HEALTHCARE FRAUD-GUILTY PLEA
NC woman pleads guilty to healthcare fraud conspiracy
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — A federal prosecutor says a North Carolina woman has pleaded guilty to conspiring with the owner of a pharmacy and others to bill fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurers. Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, says in a news release that Melisha Oxendine West of Pembroke pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. According to court documents, West conspired with the owner of a pharmacy in Red Springs and others to bill fraudulent claims by reauthorizing previously existing prescriptions from licensed medical providers and billing health care benefit programs as though those drugs had been dispensed.
FATAL SHOOTING-SHERIFF’S DEPUTY
Judge allows video release in Black man’s shooting death
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A judge has granted a North Carolina police chief’s request to release body camera video recorded moments after the fatal shooting of a Black man by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. The Fayetteville Observer reports that Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons issued his ruling Thursday, two days after Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins filed the request. Hawkins says the footage will show exchanges between Fayetteville police officers and three witnesses at the scene of last Saturday’s fatal shooting of Jason Walker by off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeffrey Hash.
ELECTION 2022-US SENATE-EASTMAN
Super PAC seeks to boost N. Carolina Senate hopeful Eastman
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An independent political committee has quickly spent money on digital media, billboards and radio ads to back Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marjorie Eastman, a relative newcomer to the race. Federal filings show Restore Common Sense Inc. has of this week recorded $1.2 million in spending to support Eastman’s bid. Restore Common Sense PAC is linked to the group and is identified in “takeover” ads that first appeared Wednesday on the homepages of two major newspapers in the state. Eastman entered the race in October and faces a crowded field that includes Rep. Ted Budd, former Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-Rep. Mark Walker.
FBI, National Park Service seek help after body found
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The FBI and the National Park Service are asking for the public’s help in an investigation into the discovery of a body along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina last year. A news release from the park service says workers received a report on Oct 9, 2021 of a body near a parkway overlook. Investigators identified the victim as 33-year-old Josue Calderon of Rhode Island. An autopsy conducted by the State Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Calderon’s death was a homicide. Officials are hoping the public saw a 2018 silver Chevrolet Equinox traveling between Raleigh and Blowing Rock in early October.
Man charged with storming Capitol made rap videos about riot
Federal authorities say a South Dakota man charged this week with storming the U.S. Capitol last year performed rap songs about the riot in videos posted on his YouTube channel. A relative told the FBI that Billy Knutson was a rapper who sold his music online and had posted on social media that he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The FBI says a surveillance video showed Knutson enter the Capitol by climbing through a broken window. Court records show a federal magistrate judge in South Dakota ordered Knutson released after his initial court appearance on Wednesday.
American Red Cross makes plea for donations in Carolinas
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A number of American Red Cross chapters across North Carolina and South Carolina is issuing a plea for donations, citing a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the typical post-holiday decline in the winter. The Charlotte Observer reports that at times, the Greater Carolinas Region has had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types. The Greater Carolinas Region consists of five chapters serving 47 counties in North Carolina and four counties in South Carolina. Spokeswoman Maya Franklin says that through the end of January, about 75% of donation appointments remain unfilled, compared to 56% during the same time last year.
ELECTION 2022-NORTH CAROLINA-SENATE
NC governor backs Beasley as Senate primary field clears
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper has given former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley his endorsement for the U.S. Senate. His video message Wednesday attempts to secure a smoother path for Beasley to become the Democrats’ nominee to fill the seat of Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who isn’t seeking reelection. Cooper appointed Beasley to the top spot on the state Supreme Court in 2019, making her the first Black female chief justice in North Carolina history. She’s been in private practice since narrowly losing an election to the post the next year. Cooper says Beasley has what it takes to win the Senate spot this fall.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-STATE EMPLOYEES
Eased leave rules seek to get more NC employees in schools
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina state employees are seeing leave rules eased to help address staffing shortages in the K-12 schools caused by COVID-19. Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration announced Wednesday that workers can fill in as paid substitute teachers through mid-February and still use their community service leave allotment. Full-time workers get 24 hours of such leave annually, but it couldn’t otherwise be used if the person was getting paid for the duties. It also could apply to cafeteria or bus driver fill-ins. Districts across the state have been struggling to keep positions staffed because of workers testing positive or low pay.
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