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Police thwart counterfeit-bill spree at Maine Mall

A scheme to pass off counterfeit $100 bills at the Maine Mall and collect $90 or more in change from unsuspecting retailers came unraveled Monday when a determined patrol officer and alert clerks thwarted the crime, police said.4-23-14-SPPD-Cupidore
"They're all from the Brooklyn area, and they all came up with one purpose, to make some money, some easy money," said South Portland Police Sgt. Steve Webster of the suspects.
Andrew D. Cupidore, 20, of New York, was arrested and charged with aggravated forgery (Class B crime) and endangering the welfare of a child (Class D crime).
Cupidore is suspected of bringing juveniles to New England with the purpose of using them to pass the counterfeit currency and taking possession of the legitimate currency that they received as change, Webster said.
On Monday, a uniformed officer from the South Portland Police Department was conducting routine follow-ups within the Maine Mall when he was approached by a store employee. This employee explained that a young female had attempted to pass what clearly appeared to be a counterfeit $100 bill, Webster explained in a press release. Officer Jeffrey Warren located the female suspect, who happened to be a juvenile (16 years old) and spoke with her briefly. As a result of that conversation, he determined that there were three other juvenile females from New York City at the Mall attempting to pass similar bills, the release reported.
Within the next hour or so, all four juvenile females were being detained and over $1,000 in counterfeit $100 bills were recovered, police said. All four juveniles are being held at the Long Creek Detention Facility. Cupidore was found hiding inside a bathroom within the Mall and subsequently arrested, police said.
Cupidore is currently being held at the Cumberland County Jail in lieu of $25,000 cash bail.
The investigation is continuing and more arrests are likely, Webster said.
"These bills are better quality than I've seen in the past," Webster said Tuesday in an interview.
Their goal was to take the bogus bill, spend it on an item costing $10 or less, and collect the change, he said.
"Obviously, we have a problem with counterfeit bills popping up sporadically all over the city. ... This was more of a coordinated effort by several individuals," Webster said.
The Maine Mall seemed to be only site in Maine involved, but the group likely stopped in other states along the way, Webster said.
The girls apparently joined the caper willingly, but their parents were in for a shock, Webster said.
"Not one of the parents knew that their juvenile daughter was in the state of Maine," he said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:19

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Thursday evening fashion show to feature 30 dresses made from recycled medical fabric

Given a giant bag of "blue wrap" medical fabric last fall and told to make an outfit, Nick Irish, a 16-year-old junior in the fashion marketing program at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS), knew he had a problem.4-23-14-DH-blue-wrap

"It's hard to work with because it rips like paper and melts like plastic," said Irish on Monday, just four days before his creation was due to strut down the catwalk at the Blue Wrap Project Runway Fashion Show.

Undaunted, Irish, a self-described "showman" who is "always up for anything," took the material — ordinarily used to wrap medical instruments for sterilization and then discarded after a single use — and created a stunning Louis IVX gown, complete with a giant "feathered" headdress.

"It's all made out of the same stuff," said Irish. "It looks great on the model and it all comes off to reveal an underdress that's the 'secret weapon.' I just hope it'll survive the night."

Irish and four other students from PATHS are among 10 designers accepted to this year's blue wrap show, to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at USM's Hannaford Hall.

Now in its third year, the event is held to raise both funds and public awareness for Partners for World Health, a South Portland nonprofit that ships discarded medical supplies from hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities across Maine, along with three in New Hampshire, for use in third-world nations in Southeast Asia and Africa.

"I don't know fashion, but I watch Project Runway," joked event organizer Elizabeth McLellan on Monday. "I figured, with all the recyclable material they use in their challenges on that show, why can't I do something with blue wrap?"

McLellan certainly had enough of the material on hand — about 20,000 yards, by her estimation. The Camden native was nurse administrator at Maine Medical Center when she began collecting discarded medical equipment about a decade ago.

While working as vice president of nursing at a hospital in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s, McLellan visited numerous hospitals on that side of the planet that were anything but state of the art. Again and again, while recruiting nurses from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, she witnessed first hand a dire need for the same supplies American hospitals toss out on a daily basis in order to maintain a sterile environment. Open a box of 25 gauze bandages for a surgical procedure here, only use 12, and rest, even if not removed from their individual wrappings, go in the trash.

"We have so much and others have so little, I thought I'd put out a box at the hospital and start collecting it," recalled McLellan. "I couldn't stand the fact that it was all just going to go to the dump."

Before long McLellan and accumulated nearly 11,000 pounds of bandages, swaps and tubing in her West End home. She distributed as much as she could carry during in frequent trips overseas, but by 2009, knowing something more was needed, she founded Partners for World Health.

By creating the nonprofit, McLellan went from a one-woman crusade to head of an organization that marshals more than 1,000 volunteer hours per month to collect, sort and ship the medical supplies American hospitals would otherwise throw away.

"All of the things that we collect have not been used. They're not expired. They're just things that have been discarded," said McLellan. "For example, when someone is discharged, if they don't take the soap or toothbrush that's unused, or the dressing supplies that are sitting on the window sill still in the box, or anything else, like a wad of tape that they only used thee feet of, it all goes in the trash."

Today, Partners for World Health has grown from McLellan's living room to encompass a processing center at 2112 Broadway in South Portland, a warehouse in Scarborough, and a 3,000-square-foot facility on Preble Street in Portland where volunteers overhaul biomedical equipment, along with five collection sites in Maine. Those sites are serviced by trucks from K Brothers in Westbrook, which would otherwise return with empty vans from deliveris to Prompto oil change centers across the state.

"They've been wonderful, as are all of our volunteers."

McLellan herself puts in 40 to 50 hours per week, all unpaid.

"I really believe in this mission, and when you believe in something, you put your heart and soul into it," she says.

Having recently sent a container to Rwanda containing, among other things, several hospital beds and 250 boxes of medial supplies, McLellan's organization currently has enough material on hand to stuff 10 more of the 40-foot-long shipping containers in uses.

But getting the material to countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia is the problem. Each container can hold about $250,000 worth of supplies, but even with the receiving hospital paying as much as $4,000 toward the shipping bill, getting the material form here to there can still cost Partners for World Health more than $15,000.

That's where the blue wrap show, which has quickly become the group's signature event, comes in. Last's year's show raised $18,000, says McLellan. This year she hopes to bring in $25,000. That will be enough to send two shipping containers already queued up to hit the ships for Cameroon and Burundi.

One thing not in those containers, however, is any of the blue wrap. Hospitals in Africa don't want it, says McLellan. They prefer the same reusable cotton towels American hospitals relied on to sterilize equipment until blue wrap was developed in the 1970s. Except for the west coast, where blue wrap is bundled and shipped to China — "Lord knows what they use it for," says McLellan — most of the material just gets thrown out.

"Every day, in all 39 hospitals in Maine, and in every hospital across the United States, every single surgical case they do generates blue wrap," says McLellan, noting that even sterilization of tools for a simple gall bladder surgery can use up to 20 of the 3-foot by 4-foot sheets, at a cost of up to $2.50 each.

"And it's a plastic base, so none of it disintegrates," she says. "It just sits in a land fill forever and ever."

In addition to the medical supplies it collects and distributes, Partners for World Health also organizes medical missions and school construction in poor nations, with plans to use some of the blue wrap to help women escape sex trafficking by providing them with an occupation in which they can create and sell blankets and pillows made from the polypropylene material.

But the fashion show is a big part of what makes all of that possible.

"It's definitely out of the box," says McLellan, with a laugh. "It's not your average show, per se."

Among the professional designers in this year's show is Adele Ngoy, originally from the African nation of Congo, who well knows the vital need for what Partners for World Health does.

"It's very, very important," she said on Monday. "I know exactly how badly people need these supplies."

Also well aware of that need is Irish's PATHS classmate Noor Ibrahim. Born and raised in Syria, she came to the United States six years ago and took her oath of citizenship this past March. Last year, Partners for World Health got a container of medical supplies into Syria by shipping it first to Turkey and then having it trucked in to aid refugees of the country's ongoing civil war.

"It's an honor to be a citizen here and I am very grateful," said Ibrahim on Saturday. "I feel very proud and motivated to work on something like this."

Still, Ibrahim says, she "kind of panicked" when she realized the blue wrap event is a juried show, meaning only designers meeting the muster of a select panel can get in.

Jane Krasnow, leader of the PATHS fashion marking class, who has 24 years' teaching experience under her belt, says being part of the blue wrap show is especially useful to her students. Working with the unusual material spurs their creativity, she says, while having to present their work to the public helps to focus their attention on the fundamentals.

"This gets them so close and personal, it's just a great project," said Krasnow. "It's fun because the blue wrap is about the most horrible material you could possibly use. You can't iron it, you can't dye it, and it doesn't drape like a normal fabric. It takes a lot of ingenuity and creativity to make it come alive."

Four PATHS students made this year's show, up from just one in each of the past two years, with Ibrahim placing four works of her own.

"When I found out it was a juried show, I really began to pay attention to the sewing and hemming, to try and make everything look professional," said Ibrahim, who, like Irish, aspires to a career in fashion design.

One professional designer in this year's show, Erika Smith of Saco, started out in the same PATHS program as this year's student designers, before going on to graduate form the Savannah College of Art and Design. Like Ibrahim, it was while in the PATHS fashion marketing class, taken initially just to be doing something other than sitting in a classroom, that she discovered her calling.

"My advice is for them to just follow their dreams and to stay in school," she said.

For Irish, that's definitely the plan, and the blue wrap show is one major step toward that goal.

"It's a good cause and I'm really proud to raise awareness for it," he said. "But, as a juried show, it looks amazing on college resume."

 

Event Details:

The Blue Wrap Project Runway Fashion Show starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, on the catwalk at University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall, at 88 Bedford St., in Portland.

Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at www.bluewrap.eventbrite.com, or call Partners for World Health at 774-5555.

Following a cocktail hour, the show itself, featuring the work of 10 different designers, will start at 7 p.m. under the guidance of Mistress of Ceremonies Tory Ryden, a former Boston and Portland TV news anchor now developing the show “Real Lives, Real Women.”
In addition to the fashion show, held to raise money for Partners for World Health, event highlights include a brief dance called “Masquerade,” choreographed by Nell Shipman and staged by The Portland Ballet under the direction of Eugenia O’Brien, a PORTopera young artist musical interlude presented by USM’s Ellen Chickering, and a Bossong Family Children violin concert.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:20

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City to appeal DHHS audit findings on GA eligibility

The state has recommended the city change its method for determining general assistance eligibility for people accessing services at the emergency shelter, a move city officials say would create an added burden.4-22-14-gardner-new
A preliminary report audit, conducted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office for Family Independence, wants the Portland Department of Health and Human Services to require that a long-form general assistance application is filled out for each person accessing an emergency shelter and discontinue its practice of using presumptive eligibility. On Friday, the city filed its written responses to DHHS regarding the preliminary report and appeal the changes being mandated by the state agency.
Doug Gardner, the city's director of the Portland Department of Health and Human Services, said when someone shows up at an emergency shelter, that person is presumed to be eligible for general assistance and the department is then invoiced for an individual's stay at the shelter. He said that process takes the place of the long form assistance application.
"We've been doing that, literally, for the past two decades," he said.
The state is pushing the city to use the long form application for each person who shows up at an emergency shelter, Gardner said, and that would not mean just the city's Oxford Street Shelter but also Milestone, Florence House or any other shelter.
Gardner said the shelters already have a significantworkload and the change would be difficult.
"This would just add another layer of administrative burden," he said.
At the Oxford Street Shelter, Gardner said there's roughly 200 individuals who show up each night, and going through the long form application would present a significant challenge.
The city has been transparent with its use of presumptive eligibility, Gardner said, and DHHS has looked at the city's general assistance practices annually.
"We've passed every one of these audits up until now," he said.
Further, the report asked the city to redo its formula for reimbursing the shelter.
Gardner said the reimbursement is based on the per bed night rate on the operating budget of the shelter, and the audit suggests determining the nightly rate by a different method.
City officials met with DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and her staff last week to discuss the audit and its preliminary findings.
Gardner said it was a productive conversation and she and her staff acknowledged the challenges of operating an emergency shelter. He said both the city and the state have a common goal of moving people out of poverty into stable housing and employment opportunities, and maintaining the integrity of the general assistance program.
Gardner said the city plans to rely on precedence and past practice to make its case to keep using current practice.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:23

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Maine Inside Out develops more personal stories from Long Creek

Even while touring the state with one finished theatrical production, a group of young prisoners is busy turning their life stories into dramatic material for yet another performance.
Incarcerated youth at the Long Creek Youth Development Center have been working with Maine Inside Out to create "Journey Through Punishment," a theatrical performance on crime and punishment and re-entering society. They played to widespread acclaim during a visit to Portland last October by Sr. Helen Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking." They have been playing at high schools, churches and businesses. They have upcoming performances for Catholic Charities, Biddeford High School and Rangeley Lakes Schools. While one performance is all polished and being presented, the next one is being created at Long Creek.4-22-14-TG-long-creek-1
The founders of Maine Inside Out, Chiara Liberatore, Margot Fine and Tessy Seward, meet each week with these kids, a group called SOLO, short for Seeking Out Life's Opportunities. They are students who have graduated high school, earned their GED, or have aged out of the classes at Long Creek. They are mostly 18 and 19 years old.
During a recent class, they began with a morning warm-up, standing in a circle with one student in the middle. The game was "Kitty want a corner." The center person says "Kitty want a corner" while any two people around the circle, using non-verbal clues like eye contact, switch places. The person in the middle tries to catch the eye contact and grab a free spot.4-22-14-TG-long-creek-2
On this day, Maine Inside Out was asking the class about the new production, who was in and who was not. It was a casting call where the actors made the call. Of the 16 kids there, 12 wanted to stay in. Stephanie Netto, co-chief of volunteer services at Long Creek, who works with Maine Inside Out, joined the group as they moved to another room to begin class.
There they split into two groups, each one pursuing one student's story — what he did to end up at Long Creek. Tyler and A.J. each told their respective groups what happened. Tyler moved out of his dad's house and in with his mom at age 15. He started getting in more trouble, acting violent and angry like his dad, something he didn't want to be. He said he didn't want to move in with his mom, but knew it would be better for him.
Liberatore suggests the group use physical movements to portray the story. They start talking about consciences — good and bad consciences. Anthony plays the part of Tyler's father; Tyler plays his own mother. Matt plays Tyler. The assumption of roles seems organic, but it's by design. Having one student's story become added to and portrayed by other stories lends anonymity and universality to the work. There are two sculptors, which serve as alternating consciences — good and bad, shaping, unshaping, and reshaping again the behaviors of his human creation. Devon plays the good conscience; Zach plays the bad. The students create lines without scripts. Although the setting of this improv is incarceration, the young actors seem free, if only — for the time being — artistically. They are building on the story as they decide the next scene.
For Tyler, his troubles began early. "I did a lot of drinking, had a bad relationship with my ex-girlfriend, protection orders on each other," he said. "I violated it."
For that violation and three other alcohol-related charges against him, Tyler was given a choice: go to county jail for three months or Long Creek for up to two years.
"I had already been to Mountain View (Youth Development Center in Charleston). I thought Long Creek would teach me more than county. Since I've been here, I've developed a better relationship with my mom. I can get out on a program after 11 months perhaps, though still on probation."
Tyler has been involved with Maine Inside Out for a month or two now. "It really opens kids up. They can relate to each other, have better relationships. It makes us closer," he said.
A.J.'s group is offering a rendering of his last OUI, when he was 19.
"When I woke up, I couldn't see over the hood. I thought I had killed someone," he said. He had five people in his car, and hit a TrailBlazer with as many passengers.
"When I crashed with other people in the car, it hit me pretty hard," he said. "I could have taken five people (including me) from their families."
It's the kind of emotionally honest confrontation Maine Inside Out is looking for, and Seward tells A.J.'s group that their human sculpture should portray their inner emotions. Arthur poses, sitting on the ground as a driver in the upcoming accident. The others depict a carload of kids drinking, smoking and huffing, interlocked in a Grecian frieze. They deliberate how to portray A.J.'s changing emotions as he moves from inebriated and uncaring to slammed awake and aware of what he may have done. Ali suggests a pose with hand aside his face to suggest shock. The scene shifts to the hospital where no words accompany the actions as yet.
These are both works in progress, just like the kids acting them out. Throughout the morning's session, Maine Inside Out workers share the decision making with the students. In fact, besides offering guiding suggestions and asking clarifying questions, the play's content comes entirely from the youth. They seem to have learned some lessons and are ready to share their new knowledge with others — inside and outside of their impermanent prison.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:23

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Portland police attend fairs, use video to entice recruits

At a time when police recruitment is more and more competitive, the Portland Police Department will offer recruit testing Saturday in a bid to attract candidates and keep up with retirements.4-22-14-MN-recruits-1

"Recruitment is a very important aspect of what we do," Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said. "It's very difficult to get qualified individuals."

According to the March 2014 issue of The Police Chief, a professional law enforcement magazine, filling positions for police officers is a problem affecting agencies nationwide.
Work-life balance is one of the main reasons the pool of applicants has been severely reduced. Police careers are spent in an environment that isn't conducive to the expectations of younger people coming into the job market, according to the article.4-22-14-MN-recruits-2

Many public-service minded people are joining the military, and thousands of Border Patrol positions have been created, which would also siphon off the pool of candidates normally applying for police jobs.

Federal, state and local agencies are competing with one another, and some cities are using different incentives to attract candidates. Bidding wars in Texas have broken out in efforts to hire veteran officers.

How does the Portland Police Department fare in this poor market for those wanting to become future officers?

Portland's Police Department presently has four vacancies and there are two officers attending the Maine Criminal Justice Academy who will graduate in May. Twenty people on the force are eligible to retire today, since they have over 25 years with the department.

Major Don Krier is responsible for patrol operations and he is very interested in the recruitment process and finding qualified people for the department. The Major joined the department in September 1990 and he is also a Major in the U.S. Army.

When asked whether any of Portland's officers went to college job fairs for recruitment purposes, Krier said, "Yes, we go to a whole bunch," and then produced a list attended between October 2013 and April 2014. All of the places were in the Northeast: Vermont; Massachusetts; Rhode Island; and Maine. New York was as far south as they went.

Officers Bob Pelletier and Dan Rose went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City a few weeks ago. They said they spoke to over 200 people, and the competition was stiff. There were recruiters from the FBI, the Air Force, and numerous small towns. Pelletier said, "We were the farthest north of the other locales." Rose and Pelletier felt that most of the students at the career fair were interested in the NYPD, and they said that the New York Police Department has a Recruitment Division, with members of that unit at the fair.

Less than 4 percent of applicants end up being sworn in, officials said. The process itself starts with an online written test given at the police department, then there's a physical training test and a board-type interview, with someone from command staff, patrol and an officer in a supervisory position. These officers represent the whole hierarchy of the department, and there's also a civil service commissioner on the panel. Civil Service ordinance governs the hiring process that establishes the rules and protocol the department follows for hiring.

A physical agility test must be passed as the first part of becoming an officer. After that a background investigation is initiated and that takes a few weeks. Then there is a polygraph examination, a job suitability evaluation, and a medical examination.

Those making it past these parts of the process are then sworn in, at which time a two-year probationary period begins. The next phase is 18 weeks at the Academy, an orientation week at the department, and then a 14-week stint with a Field Training Officer, before being allowed to work alone as an officer.

A fold-over card lists numerous reasons for someone to join Portland's department. Aside from mentioning the special teams that are available, the card also talks about "an urban policing experience with the ability to live and enjoy rural Maine."

Part of Lt. Cliff Strout's purview deals with the training of police officers. He says the department has a wide variety of offerings. "We go out of our way to find relevant training beyond what's mandated by the Academy."

The department also has a recruitment video on its Web page at http://police.portlandmaine.gov/. It was made to look very up-to-date and hip, aiming to appeal to people who are looking into the possibility of a law enforcement career. Michael Grover, of ShadowBox Media, made the one-minute video and he said, ". . . there's really something special about this police force. What separates Portland is there's a soul there." There isn't any speaking in the video, and the music complements the fast-paced images on the screen. It consists of an overall view of Portland's officers, and the special units in the department: K-9 Team; Dive Team; Crisis Negotiators Team; Bomb Team; Special Reaction Team; Criminal Investigation Division; and Telecommunicators with their numerous computer screens showing real-time updates of everything going on in the city. Viewers also get a sense of the camaraderie enjoyed by members of the force.

Anyone considering a career in law enforcement is encouraged to visit the website and watch this video.
For serious candidates, a free written test will be given at 109 Middle St. (Police Headquarters) on Saturday, April 26, and at 11 a.m. the same day the physical training test will also be given.
Lt. Robert J. Doherty Jr., who is the fourth generation in his family as a Portland police officer, will welcome those coming in to take these tests.

"I will wish them well during the testing process and during their entire hiring phase," said Doherty.

Doherty, who is known as an unofficial historian of the department, plans to talk a bit about the history of the Portland Police Department, which has been in existence since Aug. 9, 1786; roughly one month after the City of Portland was established. He will also stress the opportunities and the training to be offered to recruits.

"They will become part of an organization with the most skilled investigators and police professionals in the state of Maine," Doherty said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:24

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