Review Category : National News

State Documents Detail Death of Philadelphia Teen at School for Troubled Youth

WPVI-TV(PHILADELPHIA) — A 17-year-old boy who died earlier this month at a residential treatment facility in Philadelphia for troubled youth was heard yelling “I can’t breathe” as staff restrained him and one punched the teen’s rib cage before he stopped breathing, state violation reports allege.

Violation reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services led the state to order Wordsworth Academy to shutter its residential treatment program. The program, located in West Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood, served youths with emotional, behavioral or academic difficulties.

According to the violation reports, the incident began on Oct. 13 at 8:22 p.m. ET when multiple staff members entered the boy’s bedroom searching for an iPod that he allegedly stole from another child at the facility. After staff located the iPod and returned it to the owner, they heard the sound of breaking glass in the boy’s room. Staff members — identified in the reports as Staff Members A, B and C — returned to the room where they found the boy — identified as Child #1 — acting aggressively. While trying to restrain him, Staff Member B held the boy’s legs as Staff Member A began “throwing punches at the ribs of Child #1,” according to the reports. It goes on to say that during the restraint, the boy “began gasping for breath and then stopped moving.”

The reports said other children who were standing in the hallway during the incident heard the boy yelling, “I can take this, that’s the only thing you got, give me more, I eat those and I can take those.” The children then overheard the boy yell, “Get off me, I can’t breathe.”

The boy was pronounced dead in the bedroom at 9:51 p.m. ET, according to the reports.

The state violation reports said Staff Member B and Staff Member C did not participate in restraint training during the 2015-2016 training year, which is required by state law of anyone who “administers a restrictive procedure.”

In addition, state law requires that staff members who will have regular and significant direct contact with children must have at least 40 hours of training each year relating to the care and management of children, after their initial training. However, Staff Member B completed only 31 hours during the 2015-2016 training year and Staff Member C completed just 27 hours, the reports said.

The reports detail dozens of other violations of the state code regulating juvenile facilities. The violations discovered during several on-site inspections following the boy’s death include broken protective covers for heating and air conditioning units in 10 rooms, “stained, dirty and unsanitary” flooring in 12 rooms, non-operable lights in a fourth-floor hallway, heaters with “razor sharp edges” in two bedrooms, a bathroom with water leaks, exposed electrical wires in 12 rooms and holes in the walls, including a 3-foot hole in one bedroom, according to the reports.

The reports said a majority of the children’s rooms on the second, third and fourth floors were found “in advanced disrepair.”

In the Oct. 24 letter with the state’s order and the violation reports, Jacqueline Rowe, director of the state Bureau of Human Services Licensing, wrote that the decision to revoke Wordsworth Academy’s license to operate a child residential facility is based on the school’s “failure to comply with the department’s regulations and gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating the facility.” Rowe also wrote that the existing conditions at the facility “constitute an immediate and serious danger to the health and safety of the residents.”

In a statement to ABC News on Thursday, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Rachel Kostelac said: “During this transition, we will be on site every day to monitor the treatment of residents and the functioning and will be available for support until the 56 current residents are safely relocated.”

Wordsworth Academy said it is “saddened” by the boy’s death and “devastated” at the allegations. Apart from the residential treatment facility, the organization said all of its programs continue to operate.

“Due to the ongoing nature of this investigation, we are limited in our ability to comment on the various allegations raised,” Wordsworth Academy said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We are fully cooperating with all relevant agencies and authorities and are treating this matter with the seriousness and respect it deserves.”

A release issued by police of the incident offers an account of the incident that differs in some aspects from the Human Services reports. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, preliminary information revealed that staff members at Wordsworth Academy conducted a search of the boy’s room during an investigation. When they left, they heard banging in the boy’s room as he barricaded the door. The boy ignored several instructions to stop and when three staff members entered the room, they found him standing on the bed frame with the room “in complete disarray, with broken fixtures and furniture,” police said.

Staff members told the boy to calm down but he began yelling and “striking them.” The boy “lost consciousness” while they tried to “gain control” of him. The staff members attempted to revive the boy by performing CPR and called for a medic, police said.

Officers responded at approximately 9:01 p.m. to a radio call for a report of a “hospital case” at Wordsworth Academy. Upon their arrival, the officers found a 17-year-old boy in a room lying on the floor unresponsive. A medic who responded to the scene was unable to resuscitate him and he was declared dead, police said.

“The investigation is ongoing with the homicide unit. The decedent’s name is not releasable,” Philadelphia Police Department Public information Officer Christine O’Brien said in a statement to ABC News on Thursday.

Jeff Moran, director of communication for the Department of Public Health, told ABC News on Thursday that the Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet ruled on the cause of death and the case is still pending.

According to its website, Wordsworth Academy’s “mission” is to “provide education, behavioral health and child welfare services to children and youth who are experiencing emotional, behavioral and academic challenges so that they are empowered to reach their potential and lead productive, fulfilling lives.”

According to police, some children attend Wordsworth Academy due to court commitments, behavioral health treatment commitments, child welfare services or a requirement by the Department of Human Services.

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Celebrities Throw Their Weight Behind North Dakota Protesters

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Several high-powered celebrities have jumped into the mix as tensions escalate at the protest site in North Dakota of a proposed $3.7 billion pipeline.

Police arrested 141 as they forcibly removed demonstrators Thursday evening from the land owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is seeking to complete a 1,200 mile pipeline that will bring oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo recently tweeted a photo of himself standing with one of the protesters, raising a fist in solidarity.

Peaceful resistance. #NoDAPL #StandingRock pic.twitter.com/alp8Gk2vA8

— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) October 26, 2016

Thor star Chris Hemsworth showed his support for the cause via Instagram, posting a photo of himself standing with the director of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi.

“Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water. #nodapl #waterislife #mniwiconi,” Hemsworth wrote in the post.

Ruffalo joked in a tweet that now the demonstrators had “a Hulk and a Thor,” on their side.

Yo we got a Hulk and a Thor #StandingWithStandingRock! #AvengersReassemble chrishemsworth’s photo https://t.co/QPMsO18IRD

— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) October 28, 2016

Shailene Woodley, star of the Divergent series, was arrested with the pipeline protesters this month. Susan Sarandon, Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio have also spoken out against the pipeline.

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Convicted College Grad Says Trying to Join ISIS Was ‘More About Helping Others’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — In his first interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer Thursday, Muhammad Dakhlalla, the 24-year-old former honor student now in prison for trying to join ISIS, said the terrorist videos he’d watched with girlfriend Jaelyn Young seemed to promise a life of service and certainty.

“These propaganda videos that we were watching, that’s how they showed themselves, as helping out other people, you know,” Dakhlalla said.

Before their 2015 arrest and subsequent guilty pleas, Dakhlalla and Young were honor students at Mississippi State University. He’d been accepted into a graduate program after graduating cum laude with a degree in psychology. He also played soccer. Young, a college sophomore, had been a cheerleader in high school.

They both were raised in good families. Dakhlalla’s father is a math tutor. Young’s father is a police officer and a military veteran.

Now, Dakhlalla and Young are imprisoned, having pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of providing material support to ISIS. Dakhlalla is serving eight years in federal prison. Young is serving 12 years.

Dakhlalla told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer that he and Young met at MSU. He said she was his first serious romance though he said that, at the time, he had also fallen into a depression.

Dakhlalla, a Muslim, said that Young was curious about the Islamic faith although she had been raised Christian. He said together they watched ISIS videos online.

“It was more about helping others. … Rebuilding towns and feeding the poor and things like that,” he said. “It looked like they were distributing, like, bags of food to people that don’t have any way of having food.”

He said he’d heard about ISIS beheading aid workers and journalists but had never seen the videos.

“We thought at that time, ‘Oh surely they (the media) must be, you know, faking everything,'” he said. “The American media must be faking everything.”

They sent messages to who they thought were ISIS recruiters but who were in fact FBI agents.

Young, a former honor student, explained to the person she thought was an ISIS recruiter that she was attempting to go to Syria with a “brother,” identified as Dakhlalla, who was 22 at the time.

Young said the two would have to have an Islamic marriage in order to travel together. She also wrote that she had math and chemistry skills and her partner was good with computer science and media. They could help the group, she said, they just needed assistance getting to Syria through Turkey.

The couple got as far as an airport in Columbus, Mississippi, in early August 2015 in hopes of heading to Turkey, but federal agents were waiting for them, according to court records.

But it wasn’t just Young sending messages online. In one of Dakhlalla’s messages, he talked about being a mujahedeen fighter.

According to court documents, he wrote: “I wish to be a mujahid akhi. I am willing to fight. I want to be taught what it really means to have that heart in battle!”

He told Sawyer that he was just trying to convince the recruiters that he could be strong. Dakhlalla said he did not want to kill Americans. He said he wanted to work in public relations “to clear up the name of Islam.”

“It was more just like, ‘Hey, you know, I wanna help as much as I can,” he said.

Dakhlalla said his perspective on ISIS had changed from what he’d seen on those videos.

“If I was actually going to arrive there (Syria), I would have seen a totally, completely different picture of what ISIS really is,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got arrested that I seen the reality of what ISIS is.”

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More Than 40 Injured After Bus Carrying Kids Crashes in DC

mrdoomits/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — More than 40 people were injured after a charter bus carrying school kids collided today with a MetroBus in Washington, D.C., authorities said.

At least 43 children, most with minor injuries, are being transported to Children’s Hospital, the DC Fire Department told ABC News. Several adults suffered slightly more serious injuries, including one who sustained a head injury, the department said.

Eastern Ave accident tx 43 pediatric patients minor injs or evaluation. Working in conjunction with Prince George’s Fire. 5 adult refusals pic.twitter.com/wmkNE1hyax

— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) October 27, 2016

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Jurors Solemn After Viewing SUV in Georgia Hot-Car Infant Death Murder Trial

IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — In the ongoing murder case against a Georgia man whose 22-month-old son died when he was left in his father’s hot SUV, the jury Thursday took a first-hand look inside the SUV.

While the jurors appeared calm during the viewing, a source says several jurors broke down crying after seeing the car and the toddler’s car seat.

Justin Ross Harris’ son, Cooper, died on June 18, 2014, after spending about seven hours in a rear-facing car seat in Harris’ 2011 Hyundai Tucson, police said. That day, temperatures in Atlanta were in the low 90-degrees.

Authorities say Cooper was in the car when Harris drove to work at a Home Depot corporate office that morning. When Harris went inside, Cooper was left in the vehicle. Harris returned to his car during lunch to put something away, then went back to work.

Later that day, after Harris went back again to his car and drove away from work, he pulled over in a shopping center where he asked for help for Cooper, authorities say. Cooper — who was not yet 2 years old — died from hyperthermia.

At Thursday’s juror viewing, each juror diligently walked around the vehicle in eerie silence, first with the car doors closed, then with the driver’s door open.

Jurors were not allowed to sit in the car, but most leaned in as far as they could, observing the position of the car seat in reference to where Harris sat that day.

One juror appeared to be reenacting Harris’ movements from that day, walking up to the vehicle several times and making notes. Most of the jurors seemed to be focused on the red car seat where Cooper, who was 22-months-old when he died, sat in the back seat.

The vehicle viewing lasted less than 10 minutes. Attorneys from both sides, along with a detective, were present. But, Harris was absent; he requested to be excused from that part of the trial.

Harris faces eight charges total: Malice Murder, Felony Murder (two counts), Cruelty to Children in the First Degree, Cruelty to Children in the Second Degree, Criminal Attempt to Commit a Felony and Dissemination of Harmful Material to Minors (two counts). Harris has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Court documents stated Harris allegedly researched child deaths in hot cars before the incident. Cooper was pronounced dead after he had been locked in the SUV while Harris went to work. Charges in the indictment also refer to sexually explicit online exchanges from March 2014 through the day of Cooper’s death that prosecutors say Harris had with an underage girl. Prosecutors have argued that Harris wanted to be free of his family responsibilities and was having multiple online affairs, including with the underage girl.

Defense attorneys said Cooper’s death was an accident and that Harris forgot his son was in the car.

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Five Women Accuse UW-Madison Student of Sexual Assault

3drenderings/iStock/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wisc.) — A University of Wisconsin-Madison student is accused of sexual assaulting five women and is facing 15 counts, ranging from second, third and fourth degree sexual assault, to strangulation and suffocation, and false imprisonment. He has been suspended from the university.

Alec Cook, 20, was first arrested this month for allegedly sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman at his apartment on Oct. 12, 2016. The victim told police she had known Cook for nearly two weeks and had hung out with him four or five times prior to the alleged assault. On the night of Oct. 12, she decided to go to his apartment after the two had studied together in the library, she told police. Once there, she told police, Cook sexually assaulted her for two-and-a-half hours. At one point she says she “accepted my fate and gave up a little bit. I realized he was bigger and stronger. I thought maybe I could just wait this out and then get away,” she told police. Cook confirmed that he had sex with the woman but denied that she had ever said “no” or pushed him away, according to court documents.

On Oct. 19, a second woman reported that she was sexually assaulted by Cook in February. She said she met Cook during a human sexuality class in January 2016; they had been dating for a few weeks at the time of the assault. Authorities believe this woman may have been drugged by Cook; according to documents from Dane County Court, “she began feeling abnormal and losing control of her bodily abilities after consuming the unknown liquid provided by him.” She said they had non-consensual sex and that she passed out at one point. The alleged victim told detectives, “I didn’t want to ruin his life. I felt ashamed to tell anyone, because I thought it would make him look bad.” But when she saw the media reporting another girl’s alleged assault from Cook, she felt “empowered. I thought I could now finally tell.”

On Oct. 19, a third woman reported that she was assaulted by Cook throughout the spring of 2016 during a ballroom dancing class, during which “he would touch me inappropriately and I would tell him to stop.” She estimated Cook had inappropriately touched her between 15 and 20 times throughout the semester. She said she asked Cook to stop several times but he continued to grope her.

On Oct. 21, a fourth woman reported to police an assault from March 20, 2015; she said she was digitally penetrated by Cook at his apartment.

On Oct. 24, a fifth woman told police that she and Cook had non-consensual sex at his apartment on Aug. 28. She said Cook repeatedly tried to choke her. She told police “she felt like an object and not a person.”

A Madison, Wisconsin, police detective said that “dozens of females have come forward wanting to speak about unknown acts related to Cook,” according to court documents.

Authorities have also recovered a black book from Cook’s nightstand drawer with women’s names inside. “Each entry showed how Cook met the female, and what he liked about them,” court documents say. “The entries went on to document what he wanted to do with the females. Disturbingly enough there were statements of ‘kill’ and statements of ‘sexual’ desires.”

Cook appeared in court Thursday but did not enter a plea. Bond was set at $200,000 and he remains in jail. His next court date was set for November.

Cook’s attorney Jessa Nicholson disputed the ballroom accusation, also telling reporters after court that the sexual encounters with the four other women were consensual.

Cook’s attorneys Christopher T. Van Wagner and Nicholson said in a statement Wednesday: “The internet has replaced the streets. As a result, for the past few days, we have seen how the rapid-fire internet news cycle erodes that presumption of innocence. This is exactly what is happening to Alec Cook right now. Alec, a 20 year old business major with no criminal history, has seemingly been charged, tried, and convicted. The rapid-fire news cycle, combined with the viral nature of social media, has resulted in a modern-day character assassination that is very real and very wrong.”

Cook was majoring in real estate and urban land economics, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin-Madison told ABC News.

The university released a statement about Cook on Wednesday.

“We were shocked and saddened to learn that several UW–Madison students have reported being sexually assaulted by a fellow student. Sexual violence is unacceptable in our campus and community. We’re committed to transparency and communication, especially in a case as serious as this one,” the statement read.

The university said once he was arrested, Cook was placed on suspension, prohibiting him from campus.

“We take every report of a sexual assault seriously and are committed to building a campus free from sexual assault, dating violence and stalking,” the statement said. “We encourage survivors to come forward to police, who have specially trained officers who can help. But it’s up to each survivor to decide whether to report, and to whom. If you’re not ready to report to police, students can also report a sexual assault to UW–Madison by contacting the Title IX Coordinator or the Dean of Students Office.”

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Police Move in to Remove Protesters at Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota braced for more clashes Thursday as authorities “take necessary steps” to remove protesters from private land.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have asked the Department of Justice to intervene over what it deems to be the “militarization” of local law enforcement after police arrested more than 120 demonstrators last weekend.

Protesters said heavily armed law enforcement officers unleashed pepper spray on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators on Saturday, while officials say the protesters were illegally trespassing and the pepper spray was deployed as a preventative measure. Demonstrators justified their presence by citing an 1851 Treaty that they say specifies that the land was designated for Native American Tribes. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department released a statement on Thursday saying “authorities began taking steps to remove the illegal roadblocks and protesters trespassing on private property near Highway 1806.”

Police arrested 127 protesters, bringing the total number of protest-related arrests since mid-August to 269 people, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

Following this weekend’s showdown, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called on the Department of Justice to investigate increased instances of violence between law enforcement and protesters pushing to block the four-state crude oil pipeline near the tribe’s reservation in North Dakota.

The Standing Rock Sioux on Tuesday criticized the “militarization of law enforcement agencies” that has caused “escalated violence at the campsite.” Witnesses say local police were heavily armed and equipped with militarized vehicles.

The tribe called on the Department of Justice to investigate “law enforcement abuses, including unlawful arrests, of peaceful protesters protecting sacred places and water from the Dakota Access pipeline.”

“I am seeking a Justice Department investigation because I am concerned about the safety of the people,” Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement.

Wyn Hornbuckle, the deputy director of public affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice, told ABC News in a statement that the department was “taking the situation in North Dakota seriously.”

Hornbuckle added that department employees have “been in communications with state and local law enforcement officials, as well as tribal representatives and protesters, to facilitate communication, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests, and maintain public safety. The department has also offered technical assistance and community policing resources to local law enforcement in support of these goals.”

Morton County Chairman Cody Schulz defended the Sheriff’s Department, saying, “The claim that law enforcement is escalating this situation is simply untrue. The law enforcement personnel from across the state, and now across the country have shown incredible professionalism and unbelievable restraint in the face of more and more aggressive tactics and illegal activity from the protesters. As we have stated from the very beginning, we fully respect the 1st Amendment rights of all protesters. The protester’s rights are just as important as those of the citizens of Morton County. But they are not more important.”

Danny Grassrope, 24, told ABC News Thursday that he was arrested at the protest site and witnessed police officers spraying protesters while they were praying.

“This weekend we went to go demonstrate with peaceful action. We went to go pray,” Grassrope said. “Then while we were praying, the cops came and told us we couldn’t be there. We were just standing there and then this police officer came and opened up with some pepper spray. We weren’t antagonizing them or anything, we were just praying.”

Grassrope said he was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot, and was held for six hours before a group of friends paid his bail. Grassrope has not yet entered a plea.

“I don’t understand why it was a riot, the police were in riot gear we were just praying,” Grassrope added.

Grassrope said he has been living on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation for the past five years. His mother is Standing Rock Sioux and his father is Lower Brule Sioux.

“We’re not going to be silent anymore,” Grassrope said. “We are not going to be pushed in a box anymore, our people have been oppressed enough.”

Donnell Hushka, the public information officer for the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to ABC News that protesters including Grassrope had been arrested and charged with engaging in a riot and criminal trespassing, both class B misdemeanors. Hushka said there were about 300 protesters who trespassed onto private property, but the sheriff’s office was not disclosing the number of law enforcement that were at the scene.

“Protesters attempted to breach the police line and did not follow the officers’ instructions,” Hushka said. “Officers did utilize pepper spray, to protect police officers.”

“There are no issues if they want to protest peacefully and legally, but on numerous occasions they have engaged in illegal action by trespassing on private property,” Hushka added.

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Federal Agents Arrest 20 in International IRS Scam with Ties to India

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Federal authorities have arrested nearly two dozen people across the United States — and charged more overseas — in connection with a far-reaching IRS scam that used fear and intimidation to deceive victims.

Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department agents took down a nationwide network of confederates who have allegedly been working with scammers to collect money from victims and send it overseas.

Calling the sweep “Operation Outsource,” agents on Thursday arrested 20 suspects in Illinois, California, New Jersey, Florida, Alabama and Texas.

In India, 32 people from five different call centers have been charged in the telephone fraud schemes.

The scammers are “menacing and ruthless,” often targeting vulnerable immigrants and elderly citizens in the United States from phone banks in India, according to a top U.S. official. Those callers worked with so-called “runners” in the U.S. who would liquidate and transfer funds.

“These folks are con men and con women,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Director Bruce Foucart said Thursday at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

The scammers have “done their research” using publicly available information, including sites like Facebook, he said. They identify vulnerabilities to exploit.

Victims in the United States have been taken for losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 2013, more than two million people reported getting solicitations and about 10,000 of them ended up paying some amount of money to the scammers, according to J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration.

It starts with a phone call.

It was Election Day, 2014 and Joseph, a retired federal service employee, who asked to be identified by only his first name, had just come home from voting.

His phone rang and the man on the other end of the line identified himself as an officer with the IRS. The caller gave a badge number and said that Joseph owed money to the IRS and that if he didn’t comply law enforcement would be at his home “within thirty minutes” to arrest him.

“At that point I was under the spell,” Joseph said.

Joseph then went to the bank, withdrew funds and went to a number of supermarkets to purchase several different types of gift cards. He transferred the numbers on the cards to the person on the phone.

This went on for four days until he called his accountant, who said “this is not right, you need to stop,” according to Joseph.

“As soon as she said that, I was snapped out of it,” he said.

In the end, he lost $25,000.

Scammers use open-source research to find out information about their targets. They also look for people that have the funds to pay out, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Christine, who also only wanted to be identified by her first name, had racked up a number of medical bills from her cancer treatment a couple of years ago. She had been audited by the IRS and had delayed providing the details of her medical expenses.

She is a mother, grandmother and a medical sales professional from Southern California.

One day she went to check her voicemail on her home phone. A woman identified herself as being from the IRS and said she needed to speak with Christine “immediately.”

“I thought, ‘Oh boy, I waited too long,'” she said about the voicemail.

Christine called back and was told that law enforcement would be dispatched to her place of work because she had failed to respond to multiple requests from the IRS.

After some back-and-forth, the scammers told her there was nothing they could do to stop it, except take a deposit on the money that was owed.

“The thing that had gotten me about the amount was that it was within $300 for the amount that I was being audited for,” she said.

She was told that there was only “a particular type of card” that the IRS would accept, neither checks or a debit card would suffice.

By requesting to be paid with gift-type cards, the scammers are getting people to liquidate their funds, which makes it easier to transfer money and harder for law enforcement to trace, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Three trips to the bank, two stops at the supermarket and four hours later, she had transferred $6,850. They stayed on the phone with her until all of the money was transferred.

Within minutes of hanging up with the scammers, she said she realized, “I’d been had.”

Scammers try to push a sense of urgency on their victims, threatening to send law enforcement or impose instant penalties.

Officials say that that false sense of urgency is a huge red flag and does not occur in legitimate dealings, especially when someone is being notified for the first time.

Authorities say people should ask for valid credentials and always notify local law enforcement if something does not seem right.

Christine and Joseph said they were embarrassed, ashamed and shocked by the experience, but both hope that their trauma can help others who may fall prey to similar scams.

“We need to pay attention. It’s kind of a big bad world out there and we owe it to ourselves to embrace the good, but be aware of the bad,” said Christine.

The head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Leslie Caldwell, has a message for Americans: “If you get one of these calls, it is not the U.S. government calling you.”

“Even if your caller ID says — as it did in many of these instances — ‘U.S. government,’ ‘IRS’ or some other government agency, it is not the U.S. government. It is a scam,” she said at Thursday’s press conference. “The U.S. government does not operate in this manner.”

Caldwell said the U.S. government will be seeking extradition of the suspects still in India.

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Tensions Mount Between Protesters, Police over Controversial Pipeline

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota are bracing for more clashes with police after the arrest of more than 120 demonstrators last weekend.

Protesters said heavily armed law enforcement officers unleashed pepper spray on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators on Saturday, while officials say the protesters were illegally trespassing and the pepper spray was deployed as a preventative measure. Demonstrators justified their presence by citing an 1851 Treaty that they say specifies that the land was designated for Native American Tribes.

Police arrested 127 protesters, bringing the total number of protest-related arrests since mid-August to 269 people, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

Following this weekend’s showdown, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called on the Department of Justice to investigate increased instances of violence between law enforcement and protesters pushing to block the four-state crude oil pipeline near the tribe’s reservation in North Dakota.

The Standing Rock Sioux on Tuesday criticized the “militarization of law enforcement agencies” that has caused “escalated violence at the campsite.” Witnesses say local police were heavily armed and equipped with militarized vehicles.

The tribe called on the Department of Justice to investigate “law enforcement abuses, including unlawful arrests, of peaceful protesters protecting sacred places and water from the Dakota Access pipeline.”

“I am seeking a Justice Department investigation because I am concerned about the safety of the people,” Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement.

Wyn Hornbuckle, the deputy director of public affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice, told ABC News in a statement that the department was “taking the situation in North Dakota seriously.”

Hornbuckle added that department employees have “been in communications with state and local law enforcement officials, as well as tribal representatives and protesters, to facilitate communication, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests, and maintain public safety. The department has also offered technical assistance and community policing resources to local law enforcement in support of these goals.”

Morton County Chairman Cody Schulz defended the Sheriff’s Department, saying, “The claim that law enforcement is escalating this situation is simply untrue. The law enforcement personnel from across the state, and now across the country have shown incredible professionalism and unbelievable restraint in the face of more and more aggressive tactics and illegal activity from the protesters. As we have stated from the very beginning, we fully respect the 1st Amendment rights of all protesters. The protester’s rights are just as important as those of the citizens of Morton County. But they are not more important.”

Danny Grassrope, 24, told ABC News Thursday that he was arrested at the protest site and witnessed police officers spraying protesters while they were praying.

“This weekend we went to go demonstrate with peaceful action. We went to go pray,” Grassrope said. “Then while we were praying, the cops came and told us we couldn’t be there. We were just standing there and then this police officer came and opened up with some pepper spray. We weren’t antagonizing them or anything, we were just praying.”

Grassrope said he was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot, and was held for six hours before a group of friends paid his bail. Grassrope has not yet entered a plea.

“I don’t understand why it was a riot, the police were in riot gear we were just praying,” Grassrope added.

Grassrope said he has been living on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation for the past five years. His mother is Standing Rock Sioux and his father is Lower Brule Sioux.

“We’re not going to be silent anymore,” Grassrope said. “We are not going to be pushed in a box anymore, our people have been oppressed enough.”

Donnell Hushka, the public information officer for the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to ABC News that protesters including Grassrope had been arrested and charged with engaging in a riot and criminal trespassing, both class B misdemeanors. Hushka said there were about 300 protesters who trespassed onto private property, but the sheriff’s office was not disclosing the number of law enforcement that were at the scene.

“Protesters attempted to breach the police line and did not follow the officers’ instructions,” Hushka said. “Officers did utilize pepper spray, to protect police officers.”

“There are no issues if they want to protest peacefully and legally, but on numerous occasions they have engaged in illegal action by trespassing on private property,” Hushka added.

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NYC Firefighters Battling Deadly Six-Alarm Blaze

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Firefighters are scrambling to extinguish a blaze in New York City’s Upper East Side that has ripped through all five floors of an apartment building, killing at least one person and leaving another in critical condition.

The New York Fire Department responded to the six-alarm blaze that started around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, reports WABC-TV, ABC’s local affiliate.

Two others reported minor injuries.

Authorities have closed down 93rd Street between First and Second Avenues, and First Avenue between 91st and 94th Streets, WABC said.

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