Thirteen members of a notorious crime family—who dealt heroin and crack around the clock in Liverpool and dominated one area of the English city—have been jailed for a total of 82 years after several dramatic police raids. “Matriarch and banker” Carol Whitney, 53, hid 500 wraps of heroin in a hanging plant in her back yard when cops arrived. She was claiming government benefits despite making a fortune from drugs. Nearby, police chased her estranged husband Leslie through his house and into the back yard as he tried to destroy his own stash. More extended family and associates were arrested elsewhere; young mom Emma McKenzie, 29, tried to hide her dope in a diaper bag. Her baby, meanwhile, was being used as a decoy by McKenzie's own mom, Mary McCabe: the 53-year-old grandmother's car was pulled over and cops found drugs and ammunition under the seat her granddaughter was strapped into. There was also a military assault rifle in the trunk. One family associate, 37-year-old Matthew Mayor, was filmed tossing large packages of heroin from his car window during a high-speed police chase—plumes of powder billowed behind him as the packs burst. Cops say just one of the packs contained dope worth around $75,000. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition, thousands of ecstasy pills, a canister of CS military tear gas, several sets of body armor, and yet more weaponry and heroin, were also seized from the Whitney family hoard. "This was a very dangerous family whose daily business was drugs and guns,” says Liverpool Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Doherty. "They dealt with drugs near to schools. They have nice holiday homes, they go on exotic holidays...My description of them would be 'parasites.'"
A pilot and possibly some passengers abandoned a small, unscheduled twin-engine airplane that crash landed at Houston Executive Airport Monday evening, carrying a large quantity of marijuana. The unknown number of occupants made no prior contact with airport officials and ditched the plane after its nose landing gear collapsed as it touched down on the runway. Witnesses describe seeing the "shadows" of a person or people fleeing from the wreck. It's mystifying that no one was caught: the small airport is surrounded by a ten-foot chain link perimeter fence, with three layers of barbed wire on top. Yet the occupant(s) vanished, with no hole discovered in the fence. “You could certainly classify [the marijuana on board] as a lot more than just personal use,” says John Kremmer, chief deputy of the Waller County Sheriff’s Department, without disclosing the exact amount. He adds, “We have no idea who the pilot was or where it came from.” The incident comes as the US Senate considers an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to crack down on smugglers who use ultralight aircraft (ULAs) to move drugs. A loophole in the current law punishes traffickers using ULAs less severely than those who use cars or larger aircraft, like the one abandoned in Houston. In any case, you have to find them first.
- Obama Commutes Sentence of Federal Prisoner With Crack Conviction [Politico.com]
- Addicted Doctors Do Better in Treatment Than Most [Reuters]
- Australian Doctors Prescribe Anti-Heroin Drug to Gambling Addicts [Daily Telegraph]
- Feds Restore $12.5 Million in Meth Cleanup Funds [AP]
- Jose Pimentel Smoked Marijuana With NYPD Informant, Tried to Circumcise Himself [Huffington Post]
- School Handles Alcohol Allegations at Central Dance [The Star Press]
- South Carolina Woman Tried to Use Bibles to Smuggle Drugs to Inmate [WCNC]
- Vodka Ad Boasting "Christmas Quality" at "Hanukkah Pricing" Accused of Anti-Semitism [CNN]
The anesthesiologist who prescribed painkillers to Long Island pharmacy gunman David Laffer pleaded not guilty Monday to selling scrips to addicts and drug dealers. Prosecutors say Dr. Stan Xuhui Li, 57—who makes $400,000 a year as an anesthesiologist at a New Jersey hospital—wrote over 17,000 prescriptions, mostly for opioid painkillers, in the last 2½ years at the Flushing clinic he operated on weekends. One of Li’s clinic visitors was Michael Cornetta, 40, an addict who survived two overdoses before he finally died while chewing on a fentanyl patch. All the current charges relate to Cornetta—Li's charged with 15 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance and five counts of reckless endangerment—but prosecutors say more may follow. Li’s defense attorney, Aaron Wallenstein, says Li stopped prescribing drugs to Cornetta once he realized Cornetta was an addict. But prosecutors disagree: Li’s behavior is “just another form of drug dealing,” says Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridge Brennan. Li wasn't charged with selling illegal prescriptions to Laffer, a regular patient of his since 2009, who investigators say obtained hydrocodone at the clinic a month before he executed four people in a Long Island pharmacy as he tried to rob the store of its painkillers. (Laffer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month.) Prosecutors say Li saw up to 120 people per day at his Queens clinic and charged each up to $150, billing Medicare and Medicaid at the same time.
If you thought you were the biggest Twi-Tard out there, think again. Police arrested a drunken Illinois teenager on Saturday when she told them she crashed her car because her boyfriend didn't take her to see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 as planned. Olivia Ornelas, 18, was charged with a DUI and unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor. Cops later discovered her car, missing its front right tire—she'd spun out of control and landed in a ditch. "Ornelas advised that she was extremely upset with her boyfriend because she did not see the movie Twilight like they were suppose [sic] to," notes a Kendall County police report. She was released after posting $300 bond. Some would pay that much not to see the movie.
Health insurance premiums across the country rose 50% for families between 2003 and 2008, finds a new study. For employer-paid health plans, they rose 63%, and deductibles also rose dramatically. If premiums continue to soar at this rate, the average premium for family coverage will reach $24,000 by 2020. In the context of a stagnant economy, this projection is particularly worrying, for addicts and everyone else. The authors of the study—by the Commonwealth Fund, a private think tank devoted to health policy—say that “rising health care costs and restricted incomes have pushed more people into poverty.” They note that if health care costs were deducted from income measurements in census data, ten million extra people in America would be categorized as poor. But the report speaks optimistically about the Affordable Care Act passed by President Obama earlier in his presidency, believing it likely to temper the rise of healthcare premiums over the next ten years by restricting admin costs and expanding the government Medicaid and Medicare programs. One of the factors blamed for the rapidly rising premiums is the growing "monopoly power" of the largest health plans. It's hoped that Obama’s law will also break up this market domination and lead to more consumer choice.