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    Police have issued Silver Alerts for a missing 1-year-old boy and his mother and said the two are together.

    This is a custodial issue, according to police. David Miley Jr. and his mother, Bonita Hobby, 34, were last seen at their home at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, police said.

    David might be wearing a black North Face snowsuit. No photo of him has been released.

    Anyone with information is asked to call New Haven police at 203-946-6316.
     



    Photo Credit: Silver Alert

    Police have issued Silver Alerts for Bonita Hobby and her 1-year-old son, David Miley Jr.Police have issued Silver Alerts for Bonita Hobby and her 1-year-old son, David Miley Jr.

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    A school maintenance worker in Brookfield fell from the school roof on Friday while trying to clear off snow after recent storms.

    The accident happened at Whisconier Middle School and the superintendent said the man stepped on a canopy, fell through and landed about six feet below.

    He landed on his feet and is fine, but was taken to an urgent care facility. He has been released and sent home.
     


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  • 02/06/15--11:32: Zuckerberg, Chan Donate $75M

  • The Bay Area's Power Couple is at it again.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan have announced a $75 million donation San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center to complete an acute care and trauma facility.

    The gift is the biggest donation the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation has received since it was established in 1994, the foundation said Friday. It supplements an $887.4 million bond issue that San Francisco voters approved in 2008 to start building the facility.

    According to the Foundation, the grant will "Fund critical state of the art equipment and technology for the new building and will help convert the existing hospital building into an ambulatory care facility."

    Zuckerberg and Chan recently also donated $25 million to fight Ebola. In a press release, Zuckerberg said, "Priscilla and I believe that everyone deserves access to high quality health care."

    Chan, a pediatrician, is completing her residency at the University of California, San Francisco and works regularly at the hospital, where she focuses on treating underprivileged children.

    The newest donation is the latest in a series of tech windfalls helping Bay Area hospitals. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff donated about $250 million for the newly minted Benioff Children's Hospital.

    Scott can be found on Twitter: @scottbudman

    Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.



    Photo Credit: Facebook
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.

    Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla ChanMark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan

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    Water service has been restored to 18 homes in Rocky Hill after a water main break affected the area Friday afternoon.

    A spokesperson for the MDC said service to impacted homes on Parsonage Street was turned back on around 6 p.m. Friday.

    MDC said the 8-inch water main was shut down around 2:15 p.m. Friday and water service was cut to 18 homes on Parsonage Street from Silas Deane Highway to Sunnycrest Drive.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    Police are investigating after a woman robbed the United Bank at the East Hartford Shop Rite supermarket around noon Friday.

    According to police, a woman wearing a dark-colored Yankees jacket, sun glasses and a black knit cap approached the teller around 11:50 a.m. and handed over a note implying she had a gun.

    She got away with an undisclosed amount of cash.

    Police described the robber as a thin woman with a mole on her chin who appeared to be working alone.

    Police said no one was hurt.

    Anyone with information is urged to call East Hartford police Det. Don Loehr at 860-291-7509.



    Photo Credit: East Hartford Police Department

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    Route 169 in Brooklyn is closed after a crash, according to state police.

    The road is closed at Herric Road.

    No additional information was immediately available.
     



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    The state Department of Consumer Protection is urging Anthem policy holders in Connecticut to keep an eye on medical statements in the wake of the massive data breach.

    “While more information about the scope and depth of the data loss will become available in time, it’s important that consumers understand what they need to look for,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said in a statement. “The breach of medical and health insurance information requires Anthem customers to watch not only their financial accounts, but health care statements as well.”

    As the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reported in May, medical records can be worth pure cash in the hands of hackers. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, one third of medical identity fraud victims had to pay for a procedure they never had. The average cost for this group of people was $18,000.

    State officials said a thief might use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider or get other care. If a thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your own medical treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report could be affected.

    Start checking not only your credit reports and financial statements carefully, but also medical and insurance statements, including the Explanation of Benefits statements, for signs of misuse.

    If you see a mistake, contact your Anthem immediately and report the problem. You also may want to follow these steps from the Federal Trade Commission.

    Other warning signs include a bill for medical services you didn’t receive or a call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe, medical collection notices on your credit report that you don’t recognize, a notice from your health plan saying you reached your benefit limit and a denial of insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.

    They also urge deleting email or text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information because legitimate companies do not ask for sensitive personal data via email or text.

    For more information from the Department of Consumer Protection, visit www.ct.gov/AnthemAdvice. Suspicious activity should be reported to the Office of the Attorney General's Privacy Task Force by emailing attorney.general@ct.gov or calling 860-808-5318. Anthem has a designated website for consumers with immediate questions about the breach at: http://www.anthemfacts.com/.



    Photo Credit: AP

    The Anthem logo hangs at the health insurer's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Hackers broke into the company's database storing information for about 80 million people in an attack bound to stoke fears many Americans have about the privacy of their most sensitive information.The Anthem logo hangs at the health insurer's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Hackers broke into the company's database storing information for about 80 million people in an attack bound to stoke fears many Americans have about the privacy of their most sensitive information.

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    Dina Shacknai said Thursday the lawsuit accusing her of murder in the 2011 hanging death of her millionaire ex-husband's girlfriend at a California mansion "makes no sense.”

    Shacknai spoke exclusively to NBC 7 more than three years after the deaths of her son Max Shacknai Rebecca Zahau at the Spreckels Coronado mansion. The medical examiner ruled Zahau's death a suicide and Max's an accident as a result of a fall from a staircase in the home.

    “It makes no sense to me," she said of the lawsuit. "We have been accused of horrific, horrible actions that are deplorable."

    The suit filed by Zahau's family claims Shacknai, her twin sister Nine Romano and ex-husband's brother Adam conspired to kill Zahau. It accuses Shacknai of hitting Zahau four times in the back of the head and then working with the other two to strip the unconscious woman, gag her and hang her with a rope over the balcony.

    Shacknai lost her six-year-old son Max after a tragic fall inside his father Jonah's Coronado mansion in July 2011. The only person there at the time was Rebecca Zahau, Johah's girlfriend--who just days after Max's death was found nude, bound and hanging from the mansion's second-story balcony.

    “I never had the opportunity to ask what happened," said Shacknai.

    Since both deaths, there have been countless investigators and attorneys involved. Shacknai's experts say her son's death was a homicide. Zahau's family believes someone also killed her. Their latest allegations were detailed in a $10 million wrongful death suit against Shacknai

    Shacknai said the accusations in the suit are unfounded and said there is no way those actions could have happened.

    "Frankly it's in my interest to find out what happened to her as well because I know for a fact who was not there. I was not there and neither was my sister," she told NBC 7.

    Shacknai believes the Zahau family deserves to have answers but can't understand why she's a target. In the midst of everything, she said she tries to focus on the time she spent with her son and the work she's doing through the organization she started in his name.

    "The closure for me will come with the resolution of these lawsuits because they are not productive, and the closure will be through Maxie's house, which is something positive,” said Shacknai.

    Depositions for this civil case have started. In October, a federal judge ruled the wrongful death lawsuit in the case of Zahau will move forward. Judge Whelan said looking at the accusations in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the factual allegations are sufficient to support the conspiracy theory. Zahau family Attorney Keith Greer believes the case will not be settled and will go to a jury trial.


    Dina Shacknai (left) talks with NBC 7's Danya Bacchus on Feb. 5, 2015.Dina Shacknai (left) talks with NBC 7's Danya Bacchus on Feb. 5, 2015.

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    Former New England Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez is on trial in Fall River, Massachusetts, accused of killing a semi-professional football player found shot multiple times near Hernandez’s home. Testimony began in January and is expected to take six to 10 weeks.

    Hernandez and the victim, Odin Lloyd, had been out at a nightclub two days earlier and later got into a fight, prosecutors say.

    Here are some highlights from the court proceedings so far.


    Trophies on display, and memories of O.J.

    Defense lawyers and prosecutors have been sparring over Hernandez’s football trophies from the start.

    The defense won the first round when Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan ruled that the jurors would be allowed to see the trophy case when they toured the house on Feb. 6. Hernandez’s lawyer James Sultan had argued that the house should be shown as it was at the time of Lloyd’s death in 2013.

    But the day before the tour, prosecutor Patrick Bomberg prevailed when he told the judge that religious items and memorabilia from Hernandez’s football career had been added to several rooms. He drew a comparison to the O.J. Simpson murder trial when photographs and a Bible were placed in the retired football player’s house. Simpson was later acquitted on charges of killing his former wife and a waiter. Judge Garsh said anything new would have to be covered or removed.

    A mother’s tears

    Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, twice left the courtroom in tears before testifying on Feb. 4, when the judge asked her not to cry as she was shown photographs of her son.

    “I understand this is very emotional for you,” Garsh told her.

    Ward remained stoic when she viewed an autopsy photo of her son’s face and another of her son wearing the same clothes he was dressed in when his body was found.

    Juror removed

    Judge Garsh dismissed one of the jurors on Feb. 3, saying there was evidence that she had discussed her opinion about the case and, in particular, had said that it would be hard to convict Hernandez without the murder weapon, which has never been found. The woman also attended more Patriot games than she disclosed, talked about evidence that the judge had ruled inadmissible and over the last few years had expressed an interest in serving on the jury, the judge said.

    To watch the Super Bowl or not

    As Hernandez’s former team prepared for the match-up against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL’s championship game, Judge Garsh told the jurors they could watch the game but only if they left the room if Hernandez’s name came up.

    “You hear that word, you’ve got to walk out of the room,” Garsh told them on Jan. 30. “Distance yourself.”

    During the 2012 Super Bowl, Hernandez caught a touchdown pass from the Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady — though the team lost the New York Giants. This year, the Patriots beat the Seahawks 28 - 24 in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1.


     



    Photo Credit: AP
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.

    Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez looks back during his murder trial at Bristol County Superior Court, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, in Fall River, Mass. Hernandez is accused of the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez looks back during his murder trial at Bristol County Superior Court, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, in Fall River, Mass. Hernandez is accused of the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.

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    The masked man who held up a Middletown bank and threatened the tellers with a handgun Friday evening may be connected to half a dozen other robberies across the state.

    According to police, the robber, who covered his face with a black ski mask and spoke with a thick European accent, entered the Liberty Bank at 827 Washington Street just prior to 6 p.m. Friday.

    Authorities said he crouched down as he entered the bank and advanced toward the counter with an outstretched black handgun – possibly a 9mm.

    The man demanded money from all three tellers who were working at the time and threatened to hurt anyone who gave him a dye pack. "He pointed and waved the handgun at the tellers randomly" while gathering piles of cash, according to police.

    Witnesses describe the robber as a slender, light-skinned man standing about 5 feet 8 inches tall. He was wearing a long black coat with a black baseball cap and a gray-colored hood pulled over his head. Gray sweatshirt sleeves protruded from underneath his coat and over his palms, which were covered with purple latex gloves and possibly stained red, police said.

    Tellers told police the suspect wore heavy cologne and spoke with a heavy accident that may have been Russian, Slavic, Albanian or Polish.

    He ran westbound through the parking lot toward a nearby Taco Bell restaurant. Police K-9s tried to track him but lost the scent just to the west of the bank, authorities said.

    Police have linked the suspect to the robbery of a Liberty Bank in Durham two weeks ago. Authorities said a man held up the bank at 357 Main Street just before it closed for the night and got away with about $6,000. He left that scene in a silver Volkswagen Passat with a stolen license plate.

    Durham police said at the time of the robbery that were investigating a possible link between the Jan. 23 case and a similar robbery in Cromwell that occurred Jan. 8. The suspect in both robberies is described as having a thick European accent.

    Those robberies have been linked to holdups in Rocky Hill, Plainville, Southington, Bristol and Wallingford, according to the Connecticut Intelligence Center.

    The Connecticut Bankers Reward Association is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

    Anyone with information is urged to call the Middletown Police Department Major Investigations Unit at 860-638-4000.



    Photo Credit: Middletown Police Department

    Police are searching for the masked man who robbed a Middletown bank at gunpoint Friday evening.Police are searching for the masked man who robbed a Middletown bank at gunpoint Friday evening.

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    A federal judge has ordered a new round of court hearings to determine whether the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 should be able to spend more time outside a D.C. mental hospital, reports NBC News' Pete Williams.

    John Hinckley Jr. was found to be insane when he shot and wounded Reagan outside a downtown D.C. hotel more than 30 years ago.

    In 2006, received permission to periodically leave St. Elizabeths Hospital to visit his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia. The length of those visits has expanded over the years.

    Now the federal judge overseeing the case said the hospital has created a new set of recommendations for Hinckley, a plan currently sealed, Williams reported.

    On Friday, Judge Paul L. Friedman ordered St. Elizabeth's to undertake a risk assessment by March 31 and set a schedule to receive responses from doctors, Hinckley's lawyers, and the Justice Department, with deadlines set throughout April.

    Doctors at St. Elizabeth's had previously tried to let Hinckley spend roughly half the year in Williamsburg, divided into eight visits, but the government opposed that plan, according to Williams.



    Photo Credit: AP

    John Hinckley, Jr. in 2003.John Hinckley, Jr. in 2003.

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    Police are searching for the man who let himself into a car loitering in Hamden and robbed the driver at gunpoint Friday morning.

    According to police, the 24-year-old victim was sitting in his parked car on Fourth Street around 11 a.m. when a man let himself in the passenger door and pointed a gun at the driver.

    The robber got away with the victim's cellphone – and a $1 bill.

    Police said the robber fled in a silver SUV that had been parked on Beaver Street.

    Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call Hamden police Major Crimes Det. Brian Stewart at 203-230-4040.



    Photo Credit: Hamden Police Department

    Hamden police are searching for this getaway car in connection with a robbery on Fourth Street.Hamden police are searching for this getaway car in connection with a robbery on Fourth Street.

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    A 19-year-old from suburban Chicago spent more than two days lost in the Swiss Alps during a ski trip says he crossed chest-deep streams, hiked up a ravine and used his Boy Scout skills to build a shelter out of snow to survive the ordeal. 

    In his hospital room, Mark Doose’s ski boots are a reminder of the harrowing two and a half days he spent lost in the frigid mountains outside of Zweisimmen.

    The teen, a graduate of Hinsdale Central High School who is studying at the Swiss Federal Institute of technology, said he lost his way during white-out conditions.

    “It started to snow a little bit harder, and so I decided to follow the pylons of one of the lifts down, because I figured that would go down to the base of the mountain,” he said. “But at some point, when I was following that path, I ended up in a ravine.”

    Doose says he started hiking down the ravine, hoping it would lead him to safety.

    “The snow was about up to my waist, and there were points where there were a lot of fresh snow that had just fallen, and it was pretty heavy snow, so it was difficult to hike through,” he said.

    Doose hiked about two kilometers in the ravine, sleeping for only about two hours late Sunday night and early Monday morning.

    “At one point, the ravine just came to a waterfall, so I couldn’t really go any further there, so I hiked up the embankment, probably 30 to 35 meters, with my skis,” he said.

    He also says he crossed a number of rivers and streams, sometimes chest deep, all in temperatures that hovered just above zero.

    “I wasn’t able to hike that fast, but I knew I had to keep moving in order to stay warm and keep from freezing, and especially after going through the water,” he said. “That was when I kept moving the most to try and keep my body temperature up.”

    Doose says he used his Boy Scout skills, building a shelter out of the snow, to survive a second night in the mountains.

    “Late at night there were a few times when I got pretty cold, and I was worried that it would be difficult to keep moving, but for the most part the whole time I just told myself that in order to stay alive I had to keep moving and keep hiking,” he said. “I really didn’t have any other option.”

    More than 48 hours later, he came across a road, where he shouted out to three people who were able to call for help.

    “When they first answered me, that was just incredible,” he said. “To have someone respond after not talking to anyone or having anyone hear me for almost two and a half days, that was pretty emotional.”

    Doose was treated for mild hypothermia and a bruised toe.


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    First daughter Malia Obama has been spotted checking out colleges in New York City. 

    NYU student blog NYU Local reported Malia, 16, and mom Michelle Obama were seen touring the campus Friday morning. 

    A witness accidentally got onto the elevator with the Obamas, along with their Secret Service detail and an admissions ambassador, at Goddard Hall, the blog reported.

    "Apparently everyone was told that the elevators were 'shut down' for the 10 minutes they were in the building, but I knew the truth," the witness told the blog.

    Malia was later seen on the Columbia University campus, the campus news site Bwog reported. 

    Student Geetika Rudra posted an Instagram photo of the First Lady at nearby Community Food and Juice cafe in the afternoon. 

    "FLOTUS! Michelle and Malia Obama at Columbia!" wrote Rudra. 

    Malia Obama is currently a high school junior at Sidewells Friends School in Washington, D.C. 



    Photo Credit: Geetika Rudra

    Michelle and Malia Obama were spotted at Community Food and Juice near Columbia Friday (Credit: Geetika Rudra)Michelle and Malia Obama were spotted at Community Food and Juice near Columbia Friday (Credit: Geetika Rudra)

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    Water service has been restored in Newington after a water main break affected eight homes on Main Street on Friday, according to the MDC.

    A spokesperson for the water company said all service had been restored by 6 p.m. The 12-inch main was shut off around 10:30 a.m., cutting service to homes on Main Street near the intersection with New Britain Avenue.

    A spokesperson for MDC said weather conditions and the amount of piping that needed to be replaced contributed to a longer-than-expected repair time.



    Photo Credit: AP

    There are mandatory water conservation measures for all East Lyme water customers.There are mandatory water conservation measures for all East Lyme water customers.

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    A 17-year-old Fairfield high school student is hospitalized with a fractured hip after she was hit by a car while avoiding an icy, snow-covered sidewalk on her way to school Friday morning, according to police.

    Police said the teen, a student at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, was crossing Mill Plain Road just before 7:30 a.m. when she was struck.

    Officers arrived to find her lying in the road with pain in her right hip. She told them she had crossed the road there because the sidewalks hadn’t been shoveled, according to police.

    Authorities released photos of the snow-covered sidewalk in front of 745 Unquowa Road, which the student had avoided.

    Fairfield police said the property owner will be fined $99 for failing to shovel the sidewalk and will also have to shell out for the man power and machinery the Department of Public Works used to clear the area. Lt. James Perez said the cost could approach $1,000.

    The driver who hit the teen told investigators she didn't see the girl until it was too late, according to police.

    Traffic was backed up at the time, the driver said, and the girl ran between two SUVs that were stopped in traffic and darted right in front of the car that hit her.

    The student is with her mother at the hospital.



    Photo Credit: Fairfield Police

    Police said a 17-year-old girl had no choice to go into the street because the sidewalk she takes to get to school was not shoveled.Police said a 17-year-old girl had no choice to go into the street because the sidewalk she takes to get to school was not shoveled.

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    Flanked by New York lawmakers, Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood before the burned-out wreckage of the Metro-North train that slammed into an SUV in Valhalla, New York, earlier this week, calling on legislators to take measures so the deadly but "preventable" crash will never happen again.

    "Having walked into that car that became a fiery death chamber, I was absolutely horrified," Blumenthal said during the news conference Friday. "To see the twisted chunks of metal, the blackened soot-stained cars and the seats that were twisted remains of what they were brought home to me what horror that car must have held for those innocent lives that were lost."

    Five Metro-North passengers, including a Danbury resident, and the driver of the SUV died when the energized third rail split from the tracks and pierced the train, igniting a fireball that engulfed the first rail car.

    “This accident is heartbreaking and gut wrenching and mind bending in how it could have occurred,” Blumenthal said. “And overwhelmingly what strikes me is this crash was preventable.”

    Blumenthal said the fatal collision is one of more than 2,000 crashes that occur at rail grade crossings each year. According to the senator, 239 people were killed and more than 760 were hurt in such crashes last year.

    “In a country that can put a man on the moon we can design better grade crossings that save lives and prevent this kind of crash. These grade crossings are literally accidents waiting to happen,” Blumental said.

    He explained that much of the infrastructure still relies on technology from last century, harping on the need to implement signal controls that stop trains, warnings that deter cars and stronger penalties for drivers who go through crossings.

    Blumenthal also turned his attention to driver education, suggesting that the SUV driver may have panicked when the crossing gates came down on her car.

    “She probably never knew that the grade crossing arm would have yielded the car if she had backed rather than going forward,” he said. “That tragic mistake might have been prevented with better education.”



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    A school bus driver is accused of driving seven students while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and hitting a parked car in Norwich on Friday morning.

    Police said Edwin Gonzalez, 30, of Willimantic, drove a First Student school bus into a parked car at 68 North Main Street in Norwich around 7:30 a.m. Friday. According to police, Gonzalez drove "erratically" away from the scene.

    At the time of the crash, seven students – including two minors – and a driver's aide were aboard the bus, according to police. No one was hurt.

    Police investigating the crash determined that Gonzalez was driving under the influence and placed him under arrest. They're awaiting test results to determine whether which substance Gonzalez had allegedly taken.

    He was charged with DUI, reckless driving, evading responsibility, two counts of risk of injury to a minor and second-degree reckless endangerment. Gonzalez was held on $250,000 bond and is due in court Monday.

    A spokesperson for the bus company said Gonzalez has been suspended.

    "At First Student, we know there is nothing more important than the safety of the children we transport. We understand the concern this matter has caused," said FirstGroup America Inc. corporate communications manager Stephanie A. Creech, in a statement.

    Norwich Supt. Abby Dolliver said most of the students riding the bus were older and attending a work program. All parents have been notified and First Student is handling this as a personnel matter," according to Dolliver.

    Information on an attorney for Gonzalez was not immediately available.



    Photo Credit: Norwich Police Department

    School bus driver Edwin Gonzalez, 30, of Willimantic, is accused of hitting a parked car while under the influence.School bus driver Edwin Gonzalez, 30, of Willimantic, is accused of hitting a parked car while under the influence.

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    In the wake of a massive cyberattack and subsequent phishing scam targeting Anthem insurance policyholders, the state Department of Revenue Services is putting tax refunds on hold in an effort to protect against fraud.

    Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan warned residents to look out for emails entitled "Your TurboTax account: Update your information" possibly sent from the email address whiskers83@netzero.com. Concerned TurboTax users are urged to call 800-944-8596.

    As a precaution, we are holding refunds pending further review on Monday and making some adjustments in our own screening. Our refunds are multiply screened for potential fraud but the concern here is that taxpayers may have unknowingly provided the requisite personally identifiable information in reply to the bogus email request to update information,” Sullivan said in a statement Friday.

    The email scams are not limited to Connecticut, and TurboTax also briefly stopped processing state tax returns Friday but had resumed by about 3 p.m. Pacific Time, or 6 p.m. Eastern Time, according to parent company Intuit.

    Sullivan said Connecticut has not seen a spike in fraudulent filings, but "we simply do not yet have enough information from our discussions with FTA and Intuit to know."

    It comes in the wake of a massive computer hack that has compromised the personal information of up to 1.4 million Connecticut residents. Anthem became aware of the hack Jan. 27, but it was only brought to the attention of the state Wednesday, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy.



    Photo Credit: AP

    The Anthem logo hangs at the health insurer's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Hackers broke into the company's database storing information for about 80 million people in an attack bound to stoke fears many Americans have about the privacy of their most sensitive information.The Anthem logo hangs at the health insurer's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Hackers broke into the company's database storing information for about 80 million people in an attack bound to stoke fears many Americans have about the privacy of their most sensitive information.

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    For the first time Friday, Connecticut lawmakers heard some of the pros and cons of a proposal to allow Tesla Motors to operate non-franchised dealerships in the state.

    Tesla Motors manufactures electric cars that don’t require the same maintenance as traditional automobiles with internal combustion engines. They also use a different business model than other auto companies. The company operates in more than 20 states and owns each of the stores where it sells cars directly to consumers.

    During a public hearing Friday, Tesla Motors told lawmakers why its business model should be given a chance in Connecticut, while auto dealers in the state explained why the proposal shouldn’t be allowed to shift into drive.

    “We are looking for the opportunity to apply for and receive a dealer license subject to the same regulations as any other dealer,” said Jim Chen, Tesla’s vice president of regulatory affairs. “We’re getting shut out from that.”

    Chen contends that the company is not looking for any kind of carve-out from state laws that govern franchises and consumer protection. He maintains that the company merely wants to be able to sell its cars just like any other manufacturer.

    Connecticut has nearly 300 auto dealers that employ about 14,000 people, according to the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, the group staunchly opposed to allowing Tesla's direct sales.

    Jim Fleming, the group’s chief, said his organization supports allowing Tesla to exist in Connecticut within the existing franchise model.

    Fleming and the dealers argue that, in the event Tesla goes under, the franchises are there to protect consumers from being scammed or owning a car that can’t get serviced.

    “It’s going to provide greater consumer protection to do it under laws, consumer protection laws, that have been on the books for nearly 40 years,” Fleming said.

    Dealer owners aren’t shy about their intentions either. They see the huge dollar signs associated with Tesla and want to make profits on the cars that start at $70,000, but average purchasers spend upwards of $100,000.

    “We have a whole portfolio of client base that would be very much the right fit for a Tesla and we feel the franchise system is a very efficient way of selling and servicing these cars,” said Jeff Aisola, who owns Carriage House Mercedes-Benz in New London.

    Lawmakers appeared to be in the mood to compromise after hearing hours of testimony from the auto maker, Tesla owners and opponents.

    State Rep. Tony Guerrera used the word “compromise” several times during the hearing where Tesla said it intended to open four or five stores.

    On the changing automotive sales industry Guerrera said, “We have to try to be a little bit more pro-business in regards to getting more business to come in but with that said we have to be cautious that we don’t infringe on other companies also.”

    Chen said dealers need to look at the electric car manufacturer in a different way than traditional manufacturers and dealers.

    “We are not competing on an intra-brand basis. So we’re not going to be selling Fords, or GMs, or Hondas or Toyotas,” Chen said.

    A vote on the proposed Tesla sales measure could be held next month.



    Photo Credit: Getty

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