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Thursday
Jan172019

Federal agents aren't getting paid during shutdown, but also have to pay for expenses

krblokhin/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- While many families were enjoying Christmas, an undercover FBI agent was communicating with a man who was suspected of plotting an attack on the White House, court documents show.

It was days after the government initially shut down and the agent was not getting paid. But the work resulted in the arrest of Hasher Jallal Taheb, a man in Georgia who federal authorities accused of plotting to attack several prominent locations in Washington, including the White House.

And now as the partial government shutdown is in its fourth week, federal employees are furloughed or not receiving pay for the work they are doing.

But agents and investigators from the FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service are concerned they won't be reimbursed in a timely fashion for business expenses. Don Mihalek, the Secret Service representative to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and an ABC News contributor, confirmed to ABC News that cash advances are not being given out and official credit cards are not being paid for through government invoice channels.

"The way that works is FBI agents have an FBI credit card but they have to pay the bill," FBI Agents Association spokesperson Paul Nathanson told ABC News. "These agents have to buy tickets to go overseas and they can't get reimbursed for that money. So not only are they not getting paid, they're putting out money for their jobs and not getting it back until the government opens."

John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security and an ABC News contributor, said the cost burden has caused low morale for agents.

"In conversations I'm having with law enforcement officials, the shutdown has reached the point where it could impact public safety," Cohen said.

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Thursday
Jan172019

Newborn girl found dead in trash in Amazon facility bathroom: Police

kali9/iStock(PHOENIX) -- A newborn baby girl has been found dead in the trash at an Amazon distribution center in Phoenix, according to police.

Authorities were told around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday that the newborn was discovered in the trash inside a women's bathroom, Phoenix Police Department officials said.

Fire department members responded to the bathroom -- which is inside Amazon's secured facility -- and confirmed the baby was dead, police said.

Investigators have found the baby's mother and spoke to her, police said. Authorities did not release the mother's name.

It's not clear if the baby was stillborn, police said.

"The investigation will continue in partnership with the Office of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner," police said in a statement Thursday.

"This is a terribly sad and tragic incident," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. "We are working with local authorities to support their investigation."

"The safety and wellness of our team is our top priority," the spokesperson added.

Arizona has a Safe Haven Law which aims to prevent newborns from being abandoned.

According to the Arizona Safe Haven Law, someone can anonymously leave a baby who is up to 3 days old with staff at any Arizona fire station, hospital, emergency medical provider or licensed private child welfare agency.

"As long as the child shows no signs of intentional abuse, no name or other information is required," the Safe Haven Law website says.

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Thursday
Jan172019

'He just drank too much': Heartbreaking 911 call released in death of young fraternity member

Kativ/iStock(IRVINE, Calif.) -- "Someone's not breathing, they're not OK," a young man in Irvine, California, told a 911 dispatcher. "Their whole body is, like, blue right now."

A frantic 911 call was released in connection with the death of University of California-Irvine freshman Noah Domingo, who died at an off-campus home on Saturday.

The 911 caller said the 18-year-old, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, was found unconscious.

"Get him on the ground right now, hurry up!" the caller tells others in the room, and the dispatcher talks them through giving CPR.

The dispatcher asks why Domingo's unconscious, and the caller says, "He just drank. He just drank too much."

The caller is heard giving CPR, with instructions from the dispatcher. The call ended when firefighters arrived.

Domingo died at about 3:30 a.m. at a private residence in Irvine, the Orange County Coroner's Office told ABC News.

His "cause of death will be determined pending toxicology results after autopsy, which typically takes a few weeks," the coroner's office said Tuesday.

Domingo wanted to study kinesiology and become an NBA trainer, his father, Dale Domingo, told ABC Los Angeles station KABC.

The grieving father told KABC it was "devastating" to clear out his son's dorm room.

"First thing I did was grab his pillow and pretty much just cry and weep a little bit," he said.

SAE was placed on interim suspension as Irvine police officers investigate and the university reviews his death, said Edgar Dormitorio, UC Irvine interim vice chancellor of student affairs.

Mike Sophir, the CEO of SAE, said its headquarters also suspended UC Irvine's chapter operations during the review.

"We are heartbroken by the death of our UCI brother, Noah Domingo," Sophir said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and we appreciate the support the university and its staff have provided to students in this difficult time."

Dormitorio said UC Irvine will also "examine the larger context in which this tragedy occurred" and work with the Greek community to make sure behavior aligns "with university policies and their own values."

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Thursday
Jan172019

Flooding in California as East braces for massive winter storms

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Almost 6 inches of rain just fell in central California and the southern part of the state has seen more than 4 inches, resulting in flooding and rockslides reportedly hitting cars.

Wind gusts of up to 98 mph also were reported in central California, and in the Bay Area, trees were toppled, with some falling on cars.

A second, stronger storm is continuing to batter the West Coast Thursday morning with 40-foot waves, heavy rain, damaging winds and heavy snow in higher elevations.

Winter storm watches have been issued in the Northeast, including Boston, which mainly is watching for the second of the two storms to move across the U.S.

The first of the two storms should hit the Northeast Thursday night and into Friday, bringing light snow -- 1 to 3 inches -- to areas including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Temperatures will be near freezing, and Friday commutes could prove quite slick.

The second storm is expected in the Northeast by Saturday night, delivering snow from D.C. up to Boston, with some of that snow changing to sleet as warmer air joins the system.

Further inland, some areas in western Pennsylvania and northern New York and New England may see several feet of snow.

Behind the storm, Arctic air is forecast to spill into the central U.S., with the coldest air of the season resulting in wind chills below zero for much of the Midwest and Great Lakes region.

This bitterly cold air will make it to the Northeast by Sunday night, into Monday, sending wind chills in some places below zero.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan172019

Search for missing Colorado mom expands to landfill

Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images(DENVER) -- The search for evidence in the case of a missing Colorado mother authorities say was murdered by her fiancé now includes a landfill in Fountain, Colorado, ABC News has learned.

A spokeswoman for the Midway Landfill south of Colorado Springs confirmed the facility recently attracted the attention of investigators in the disappearance and presumed murder of 29-year old flight instructor Kelsey Berreth. Her body has not been found.

“The Colorado Bureau of Investigation contacted Waste Management of Colorado regarding a potential search at Midway Landfill and we are cooperating fully,” Waste Management spokeswoman Anne Spitza told ABC News on Wednesday.

Patrick Frazee, 32, described as Berreth’s fiancé and father of the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, has been charged with her murder.

Spitza declined to answer additional questions about the timing of any search or what investigators are looking for, referring all questions to the district attorney’s office handling the case.

The Midway landfill is a roughly 40-mile drive from Woodland Park, where Berreth was last publicly seen shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Police say Frazee was the last person to see Berreth before she vanished.

On Dec. 21, Frazee was arrested on first-degree murder charges and three charges of solicitation to commit murder, though prosecutors have declined to provide additional details. Frazee has not entered a plea and is due back in court on Feb. 19.

Representatives for district attorney Dan May and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation both declined to comment Wednesday.

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Thursday
Jan172019

Police find WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle's niece after she was abducted in PA

Pennsylvania State Police(PITTSBURGH) -- Police have found a 16-year-old girl safe and taken her ex-boyfriend into custody after she was allegedly kidnapped from her home Wednesday.

The teen, who is the niece of WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, was brought to safety from a home where the boyfriend, 19-year-old Jermaine Rodgers, had holed up, according to Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE-TV. A SWAT team went in and was able to apprehend Rodgers.

Angle confirmed she was found safe in a Facebook post at about 6 a.m. on Thursday.

"My niece has been found," he wrote. "Just wanted to say thank you to all those who have prayed and have shared posts to help locate her. Thank you to the Pittsburgh Police for your persistence in finding my niece. My family is truly appreciative. Love you all."

According to WTAE, another missing woman was also found in the house where Rodgers was hiding.

Angle made a heartfelt plea on social media Wednesday afternoon, asking fans to help search for his teenage niece.

"My beautiful 16-year-old niece Marjani Aquil got abducted today by a 19 year old guy. Please call the police if you have seen this girl," Angle said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

In a subsequent post, the wrestling star and 1996 Olympics gold medalist thanked his followers for their encouraging words and urged them to "continue sharing" Aquil's story.

"Please continue sharing. Thank you all for your support," he said. "Uncle Kurt Loves you Mini. Come back home to us safely. Please lets find my niece."

Aquil went missing from her Pennsylvania home on Wednesday afternoon, according to her parents, with police in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, saying she appeared to have been abducted by an ex-boyfriend.

Rodgers was convicted on charges of kidnapping a minor in January 2018, court records show.

Rodgers was sentenced in December to one year of probation and required to complete a batterer's intervention program, WTAE reported. He was also ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and have no contact with the victim, according to the report.

Court records do not indicate the victim of the previous kidnapping.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan172019

Texas mayor resigns amid accusation of using city funds to see Michelle Obama

ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(FOREST HILL, Texas) -- A pair of Texas politicians resigned after they allegedly misused public funds to attend an event on Michelle Obama's book tour.

Forest Hill, Texas, Mayor Lyndia Thomas and Mayor Pro Tem Beckie Hayes submitted their resignations on Wednesday, ahead of a public hearing over alleged misconduct and expenses related to the former first lady's book tour event in Dallas last year.

The pair allegedly received reimbursements for two $545 tickets for Obama's Becoming book tour. The expense was approved by the city manager, and Hayes received a check, but she said she paid it back when members of a citizens committee voiced concern.

Thomas said she resigned because she didn't want council members to decide her fate.

"I will not leave my fate in the hands of other individuals," Hayes told ABC affiliate WFAA-TV on Wednesday. "I am a woman of integrity, and the allegations, they have no substance. They are false."

Thomas had asked for a three-month extension to give her more time to prepare her case, but the city council voted to proceed with the Wednesday hearing.

The council said it planned to "discuss and consider possible action up to and including reprimand, suspension or removal from office," according to an agenda posted online.

Both Hayes and Thomas said they're being targeted for political reasons, and they both said they will plan to run for city council again. The next election is in May.

"We don't get a salary, but we are entitled to be reimbursed for our expenses," Thomas said. "We are not trying to hide anything."

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Thursday
Jan172019

Police: Pair busted at airport for smuggling 159 pounds of marijuana

Metro Nashville Police Department(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- If the four oversized checked bags don't give you away, the drug sniffing dog will.

Two men found that out the hard way at Nashville International Airport this week when they allegedly tried to smuggle 159 pounds of marijuana through the city on their way to Jacksonville, Florida.

Trung Tieu, 40, of Philadelphia, and Tihn Van Tran, 56, of Murphy, Texas, were busted when a drug-sniffing German shepherd foiled their plans of transporting dozens of plastic bags of weed. The duo even went to the extreme of trying to mask the luggage's smell with the "strong odor of air freshener," Nashville police said.

Tieu and Tran were arrested Tuesday night. They are both facing felony possession of marijuana charges with intent to sell, according to court records.

Tran was released late Wednesday night, while Tieu is still being held on $50,000 bond.

Tieu is also being held on a detainer by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and is therefore not eligible for release.

Not only did the men have the four suitcases when they were stopped by police, but they also had cellphones that "rang constantly" throughout interviews with police. The men consented to police opening the luggage, where police said they found the dozens of bags of marijuana wrapped in bed sheets.

The two men were making a stopover in Nashville, Tennessee after getting off a Southwest flight from Oakland, California.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates a wide range of prices for marijuana in the U.S. -- from $20 to $1,800 per ounce -- but even at its low range of $20 per ounce the haul confiscated by Nashville police would be worth over $50,000.

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Thursday
Jan172019

Michigan State interim president resigns after criticizing victims of sexual assault

wellesenterprises/iStock(EAST LANSING, Mich.) -- Michigan State University's interim president resigned on Wednesday amid backlash over comments he made about survivors of sexual assault.

John Engler said he would step down, effective Jan. 23, after he appeared to criticize victims of the now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

The resignation came hours after Michigan State University's board of trustees scheduled an impromptu meeting for Thursday morning after Engler told The Detroit News that some Nassar survivors seemed to be "enjoying" the "spotlight."

"There are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven't been in the spotlight," Engler told The Detroit News earlier this week. "In some ways, they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who've been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it's ending. It's almost done."

Engler didn't mention the controversial comments in his resignation letter, but he acknowledged that five of the board's eight trustees had requested he step down.

"The bottom line is that MSU is a dramatically better, stronger institution than it was one year ago," Engler wrote in an 11-page letter on Wednesday. "The many changes we have made are substantive and offer far-reaching in their impact (sic). At the same time, our leaders across the university are energized, organized and communicating in far more effective ways than had been the case."

Engler, 70, took the helm on a temporary basis last January when the previous president, Lou Anna Simon, resigned in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

Satish Udpa, who currently serves as executive vice president of Administrative Services at MSU, is expected to be named as Engler's replacement, ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV reported, citing sources close to the matter.

Engler served as the Republican governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003, and also worked as a lobbyist.

Nassar -- a former doctor at Michigan State and national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics -- was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger.

In all, Nassar committed thousands of sexual assaults beginning in the early 1990s and through the summer of 2016, according to an independent report, conducted by law firm Ropes & Gray last year.

"He abused some survivors one time, while abusing others hundreds of times over a period of many years," the report said. "With the cover he crafted, he became, in the words of one survivor, a 'wolf in sheep’s clothing,' who cloaked himself in the 'guise of a loving friend and medical professional.'"

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Wednesday
Jan162019

FBI arrests Georgia man for allegedly plotting to attack the White House

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(ATLANTA) -- Federal authorities have arrested a man in Georgia who they are accusing of plotting to attack several prominent locations in Washington, D.C., including the White House.

Hasher Jallal Taheb had been under investigation by the FBI as part of a sting operation after local authorities reported concerns about him becoming radicalized last March, according to a criminal complaint filed in the federal court in the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta on Wednesday.

A member of the community had reported to local law enforcement that Taheb had "become radicalized, changed his name and made plans to travel abroad," the complaint states.

Taheb applied for a U.S. passport in July, stating that he had misplaced his previous one, and in August he put his vehicle up for sale, telling an FBI informant who expressed interest in buying it that he was selling the car to fund his travel overseas, according to the complaint.

Taheb told the FBI informant in October during a meeting in Cumming, Georgia, that he "wished to conduct an attack in the United States against targets such as the White House and the Statue of Liberty," the document states. Taheb allegedly told the informant that "jihad was the best deed in Islam and the peak of Islam," adding that "it was not complicated at all to do jihad today," according to the complaint.

In a meeting with the informant and an undercover FBI agent on Dec. 2, Taheb allegedly stated that "they could do more damage" in the U.S. because abroad they would be "one of many." He also allegedly said that he wanted to be a “martyr” and cause as much damage as possible, the complaint states.

On Dec. 7, Taheb allegedly showed the undercover operative a hand-drawn diagram of the White House's West Wing in a composition notebook and asked for help with obtaining weapons and explosives for the attack, the complaint states.

"He said the group would fight to the end and make it a big bang," according to the document.

Two days later, Taheb allegedly asked the undercover agent via text how "grocery shopping" was and offered to go with him to purchase the weapons and explosives, the complaint states.

On Dec. 14, Taheb allegedly "broadened his prospective targets," indicating that he wished to attack the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and a "specific synagogue" in the Washington, D.C. area, which was not named, according to the complaint. He also discussed the need for a "base" where they could regroup and "give a speech to motivate people" and show clips of "oppressed Muslims," the document states.

The next day, he allegedly uploaded a 40-page manifesto he authored to Google Docs, which stated the importance of "defensive jihad" and included justifications for "creating and leading his group to conduct violent attacks," according to the complaint. He also created a group chat with the informant and undercover agent, where he would allegedly discuss his plans to attack in the following weeks.

Taheb allegedly met with the undercover agent on Jan. 9 and provided him with two backpacks, stating that he wanted to obtain the weapons within the next week and travel to Washington, D.C., the complaint states. Taheb allegedly told the undercover agent that the explosives would be inside the backpacks and would be detonated with cell phones.

On Saturday, Taheb allegedly met with the FBI informant, providing him with a camera, an American flag and an Israeli flag and stating that he wanted to conduct the attack on Thursday, according to the sworn affidavit.

Taheb, the informant and the undercover agent met in the parking lot of a store in Buford, Georgia, on Wednesday for the "purpose of exchanging their vehicles for three semi-automatic assault rifles, three explosive devices with remote initiation and one AT-4," a single-shot smoothbore weapon," the document states.

After a second confidential informant explained how to use the weapons, Taheb allegedly gave his car keys to him in exchange for them, according to the complaint.

Taheb was arrested after he allegedly took possession of the two backpacks containing the explosives and the AT-4 and placed them in a rental vehicle, the document states.

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