forgery in the first degree.
“This is going to be one of those guys who was picked up in Atlanta and brought down here to cash checks on a local business,” said WPD investigator David Leonard.
"He was apprehended on Tuesday, the 20th, at the bank when they recognized the check. He admitted he was a homeless person who had been recruited to come down here to cash checks. He didn’t know where he was going until he got here,” Leonard said.
The investigator said he doesn’t know at this time why Wrens was chosen as a location for this scam.
“They had a check; I don’t know how they got the check. Some way or another, they got a check and made a copy of it. The reason they came to Wrens was because the business is located here. How they got the check, I don’t know; but, I would like to know,” he said.
“A total of 16 checks was cashed for a large sum of money. They were cashed at a branch bank in Louisville and the main office in Wrens. On Tuesday, this fellow, Gibbs, walked into the business with the 17th check. When they saw that the check was a counterfeit, they notified the police. We responded before he left. He was apprehended at the bank. He was cooperative,” Leonard said.
“There were a total of 10 different individuals who were cashing the checks. We have warrants out for those who have not yet been arrested.
“Any information that anybody has about suspicious activities or vehicles in the neighborhood, call the police right away and we’ll investigate,” he said.
The homeless people are being recruited from Atlanta, Leonard said.
“The sheriff’s office, Louisville police and the Secret Service are working on this,” he said.
The case seems to be widespread as other jurisdictions in the area have also reported this type of activity.
An officer with the police department in Thomson has been quoted in published accounts as saying similar incidents have occurred there, as well as in Columbia County and Augusta.
Students learn about German POWs in Wadley
By Faye Ellison
So much is taught about World War II, about the holocaust, D-Day, but one item that is rarely heard is the prisoner of war camps based throughout the United States that held Germans.
One of those camps was located in Wadley at the site of the old shirt factory. While many say they have never heard of the camp, one museum, or buseum, is working to change that.
“This is a history museum on wheels,” tour guide and bus driver Irving Kellman said. “This is an exhibit about the German prisoners brought to Georgia and Wadley between 1944 and 1945. These men were captured on the battlefield and brought here. This is something that is not really talked about or taught in the schools.”
Kellman explained that while America was at war, many jobs were left unfilled because 12 million American men were busy fighting across the Atlantic.
“There was a labor shortage, so the government put them (the POWs) to work to fill the labor gap,” Kellman said. “At the time, there was no room left for POWs in England and the rest of Europe. So the American government said, ‘We are sending these ships over there with all of our men. We might as will send the ships back filled with POWs.’”
Many of the German POWs were used on peanut farms in Jefferson County. Kellman said they also helped to build bridges, roads, highways, parks, houses and factories. The camp would hold between 50 and 200 POWs depending on the time of year.
“The things that these POWs did still exist and show they were here,” Kellman said.
There were 44 POW camps in Georgia and five base camps where the POWs were shipped from. The base camp for Wadley was Fort Gordon.
“We treated these POWs with kindness, courtesy, respect and dignity,” Kellman explained. “We treated them like they were our own soldiers. They had to be paid for their work, too. They were paid 10 cents an hour.”
At the end of the war, of the 370,000 German POWs, 20,000 to 25,000 POWs returned to the United States after showing they had a sponsor or could work and provide for themselves.
“Our treatment of the POWs created 370,000 friends,” Kellman said.
One elderly visitor to the traveling exhibit said she remembered the camp in Wadley as a child and remembers when children were told they could not go on that side of town.
“I didn’t understand how they were German soldiers or why they were supposed to be bad people,” she said. “They looked just like us.”
The bus museum is a part of TRACES Museum that was open in St. Paul, Minn., but has since closed.
Since being on the road in August, Kellman said he has visited 110 towns in 13 states and has about 100 visitors a day. He will continue until June and begin again in the fall of 2011.
The museum’s creator lived in Germany at one time and grew up in Iowa near a POW camp. He was interested in the stories that were not told of the German POWs and those imprisoned in Germany during WWII. He created the museum to educate the American citizens about the roles they played in America and the same for the American POWs located in Germany.
“The war in Europe was right here in Wadley and this part of history has been brushed under the rug,” Kellman said.
Leads sought on burglary
A Stapleton couple was the victim of theft on Wednesday, April 21, when two flat screen televisions were taken from their residence.
Glascock County Deputy Jeremy Kelley responded to a possible burglary in progress just inside the Glascock County line on Highway 80, after he was contacted by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tim Moore.
“When I arrived, I spoke with Sgt. First Class Jon Hills, who stated that he and other deputies cleared the residence and that no one was in the residence,” Kelley said.
Kelley said he spoke with the home owner’s wife, who stated that she came home for lunch and discovered that the front door was open.
“When I entered the residence, I noticed that the front door had been kicked open,” Kelley said, explaining, “There was damage to the door and to the door frame.”
Kelley said he talked to Sgt. Hills about items that were taken from the residence. The homeowners only found that two LG flat screen televisions, a 47 inch and a 37 inch, were taken, which had been purchased only two weeks earlier.
The homeowners told Kelley one television was located in the living room entertainment center and the other in the master bedroom. After talking with Jefferson County Investigator Robert Chalker, Kelley said he was told there were no usable prints.
But this was not the first break-in for the residence. On Feb. 25, Glascock Sheriff Dean Couch said a similar burglary occurred with the front door kicked in.
Glascock Deputy Brian Adams responded to the Feb. 25 call.
“The homeowners stated that when the wife came home at 1 p.m. for lunch, the residence was fine,” Adams reported. “When she came back home after work at 5:30 p.m., she entered the residence from the back door and found the DVD player and power cords laying in the hallway. When she looked down the hallway, into the bedroom, she saw that the television was missing and that the chest of drawers had been moved. She then went back outside and called her husband and Glascock County 911.”
When her husband arrived, he found that the television in the living room had been taken also. The front door was closed but had been kicked in. In addition to the two televisions, a Kodak digital camera sitting beside the television in the bedroom had been taken as well.
The homeowner said that both televisions, a LG 47 inch and a LG 32 inch, were purchased for Christmas.
Sheriff Couch said no one was ever charged in the early break-in, but it seems both cases are similar.
“These are the only two we have had so far this year and both at the same residence,” Sheriff Couch confirmed.
Sheriff Couch asked Glascock County residents to contact the Sheriff’s Office or 911 with any information that they may have about these burglaries or any other strange occurrences in the county.
“If anybody sees anything unusual or sees something that just doesn’t look right, in a driveway or house, call us and we will check it out,” he said.
Wadley sets aside $20K to investigate mayor Baker
About 35 or 40 citizens crowded into the Wadley City Council meeting room Monday, April 12, for the city’s monthly meeting.
In an anticipated move, City Councilman Albert Samples made a motion to override Mayor Herman Baker’s decision last month to rehire Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis and one officer.
During last month’s meeting, the council voted 3 to 2 to not rehire Lewis and an officer, a vote Baker vetoed.
City attorney John Murphy said at that time, the council could override the veto with four votes. The vote April 12 was one shy. Council members Izell Mack and Dorothy Strowbridge voted with Samples. City council member Edie Pundt voted against the motion. City council member John Maye was absent from the meeting.
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Samples made a motion, which passed, to set aside $20,000 to investigate the executive branch of the city government. The vote was carried by Samples, Mack and Strowbridge. Pundt voted against the motion.
In other matters, a business license for a resident was discussed.
Baker said the man was told at the last city council meeting he would have to request a zoning variance as the current zoning on the property is residential.
“He hasn’t requested it,” Baker said.
Mack said an area of the city’s park presented a hazard to the citizens, saying the roots from some of the trees were above ground. He said the council should decide what would be the best way to address the issue.
“What we need you to do, Miss Adams, is to check into that,” he told the city clerk, Sallie Adams.
Baker said he would look into it the next morning.
Strowbridge asked about the status of Maye and Jordan streets being resurfaced.
The city’s attorney, John Murphy, said it was a joint project for the Georgia Department of Transportation and required 20 signatures for the rights of way.
“We got the last one back Friday,” he said, adding the forms would be sent to DOT the next day.
Strowbridge said a citizen had received a speeding ticket on a road where there is no speed limit sign.
“I think this person should be given their refund back,” she said.
Later in the meeting, Strowbridge addressed this issue again, naming several places in the city where drivers do not have a clear idea of the speed limit because there are no signs in the area.
Lewis said the placement of speed limit signs is not under the control of the local police department.
“The DOT determines where those signs are posted,” he said. “Why the signs are like that, you’d have to ask the state. It’s like that in every city in Georgia.”
Several other streets in the city were named as having pot holes or other problems.
Mack said the city needed to look into the use of gas by city employees using city vehicles. He told Adams he would like to review the log sheets documenting fuel usage by city employees.
A citizen brought up an issue with past due UDAG money and past due water bills.
“We need to do something about this,” he told the council.
The citizen had mentioned in last month’s council meeting that two of the city council members had borrowed money under the UDAG program and had not repaid the debt.
Samples, one of the council members named, said he is on disability and attempted to pay the debt by offering half payments but was told they wouldn’t take that.
“You’re not squeaky clean yourself,” he told the citizen.
Another citizen told the council she runs the Shake Rag and for years the business had a lot of problems with people hanging out in the parking lot on the weekends.
“With your new police department we’ve had for a year, we haven’t had a problem,” she said, adding she wanted to thank the committee that hired the chief.
Samples told a citizen the council had a survey done by Georgia Rural Water Association and they said the man’s business had a broken water meter.
“I did not know it was broken,” the citizen said.
“Yeah, you been stealing water,” Mack told the citizen.
Another citizen said, “Aren’t the meters the city’s responsibility?”
Baker banged his gavel and moved the meeting along.
Council voted to allow Samples as the committee chairman over vehicles to purchase a truck if he could find one that is at least a 2000 year model and is less than $14,000.
“That’s in connection with the state,” Baker said.
Baker reminded council there will be a community meeting with the Department of Community Affairs Thursday, May 13, at 7 p.m.
Samples said he wanted to discuss the Special Projects Local Option Sales Tax that may be on a referendum in July. The SPLOST as it will appear on the ballot has been sent by the county attorney to the state’s justice department for approval.
“I went up to the county office and asked to see a copy and it was changed,” Samples said.
After some discussion, the mayor said the change in the wording allowed for more flexibility.
There was some discussion about the city’s development authority.
Samples said all the members terms had expired.
“The city appoints the members,” he said.
“No, no, no,” Pundt said. Pundt is a member of the development authority.
“Not according to the bylaws,” she said.
Strowbridge said there had been complaints about the city’s police chief including, that civil rights had been violated, officers Tased citizens being arrested who were not a threat and officers had thrown citizens to the pavement when they were not threatening anyone.
She also said the chief had violated city policy which prohibits political activity at the work place or during business hours, had been insubordinate and used offensive language, among other complaints.