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liquor ring

9/13/12 1:58pm

100,000 Mini Bottles of Booze Go AWOL

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They thought no one would notice. Photo via

In an investigation aptly dubbed “Operation Last Call,” investigators have nabbed 18 employees at the JFK airport for stealing 100,000 mini liquor bottles over the course of five months. They also stole "duty-free items—such as larger bottles of liquor, perfume, and cartons of cigarettes—with an overall estimated retail value of more than $750,000," according to Queens DA Richard Brown. The mini liquor ring involved 15 current and former truck drivers for LSG Sky Chefs (who are responsible for American Airlines' food) and three security guards. Drivers are supposed to bring all the unsold bottles and merchandise from American Airlines flights back to storage, but the drivers would skim a few off the top each time—ultimately amounting to a significant haul. A police raid on the homes of a retired driver recovered "500 to 600 garbage bags filled with mini liquor bottles. Each bag contained approximately 100 bottles worth between $385,000 and $420,000, as well as $34,000 in cash,” says the DA. Undercover agents also made 57 purchases of 57,000 mini liquor bottles from the conspirators. “Perhaps more troubling is that airport security personnel entrusted with guarding against theft and maintaining security at the airport were allegedly involved in the scheme,” says Brown. “If a terrorist wanted to breach airport security, the alleged actions of these defendants gave them a back-door opportunity to do so.” The defendants face a range of charges including bribe receiving, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

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By Bryan Le

Prison Drug Smuggling

9/13/12 12:45pm

Do Prison Drug-Detection Wands Work Too Well?

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Are prison scanning devices less than magic?
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To deter visitors from smuggling drugs to prisoners during visits, Bureau of Prisons staff routinely employ a drug detection "wand." They randomly conduct scans which produce field results in less than two minutes, and are capable of detecting drugs like cocaine, cannabis, opiates and meth on a person—even in tiny quantities. "My girl smoked a joint in her car before she came in to visit me, and then they wanded her and the sensor went off," one prisoner tells The Fix. "So they turned her around and wouldn't let her visit." What correctional officers call "a sophisticated lab on a stick", roughly the size the size of a pen, quickly picks up invisible residues after a single wand-like motion. But it's not an exact science. "My 70-year-old grandmother, who has never touched a drug in her life, got swiped one time with the drug sensor and was refused to visit because they said she tested positive for cocaine," another prisoner tells us. "That was some pure bullshit." And similar occurrences are reported in other prisons—creating new innocent victims of the War on Drugs, as prisoners and their families and loved ones unfairly miss out on longed-for visits. "When my girl comes now she wipes her hands down with a hand-wipe disinfectant to make sure there is no type of residue on her hands that the drug wand can detect," the first prisoner says. "Because it doesn't matter if she smoked marijuana or not; the drug wand is some garbage and I'm not trying to miss my visit over some defective-ass equipment."

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By Seth Ferranti

bad trip

9/13/12 11:52am

Hallucinogen Kills US Teen in Peru

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An Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru. Photo via

A shaman in Peru has been arrested after he confessed to burying the body of an American teenager who died after consuming a hallucinogenic brew during a ritual. The shaman, Jose Manuel Pinada, who refers to himself as "Maestro Mancoluto," leads spiritual retreats in Puerto Maldonado in the Madre de Dios jungle region, about 530 miles east from the capital city of Lima. Pinada informed authorities that 18-year-old Kyle Nolan died on August 22 after exceeding the dosage of a brew called ayahuasca, which is made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. Ayahuasca is the same psychoactive mixture that first beckoned writer William S. Burroughs to Peru in 1953, in search of "the ultimate fix." Nolan arrived in the region last August 17 and was declared missing on August 27 after he didn't return home. Two other men have also been arrested for allegedly helping Pineda bury the young man.

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By McCarton Ackerman

model intervention

9/13/12 11:00am

Top Model Contestant Ravaged by Meth

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Jael Strauss before and after meth.
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Nearly six years after appearing on season eight of America’s Next Top Model, 28-year-old Jael Strauss reveals that she’s fighting an addiction to meth. “Do the drugs get her and take her life? Or do we get her and save her life?” asks Dr. Phil McGraw in a preview for today's episode of Dr. Phil, in which the self-help guru will interview the former model and stage an intervention. On the show, the former model—whose physical appearance has been radically altered by drugs—walks towards the stage, and then suddenly takes off running in the other direction. “She just opened the curtain, pivoted on her heel and is running through the Paramount lot,” says McGraw. Before arriving on the set, Strauss is seen struggling with the camera crew and her parents in order to get on set. After running off set, the cameras, along with Dr. Phil, follow Strauss into the parking lot, where they talk behind a dumpster: "(For) the first time in 10 years, I came out here to you," he says to Strauss. During her stint on America’s Next Top Model, Strauss lost a close friend to a heroin overdose. “This is the worse thing I could possibly hear in the entire universe,” she said after hearing the news. “I don't understand this... this doesn't make any sense. I'd rather not be dealing with this situation with what's going on in my life, but I think modeling is a good distraction for me right now.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

9/13/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: September 13, 2012

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No booze for Britney. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Rock 'n Roll

9/12/12 5:20pm

Blind Melon Inspires Rehab Record Label

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Travis Warren's solo album is Iron Ridge's
first release, dropping Sept. 25th.

Clarity Way Rehab Facility is taking music therapy to a whole new level with the launch of its very own record label: Iron Ridge Road Recordings. The seed was planted years ago when Travis T. Warren, frontman of the rock band Blind Melon, went to rehab and was forced to record music in a closet, as there was no other space. “That closet was so small, I don’t even think my guitar fit in there, so I had to keep the door open a little,” Warren tells The Fix. Later, he met with Clarity Way's founders, husband and wife Justin and Robin Daniels (Robin’s brother is also in Blind Melon), as they were preparing to open their Pennsylvania drug and alcohol facility. Warren's story inspired them to build their own studio, providing musicians with a creative outlet throughout the recovery process—and eventually they decided to take their commitment even further. “Everything fell into place and we thought, 'Let’s take this to the final conclusion and actually start a record label,'” says John Chuter, communications director for Clarity Way.

The first debut solo album from Warren, called Beneath These Borrowed Skies, will be released on September 25. “There’s no doubt about it that music saved my life,” says the rocker. “The experience has been great because I have a lot of friends who are on bigger labels and you may have a bigger budget but you don’t necessarily get to do the things you want to do, creatively speaking. The cool thing about Iron Ridge is they just let me go for it. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of other labels that would have done that.” Chuter says it was important to allow him total creative freedom: “We didn’t want him to make a record about recovery but a record that’s about someone’s life stories and experiences expressed through music."

All of Iron Ridge’s profits will go to MusiCares, a charitable arm of the Grammys that helps support musicians with financial, personal or medical needs; the label is also sponsoring the MusiCares annual songwriting competition called Teens! Make Music. They plan to release many more albums throughout the year, with the ultimate goal being to raise awareness about addiction and recovery among younger people—without being “too preachy.” They also hope that Warren’s story will inspire those struggling with addiction, especially musicians. “It shows that recovery itself can be rewarding and you can still continue to be an extremely creative artist, and that can play an extremely vital part in your recovery," says Chuter. "We just think that’s such a positive message to put out there.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

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