ABC Newspapers Local News from The Anoka County Union, Blaine Spring Lake Park Life and The Coon Rapids Herald Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:43:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Locals among 28 charged in fraud ring Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:41:15 +0000 Four area residents were among 28 people charged in U.S. District Court with financial crimes including bank fraud and identity theft.

Sienemah Terrance Gaye, 30, of Anoka, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and 20 counts of bank fraud.

Anthony Tarpeh Kugmeh, 32, of Coon Rapids, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Two Blaine residents have also been charged. Felisha Hassim, 20, is facing one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of bank fraud. Annesa Hassim, 23, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of bank fraud.

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, the alleged conspirators stole or attempted to steal more than $2 million by manufacturing counterfeit checks and cashing them at dozens of banks and check causing facilities in a fraud ring that was in operation for more than five years.

“The indictment of the Sienemah Gaye Organization effectively shuts down a pervasive identity theft and bank fraud conspiracy in the Twin Cities. This case is representative of a recurring trend – the migration of traditional street criminals to white collar fraud,” Luger said in a statement.

Law enforcement officials and prosecutors collaborated with the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force to make a case against the individuals arrested.

The arrests involved over 75 federal, state and local law enforcement officers and is the culmination of thousand of investigative man-hours, according to Louis Stephens, special agent in charge of the United States Secret Service in Minneapolis.

According to the inducement and court documents, the conspiracy, which alleged operate from at least November 2007 through September 2013, using fraudulently obtained and compromised account information, manufactured counterfeit checks with bland check stock and check-printing software.

Gaye is accused of being one of three check manufacturers who worked with recruiters who were allegedly responsible for distributing the fraudulent checks. Kugmeh is accused of using personally identifiable information and fraudulent checks to open new bank accounts.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after opening these accounts the conspirators allegedly were issued personal checks that they used in fraudulent transactions, with each member of the conspiracy taking a portion of the proceeds.

Both Felisha Hassim and Annesa Hassim facilitated the conspiracy while using their access at banks where they worked to get account information and provide those accused of making the fraudulent checks with account numbers and balance information. Felisha Hassim was a branch manager at a TCF Bank branch and Annesa Hassim was a teller at a Central Bank branch.

According to court documents, in December 2012 Felisha Hassim was approached by a recruiter who asker her to provide him with bank account and checking information, which she had access through her position with the bank.

Felisha Hassim allegedly provided copies of cashed or deposited checks to a recruiter on multiple occasions.

She is also accused of communicating with alleged conspirators by text message to determine if specific accounts had sufficient funds for fraudulent transactions.

According to court documents, the defendants also allegedly obtained account numbers and bank routing information through research on Instagram from pictures posted under the #myfirstpaycheck hashtag.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at

]]> 0
Flashlights illuminate perfect pumpkins Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:00:48 +0000 Blaine’s Aquatore Park was aglow with dancing flashlights Oct. 24 as 150 costumed kids and their parents set out to find the perfect pumpkin after dark.

Each child was allowed to take home one of the 200 pumpkins hidden as part of the annual Flashlight Pumpkin Hunt, sponsored by the Blaine Festival.

Medium-sized pumpkins were tucked under hay to make them harder to spot in the dark.

After flitting from pumpkin to pumpkin, one girl proudly described her choice pumpkin as “ginormous.”

After finding the perfect pumpkin, another child screamed, “This is the best day of my life!”

Kids were sent home with a treat bag full of pumpkin decorating supplies. The activities didn’t end in the pumpkin patch.

Park shelters housed flashlight bingo and a family dance.

Kids toasted marshmallows so they could enjoy s’mores along with provided hot chocolate and lemonade.

Gayle Koch lets her son Gavin, 2, slide a glowing bracelet onto her arm at Blaine’s Flashlight Pumpkin Hunt Oct. 24. Photos by Olivia Alveshere Wyatt LaBreche-Olson, 5, dressed as a warlock, hunts for pumpkins hidden in Aquatore Park. Families scour Aquatore Park for hidden pumpkins during Blaine’s annual Flashlight Pumpkin Hunt Oct. 24. Ninja Turtle Cooper Westphal, 4, uses his flashlight to lead him to the perfect pumpkin. Families play a round of bingo during Blaine’s Flashlight Pumpkin Hunt last week. Kids in costume boogie in one of Aquatore Park’s shelters. Josh Smith holds his girls Samantha, 3, dressed as Dorothy, and Allison, 2, dressed as the Cowardly Lion, as they color at the Flashlight Pumpkin Hunt. A dinosaur, Andrew Walcott, 3, devours a s’more.

Olivia Alveshere is at

]]> 0
Suspects shoot at vehicle with couple inside Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:45:02 +0000 Coon Rapids Police are investigating a shooting incident on University Avenue Sunday, Oct. 26.

A husband and wife, ages 66 and 61, were driving south on University Avenue in the area of Highway 610 when shots were fired at their car from suspects in another vehicle.

They were not hurt, but the rear passenger and back windows were shot out, according to the police report.

The couple chased the vehicle until they saw it turn westbound on 91st Avenue from University Avenue and were able to provide police with both a description and license plate number.

Police later located the suspect vehicle at the entrance to the Four Seasons Mobile Home Park on the Blaine side of University Avenue and spoke to the driver, who denied being the shooter, but gave partial names of the alleged shooter and other occupants of the vehicle.

A consent search of the vehicle did not turn up a gun, the police report states.

The driver, 17, was released to his mother pending further investigation, according to the police report.

]]> 0
Council approves second access for Westwood campus Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:00:30 +0000 The Westwood schools campus in southern Blaine will have a second driveway access next year.

The Blaine City Council Oct. 16 on a 6-0 vote, with Council Member Wes Hovland absent, approved a conditional use permit for Spring Lake Park School District 16 to give a two-school campus that educates approximately 2,000 students in grades fourth through eighth a secondary access in order to separate bus traffic from other vehicles.

Westwood Intermediate School (grades 4-5) and Westwood Middle School (grades 6-8) currently have one access on the south side of the campus at 91st Avenue.

The second access that will be put in next spring will be on the west side of the site at Jefferson Street, north of Aurelia Park.

“We feel this is necessary to ensure the safe and timely transportation of our students,” said District 16 Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg. “We need to separate those buses from parents who bring their children to and from school.”

According to Ronneberg, District 16’s total enrollment is 5,500 students. Ten years ago, it was 3,800. A district-hired consultant anticipates enrollment to approach 6,500 within the next eight years. Enrollment at the Westwood campus alone is slated to increase by 500 students.

Ronneberg said 70 percent of the district’s current students reside in Blaine and many of the 1,000 new anticipated students will also be Blaine residents because that is where the growth is happening.

In addition, Ronneberg noted that Westwood “currently has the highest bus ridership than we’ve ever had at that facility. There are more students who ride the buses at grades four to eight than any other level.”

Mayor Tom Ryan has witnessed how busy it gets at this campus in the morning when kids are being dropped off by parents and bus drivers, coming in from the same 91st Avenue access.

“It’s amazing what transpires there in the morning and how they get in there and out of there,” Ryan said. “How it was ever built with the one access is kind of mind boggling with the way it was put together. I don’t think any alternative would make everybody happy because it goes into a community that is pretty busy, but this will help.”

Council Member Dick Swanson, a Ward 1 representative for this area of Blaine, asked where buses would go once the secondary access is completed.

Amy Schultz, the school district’s business director, said final bus routes have yet to be determined, but anticipated more bus traffic on Jefferson Street and 89th Avenue. Most buses are heading east to Highway 65. With the current access being on 91st Avenue, this city street was used by many buses. She anticipates the new bus access will lead to more buses heading south on Jefferson to 89th Avenue to utilize this road to get to 65.

Schultz said if the Westwood Intermediate and Middle School campus gets 500 more students as its consultant study anticipates, they may need seven more school buses, but ridership will depend on demand.

Eric Hagen is at

]]> 0
Washington sleeps at SFHS Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:57:14 +0000 “George Washington Slept Here” – and St. Francis High School’s theater troupe wants you to see what happens next.

Rehearsing a scene from “George Washington Slept Here,” Newton (Max Mauch-Morff) and Annabelle (Eva Lindberg) Fuller try to convince rich Uncle Stanley (Gunner Dupont) to loan them money to save their home.

Rehearsing a scene from “George Washington Slept Here,” Newton (Max Mauch-Morff) and Annabelle (Eva Lindberg) Fuller try to convince rich Uncle Stanley (Gunner Dupont) to loan them money to save their home.
Submitted photo by Natalie Hanson

The high school’s presentation of the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play is a classic comedy that chronicles the trials and tribulations of Newton Fuller – who craves and gets “a little place in the country to call his own.”

Newton and his wife, Annabelle, and their daughter, Madge, are hypnotized into taking over one of those windowless, waterless, almost roofless houses that dot the countryside. The ensuing troubles cause a laugh a minute.

Filled with physical comedy and an “all’s well that ends well” happy ending, director Glenn Morehouse Olson said the show takes the stage Nov. 6-8 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.

Tickets ($8 for adults, $6 for seniors, students and children) are available at For more information, call 763-213-1527.

St. Francis High School Performing Arts Center is located at 3325 Bridge St., St. Francis.

Sue Austreng is at

]]> 0
Blue enforcement lights installed in Blaine Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:45:35 +0000 Blue enforcement lights were installed at two busy Blaine intersections last month to make traffic enforcement a safer and more efficient task for police officers.

Last month, four blue enforcement lights were installed to monitor two directions of traffic at Highway 65 and Highway 10, as well as Highway 65 and 105th Avenue in Blaine. The Blaine Police Department is hopeful the lights will improve officer efficiency and safety. Photo by Olivia Alveshere

Last month, four blue enforcement lights were installed to monitor two directions of traffic at Highway 65 and Highway 10, as well as Highway 65 and 105th Avenue in Blaine. The Blaine Police Department is hopeful the lights will improve officer efficiency and safety. Photo by Olivia Alveshere

In order to stop someone from running a red light in Minnesota, police have to both see the red light and see the violator cross into the intersection against the red light.

In Blaine, there are few intersections where police can sit and monitor traffic from a vantage point that allows them to get both necessary visuals and safely speed after a violator, according to Blaine Police Department Sgt. Jeff Warner, who initiated the Blue Light Pilot Program in Blaine.

When someone runs a red light, police activate their emergency lights and often have to dart into cross traffic in pursuit, so “sometimes it wasn’t even worth the risk,” Warner said.

To avoid a tangle with oncoming traffic, Blaine would typically sit two squad cars near an intersection, having one officer keep an eye on traffic and the other wait “downstream,” Warner said. If the officer observing traffic saw someone zip through a red light, he or she could radio to his or her counterpart down the road and that individual could execute a traffic stop.

Now, blue enforcement lights at two intersections on Highway 65 will allow one officer to do the job.

Officers don’t need to have a visual of the red light anymore as long as they can see the blue light that is wired into the stoplight circuit. It turns on whenever the red light does.

For example, a Blaine officer might position himself on the west side of Highway 65 to watch cars turning left onto southbound Highway 65. The officer can’t see the east-facing light turn red, but he can see individuals cross into the intersection and know the light has turned red when the blue light facing him flips on.

Officers observe lights for a cycle before and after they execute any traffic stops so that they can ensure the signals are functioning properly, logging their findings.

The Blaine Police Department worked with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to place these blue lights in areas where enforcement and engineering could help reduce crashes.

“The bottom line of this entire thing is to reduce severe injuries and fatalities,” Warner said.

The agencies looked at five intersections along Highway 65, Blaine’s busiest corridor, before selecting those at Highway 10 and 105th Avenue where enforcement lights could best help police monitor two directions of traffic, according to MnDOT Signal Design Project Manager Chris Bosak.

“It is difficult to ‘layout’ these enforcement lights,” Bosak said. “Most locations don’t work because the police need a safe place to park (and need to) have a clear view of the intersection, stop bar and enforcement light, all at the same time.”

Cities across the nation are starting to adopt enforcement lights.

Burnsville was the first city that worked with MnDOT to bring enforcement lights to Minnesota back in 2009, according to Jerry Kotzenmacher, traffic systems specialist with MnDOT.

Blaine is the first city to implement them in Anoka County.

The lights were installed in September, and officers began using them for enforcement last week after training.

The first year will be a pilot for Blaine to see how the lights help reduce crashes at the two intersections where they were installed.

Police see a lot of people run red lights, particularly during morning and afternoon rush hours, according to Detective Joe Sadler, who researched the enforcement lights and worked with MnDOT to bring them to fruition.

Sadler estimates that every three cycles or so someone tries to sneak through several of the busier intersections on Highway 65 after lights have turned red.

He believes the enforcement lights will make a difference. “It makes it much safer for us and the general public,” Sadler said.

Olivia Alveshere is at

]]> 0
Column: Five questions to ask school board candidates, members Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:30:44 +0000 Here are five questions you might want to ask school board candidates or members running for re-election this fall. Because schools play a huge role in making communities attractive places to live and work, you might also talk with the other board members, whose seats aren’t up for election, about these issues.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

–Are you committed to a yearly survey of families, students, graduates, community residents, faculty and staff about what they see as major strengths and shortcomings of the district and its schools? Are you committed to publicly sharing the results? This survey could cover many topics, from school safety to staff morale, whether families feel welcome and respected, and whether there is widespread understanding and agreement with key priorities for the district.

–Are you committed to yearly sharing the major ways you, as board members, evaluate the district’s (and individual schools’) progress?  Part of this will be test scores and graduation rates. But there are many other measures that can be used, such as percentage of graduates who have to take remedial courses on entering some form of higher education, or strengths and shortcomings identified in the surveys mentioned above.

–What are your priorities for the district in the coming year? Why and how did you select these issues? No organization can do everything that it might like to do. So priorities must be established. Hopefully budgets are allocated to respond to the established priorities.

–What is your own experience with public education? (I’m indebted to St. Cloud Board Member Jerry Von Korff for this one.) How has your own experience influenced your work as a board member?

–Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system? This is a key question. I’ve talked with many board members who start off seeing themselves as community representatives. But they come under great pressure to be spokespeople and advocates for the district. It does not have to be either-or. But the reason we elect board members is because we need them to represent us. This means sometimes questioning or challenging things that are (or are not) happening in the district overall or in some of the schools.

“Minnesota nice” sometimes hinders the kind of tough questions and concerns that need to be raised. But school board members need to blend praise for progress with a frank discussion of problems and priorities.

The goal of schools is not first and foremost to be an employer. Schools should be serving students, families and the broader community. But what employees, families, community residents and students think should be shared and used by effective school board members.

Understanding and using views, along with reviewing and using results, can help produce more successful schools.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at

]]> 0
Anoka approves use for challenged property Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:15:21 +0000 After many months of study and failed attempts to find a compatible use for a property on Bunker Lake Boulevard, a new business will be moving in.

The Anoka City Council unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a mini-storage facility at 500 Bunker Lake Blvd.

Vacant since 2011 when Egan Oil left the property, the council has sided with nearby residential neighbors in finding a new user that would not be disruptive to the neighborhood.

In April it turned down a conditional use permit that would have allowed the property to be the base of operations for two asphalt companies after neighbors raised concerns about smell, noise and traffic.

Dennis Sharp with Sharp and Associates plans to purchase and redevelop the site with 202 storage units of varying sizes.

“It is a low intensive commercial use of the property and is something the city has looked at for the last six to eight months,” said City Planner Crystal Pauman.

Sharp said some of the units would be large enough to store a boat; storage unit sizes range  from 5-feet by 5-feet to 14-feet by 40-feet.

His company operates a similar storage facility in Ramsey, also on Bunker Lake Boulevard.

It has 280 units and averages about 12 customers a day.

“So it is very low volume traffic use,” Pauman said.

In addition to providing temperature-controlled storage in the existing 10,700 square-foot building on the property, Sharp plans to add seven new cold-storage buildings.

The council also approved a variance, reducing the set back from 50 to 30 feet for the new buildings that border the residential neighbors on the south and west sides of the property.

“This building has been challenged and sitting empty for some time,” said Council Member Jeff Weaver, adding that there has been angst over the sale of the property and broker Gary Dehn of Premier Commercial Properties has worked with the Planning Commission to come up with new standards for the area, which were adopted by the council last month.

City staff will continue to work with Sharp on architectural designs for the front of the new building that will face Bunker Lake Boulevard.

While neighbors of the property were notified of the conditional use permit hearing, none raised concerns about the mini-storage use.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at

]]> 0
Susan Kay Babcock Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:21:04 +0000 Dr. Susan Babcock, age 60, formerly of Anoka, passed away October 19, 2014 in Denver, CO. Preceded in death by parents Mahlon and Bernita. Survived by daughter Alison Bellgrau and brother Charles (Judy) Babcock. Memorial services are pending in Vail, CO. Memorials preferred to Can Do Canines or the donors favorite charity.

]]> 0
Unity Hospital designated as Ebola treatment location Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:00:55 +0000 Under a new statewide strategy to care for Ebola patients, Unity Hospital in Fridley has been designated one of four hospitals to treat patients should any cases arise.

Allina Health’s Unity Hospital in Fridley was designated as one of four Minnesota hospitals to treat patients with Ebola should any cases arise.

Allina Health’s Unity Hospital in Fridley was designated as one of four Minnesota hospitals to treat patients with Ebola should any cases arise.

The Minnesota Hospital Association announced that hospitals and health systems from around the state have developed a coordinated strategy to care for Ebola patients in Minnesota.

Under the plan, all hospitals in the state will continue to be prepared to detect, isolate and initially care for suspected Ebola patients. Should a case of Ebola be identified, the patient will be treated at one of four designated hospitals:

• Allina Health’s Unity Hospital in Fridley

• University of Minnesota Medical Center on the West Bank campus in Minneapolis

• Mayo Clinic Hospital on the Saint Marys Campus in Rochester

• Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in St. Paul

“Once the Ebola situation started peaking in Africa in July, we started putting procedures in place to prepare,” Unity Hospital spokesperson Terri Dresen said. “So in many ways, we have been preparing for any type of Ebola case since July. We need to be proactive and start preparing ahead of time.”

The Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Department of Health agreed Unity Hospital was a good option for the north metro.

“We’re very pleased Unity stepped forward because it is near one of the largest West African populations in the state,” Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson Sam Brungardt said.

Unity Hospital is owned by Allina Health, the largest health care provider in Minnesota. With 12 hospitals, Dresen said, “we have the resources needed to effectively care for a patient with Ebola.”

The intensive care unit at Unity Hospital was redesigned a few years ago — there’s an elevator that travels directly from the emergency department to the ICU.

“It’s one quick route, so they don’t have to take the patient all over the hospital,” Dresen said. “From a facility standpoint, it’s a good layout for emerging diseases.”

New monitoring procedures in place

Minnesota’s plan is being implemented in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health, the state’s health systems and hospitals, emergency transportation providers, and other health care stakeholders with the goal of ensuring the statewide referral and transportation plans are seamless if a patient with Ebola needs care in Minnesota.

Should multiple Ebola patients need care in Minnesota, they will be transported to one of the four designated hospitals. Discussions are ongoing about whether patients would be taken to those hospitals in a specific order until they reach capacity, Minnesota Hospital Association President and CEO Lawrence Massa said. Officials are also still determining at what point a suspected Ebola patient would be transferred to one of the four designated hospitals.

“There’s a lot of controversy on the issue of quarantine,” Massa said. “I think the Minnesota Department of Health is trying to adopt a measured approach.”

The plan aims to ensure the state’s Level I trauma centers can continue to serve the region’s trauma care needs. And there are still beds available at the four federal biocontainment centers, Massa said, so the hospitals would consult with MDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about whether a patient should be transferred to one of those facilities.

Four hospitals in the state were designated to treat Ebola patients because it made more sense to concentrate resources, Massa said. That way, a smaller group of employees can receive training.

“No on knows whether we’ll see any Ebola patients in Minnesota or not, but we want to be ready and that requires a great deal of planning,” Massa said.

Part of that planning are the new procedures in place to monitor people who have traveled from West Africa to Minnesota. Based on guidance from the CDC, Minnesota’s plan covers returning travelers, primarily those who provided health care in an affected country or who had contact with an Ebola patient.

Under the plan:

• All identified travelers will receive twice daily monitoring by MDH staff.

• None of the individuals being monitored will be allowed to use public transportation for trips lasting longer than three hours, regardless of exposure history.

• Only those with a known exposure will be restricted from using local public transit or attending mass gatherings.

• All travelers will be allowed to have family members in their home.

• Only those travelers who treated an Ebola patient and have been exposed will be required to be restricted in their home (have no physical contact with others).

• All travelers will be required to keep a log of all activities and a log of close contacts during the 21 days.

“As the Ebola situation has evolved over the past few weeks, the screening mechanisms have been pushed out even farther,” Massa said. “It’s in our ability to know in advance to monitor any suspected case.”

‘We have to be prepared for it’

For many weeks, Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems have been preparing for the possibility of a patient with Ebola. Preparations have included training and drilling caregivers and staff on how to deliver optimal care safely; communicating and coordinating efforts with MDH, the Minnesota Hospital Association and other health care providers; planning for how a patient would be transported to appropriate and available care settings as needed; evaluating facilities for appropriate isolation space; and ensuring that the necessary personal protective equipment and supplies are available.

Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems have followed updates to the CDC protocols and adjusted their planning and preparations, including use of personal protective equipment and staff training and drills, according to a release from MDH.

As to the likelihood of a patient with Ebola needing treatment in Minnesota, Massa said there’s no way to know for sure.

“Nobody really knows what the probability is,” he said. “From what we’ve been told by the Minnesota Department of Health, an average of 10 or so people in a given week travel from West Africa to Minnesota, but it’s unknown if they’ve had access to anyone with Ebola. … But we have to be prepared for it.”

]]> 0