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Beware Accepting Venmo From Strangers


Venmo, the person-to-person payment smartphone app, is a big hit with millennials and scammers alike, due to the app’s potentially dangerous “reversal” option.

Venmo links to a credit card or a bank account and lets its users send or receive payments. For example, instead of splitting a bill three ways while at dinner with friends, one person picks up the tab and everyone else pays them back over Venmo.

But reporters at NBC Owned Stations across the country found some users who say they got digitally burned.

“This person was very eager to buy the car,” said Craigslist seller Alex Wilburn. “I met him right here at the mall.”

Wilburn says the buyer who responded to his Craigslist ad for this 2001 Acura sent him 1,800 dollars via the app.

“The way Venmo works is if somebody transfers you money, you see it in your account and you think it’s there to stay,” said Wilburn.

Wilburn then signed the title over and drove back to his apartment to help his customer replace the tags. Then, the new owner drove off.

Twelve hours later, Wilburn says he got an email from Venmo saying the payment had been stopped.

“And then I actually saw the money out of the Venmo account reversed and sent back,” said Wilburn. “I couldn’t believe it.”

In Connecticut, several sellers accept payments through Venmo on items for sale on Craigslist. Craigslist advises its users to deal locally, face-to-face, and to never give out financial information such as a bank account or payment apps like Venmo or Paypal.

“People think it’s instantaneous, and it’s actually not,” said Fatima Hasan of San Jose, California.

Hasan says she’s out 900 dollars for the three football tickets she sold. Even more frustrating to her is how, she says, Venmo responded.

“I’m mad,” said Hasan. “I’m very mad that Venmo didn’t do anything.”

Venmo spokesperson Josh Criscoe told NBC there is no buyer or seller protection, and that the app is designed for payments between friends and people who trust each other.

Venmo’s user agreement also says “personal accounts may not be used to receive business, commercial or merchant transactions.”

Criscoe added any business usage of Venmo requires an application and explicit authorization.

The company also said it recently implemented alerts within the app, designed to protect users and discourage activity that violates their user agreement.

“You’ve got to read those things to really, actually, know what you’re using,” said Wilburn.

Photo Credit: NBC OTS

Fire Breaks Out Vacant House in Hartford


Crews responded to fire at a vacant house in Hartford this morning and the fire captain said no one was home when the fire started. 

The fire broke out on Bond Street in Hartford early this morning. 

Fire captain Raul Ortiz said no one was inside and there is a for sale sign outside. He said on Twitter that the fire was on the back porches and extended to the roof.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Study Builds Case Linking Autism, Infections During Pregnancy


Women with active genital herpes infections early in their pregnancy were twice as likely to have a child with autism than women who did not, according to a study released Wednesday.

NBC News reported that the study, published in the journal mSphere, adds to evidence that some cases of autism may be caused by the mother's immune response to infections.

The team from Columbia University and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health believe that the mother's reaction to herpes infection may be crossing the placenta and affecting the fetus' developing brain. A 2013 study found a similar rise in autism rates in pregnant women who had flu.

"We are now looking at other triggers. We think that a wide range of different types of infections can cause this," said Dr. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia epidemiologist and infectious disease expert who oversaw the research.

Photo Credit: Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images

No Powerball Jackpot Here, But 49,000 Smaller Prizes in CT


You might not have won the $435 million Powerball jackpot, unless you happened to buy your ticket in Lafayette, Indiana, but almost 50,000 tickets bought in Connecticut are winners, to some extent.

One ticket is worth $50,000, while another 27 are worth $200 and 112 are worth $100.

The winning numbers are: 10-13-28-52-61 PB:2 Powerplay:2

Here’s the breakdown on the 49,129 winning tickets sold in Connecticut:

  • 1: 4 numbers, plus Powerball: $50,000
  • 24: 5 numbers: $100
  • 5: 5 numbers, plus powerplay: $200
  • 61: 3 numbers, and Powerball: $100
  • 22: 3 numbers, Powerball and powerplay: $200
  • 1,605: 3 numbers: $7
  • 599: 3 numbers, and powerplay: $14
  • 1,281: 2 numbers and Powerball: $7
  • 489: 2 numbers, Powerball and powerplay: $14
  • 9,704: 1 number and Powerball: $4
  • 3,792: number, Powerball and powerplay: $8
  • 22,848: Powerball: $4
  • 8,698: Powerball and powerplay: $8


The next drawing is Saturday night and the jackpot is $40.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

State Considers Tax on Plastic and Paper Bags


The Connecticut Legislature is considering a proposed bill would put a 5-cent tax on every single-use carryout paper and plastic shopping bag and shoppers had mixed opinions on the idea. 

Joe Koski, of New Britain, supports it. 

"It's a good idea," he said. "People may think twice about using plastic." 

Arnaldo Collado, of Newington, doesn’t. 

"I don't think that's good for us," Collado said. "We don't need more taxes." 

He said he often shops at places that don't have single-use bags. When he goes to stores that have them, he uses them as little as possible. 

"The ones I do use, I take home and I recycle them and use them at home," Collado said. 

Jacquelyn Pitcher, of Newington, said using reusable bags is a simple way to make a big difference. 

"It's more convenient. It cuts down on waste. You can fit more in a single bag, so it's easier to carry up to the apartment. It's more convenient all around," Pitcher said. 

Environmental groups say plastic bags waste natural resources and negatively impact wildlife and waterways. 

Read the proposed bill here.  

In the proposed legislation, the money collected by the tax would go to a dedicated environmental fund to help state programs. 

Pitcher said that's an added bonus. 

"If people don't really want to pay the tax, they can easily get reusable bags. So it's good for the environment. It's good all around," Pitcher said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Host of Documents Still Missing From White House Website


Public-facing documents scrubbed from the White House's website shortly after President Donald Trump was inaugurated — including White House visitors' logs, waivers of ethics regulations and a host of other records — still haven't been replaced, fueling advocates' concerns about the new administration's transparency, NBC News reported.

During the first week of February, 31 databases — reporting legally mandated White House payroll reports to Congress, budget documents, White House visitor records and public response documents — were removed from the White House Open Data portal, the platform created to disclose information about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and its operations.

The previous presence of the documents was confirmed through publicly available archived versions. Some of the data, preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration, are also available on the White House website of former President Barack Obama.

Photo Credit: Getty

Treasury Secretary: Expect Tax Overhaul by August


Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he would like to see "very significant" tax reform passed before Congress’ August recess, CNBC reported.

In his first television interview since assuming office, Mnuchin told CNBC Thursday that he’s been working closely with leadership in the House and the Senate to get the ball rolling.

Mnuchin said the administration is mostly focused on a middle income tax cut — a pledge that President Donald Trump ran his campaign on. Trump has promised to release a tax plan in the coming weeks.

Mnuchin added that simplification for business is another focus of the administration’s, and said that he’s focused on canceling out any tax cuts for the wealthy with closed loopholes. He said the administration's tax plan should be judged by the economic growth it could create, rather than by the how much tax revenue drops.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Police Search for Man After Attempted Break-in at Watertown Bar


Watertown police are searching for the man who they said tried to rob a local bar.

Police said the man used a pry bar to try and open the front of Horatios Café, at 1073 Main St., in Watertown, around 11 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9 but was not able to get inside.

The would-be robber has a medium build, dark hair, a dark beard and appears to be in his 30s to 40s, according to police.

Anyone who recognizes the man should call the Watertown Police Department at 860-945-5200 or Crimestoppers at 860-945-9940 for a possible anonymous cash reward.

Photo Credit: Watertown Police

Some San Jose Residents Return to Waterlogged Homes


Some residents returned home to sort through waterlogged furniture, toys and clothing after being abruptly evacuated when a surging creek carrying engine fuel and sewage water inundated thousands of homes in San Jose.

With water levels from Coyote Creek receding late Wednesday, officials said some of the 14,000 evacuated residents would be allowed to return home, although an evacuation order remained for parts of the city. Authorities warned residents to be careful about hygiene and handling food that may have come into contact with flood water.

"The water is not safe,'' San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said. "There is contamination in this water and the contamination runs the gamut."

Residents in knee-high rubber boots waddled through inundated street to get to their homes, passing by cars submerged in muddy water.

Victor Chen, his two children, ages 8 and 10, and his wife evacuated Tuesday night and returned to their home on 21st Street earlier Wednesday.

"It's really tough to see. A home is all we worked for, and our family is all here," Chen, 42, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "And we had to leave it behind when the water was rising."

Toys, extra mattresses, a TV, bikes and clothing were all ruined after the garage, dining room and one of the children's bedrooms were flooded.

Liccardo acknowledged that the city failed to properly notify residents to evacuate during a flood emergency early Wednesday when some people said they got their first notice by seeing firefighters in boats in the neighborhood.

"If the first time a resident is aware that they need to get out of their home is when they see a firefighter in a boat, that's a failure," Liccardo said at a news conference. "We are assessing what happened in that failure."

Liccardo declined to go into detail, saying there would be time for reflection after the emergency was over.

Updated maps showing the evacuation areas were being posted on the mayor's website.

Flood warnings were in place until Saturday because waterways were overtaxed, and another storm was forecast Sunday.

Meanwhile, officials have closed two evacuation centers set up for residents forced to leave their homes two days ago because of floods.

The centers were places where evacuated people could get food and water and rest. Two overnight shelters remained open and people there were trying to find out if they would be allowed to go home.

A steady of stream of people, like resident Marnie Scharmer, stopped by the centers dropping off donations of clothing and toys for the children.

“My heart just goes out to the victims of the flooding, so last night my son and I went through our closets and grabbed what we could to help out,” Scharmer said.

The city began alerting residents of the flood situation on Tuesday via social and mainstream media and sending emergency alerts to those who had signed up for it, said city spokesman Dave Vossbrink.

When water levels changed dramatically overnight, they sent police and firefighters door-to-door during the dramatic overnight evacuation.

 "It was scary," said Irma Gonzalez, 59, whose two-story apartment complex is alongside the creek. She was awakened about 2:30 a.m. by police pounding on her door. "They were like, 'You've got to hurry up and go! Move it!'"

Gonzalez spent the night at her sister's house and said she was thankful for the wakeup call and evacuation. "It's better than to wake up and have water coming in."

Several residents faulted the city for failing to provide proper warnings.

"The city dropped the ball on making sure that people were notified of the potential impact of this flood," said resident Jean-Marie White, whose house and backyard were flooded. "Nobody had any clue.''

The flooding also stranded more than two dozen horses who were expected to be rescued from ranches Thursday after standing for two days in water if the water receded enough so authorities could get to them.

Bob Benjamin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the water level in 30-mile long Coyote Creek reached a 100-year high during this week's storm.

Downpours in the past few weeks have saturated the once-drought-stricken region and wreaked havoc for residents. At least four people have died as a result of the storms throughout the state in the past week.

Assistant San Jose City Manager Dave Sykes said officials first became aware of the rising water late Tuesday when firefighters began evacuating about 400 people from a low-lying residential area.

City officials did not believe the waters would spread to other neighborhoods and did not expand the evacuation orders.

Coyote Creek flooded after Anderson Dam in Santa Clara County reached capacity during heavy weekend rains.

Managers of the dam are taking advantage of a break in the storms to draw down the reservoir, which is supposed to be limited to 68 percent of capacity because of earthquake concerns but is now at 100 percent, said Jim Fiedler, a chief operating officer at the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

He said it could take nine weeks to bring it down to normal levels. Inspectors in 2010 discovered the dam is vulnerable to a major quake and $400 million is being spent to make it earthquake-proof by 2024.

AP writers Kristin J. Bender and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco, Scott Smith in Fresno and Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Commissioner to Recommend Adding 4 Conditions to Medical Marijuana Program


The commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection is recommending that the state add four conditions to the list of debilitating conditions medical marijuana can legally be used to treat in the state of Connecticut.

Commissioner Jonathan Harris said the department will seek to add fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and Post herpetic Neuralgia to the list of conditions medical marijuana can be used to treat adults. He will also recommend that medical marijuana can be used to treat muscular distrophy for adults and children. 

This comes after the Board of Physicians met in January to consider adding seven conditions to the list. 

"The Board of Physicians provides excellent guidance and advice to the Medical Marijuana Program in Connecticut. Our program remains one of the nation’s best because of its security, and thoughtful expansion," Harris said in a statement. "We make all of our decisions regarding the program with the goal of providing the best health care possible, and don’t make decisions without serious consultation with the medical community. We’re proud that our program has grown to help over 16,000 severely ill patients lead better lives in our state.”

Next, each condition will go through a formal regulation process, which includes a period for public comment and review by the legislative regulation review committee.

The state previously approved medical marijuana for the treatment of 22 debilitating diseases for adults in Connecticut and six for children.

Medical marijuana was not approved to treat:

There are currently 16,388 medical marijuana patients, 629 physicians registered to certify patients, 22 conditions approved for adults, and six conditions approved for patients under the age of 18.

For adults, debilitating medical conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Positive Status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Damage to the Nervous Tissue of the Spinal Cord with Objective Neurological Indication of Intractable Spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Cachexia
  • Wasting Syndrome
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Post Laminectomy Syndrome with Chronic Radiculopathy
  • Severe Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Irreversible Spinal Cord Injury with Objective Neurological Indication of Intractable Spasticity
  • Terminal Illness Requiring End-Of-Life Care
  • Uncontrolled Intractable Seizure Disorder

For patients under 18, debilitating medical conditions include:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Irreversible Spinal Cord Injury with Objective Neurological Indication of Intractable Spasticity
  • Severe Epilepsy
  • Terminal Illness Requiring End-Of-Life Care
  • Uncontrolled Intractable Seizure Disorder

Those who wish to find more information about the program may visitwww.ct.gov/DCP/mmp, or contact the Drug Control Division atdcp.mmp@ct.gov or (860) 713-6066.

The Board of Physicians meets at least twice a year to consider petitions. Members of the public may petition the board by filling out a form. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

White Nationalist Richard Spencer Kicked Out of CPAC


Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who popularized the term "alt-right," was kicked out of the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday after holding an impromptu press conference in a hallway where the gathering is being held. 

"He is not welcome here," a spokesman for CPAC told NBC News.

Spencer said he was initially given credentials to attend the conference, but they were taken from him after he spoke to reporters in the hallway of the Maryland convention center. 

Spencer has espoused racist and anti-Semitic views, and reiterated those thoughts in a brief interview with NBC as he was leaving CPAC.

He told NBC race plays a major role in identity and that he believes whites are becoming a persecuted minority in the United States. 

Spencer also said he thinks CPAC attendees and younger conservatives would rather hear what he has to say, than listen to establishment Republicans. 

Photo Credit: Getty

Crews Respond to Fire at Auto Care Center in Wolcott

16 Hartford Police Begin Training at Police Academy


After years of a dwindling police force, the Hartford Police Department is turning a corner. A new class of 16 recruits is beginning the rigorous six-month police academy training. 

This class is the most diverse the department has ever had, with 10 minority recruits, and three of the recruits were in the Hartford Cadet Program. 

“This is so much more training. Police officers are scrutinized so much more than they were 22 years ago when I was here,” Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley said. “You can just imagine how many situations a police officer gets sent to where they're expected with liability and lives on the line to perform professionally. So it's a difficult task for them.” 

The department has approximately 385 police officers. Seventeen have already retired this year, with 25 more eligible for retirement in 2017 and 48 more officers eligible in 2018. Foley said the department has had to cut services as the numbers have dropped. 

“Previous administrations at city hall, we’re going back five-seven years now, we've warned them that these numbers would be dropping and that they needed to take action and they didn't and now we're faced with our staffing crisis that the mayor is doing a pretty good job of addressing," Foley said. 

Mayor Luke Bronin’s goal has been to train 70 recruits over multiple classes, but finding qualified applicants has been difficult, especially from Hartford. 

This class size is 16 and so was the last class over the winter, but Bronin said he is determined to boost the force back into the mid-400s.

Bronin said he wants the new recruits to understand their job is about more than stopping crime and bringing offenders to justice. 

“Our police department is strongest when it has strong relationships of trust and mutual respect with the community that it serves. Ultimately, our police officers are public servants. They are here to keep our community safe and build confidence and trust,” Bronin said. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Recommendations for HFD Following Bell's 2014 Death: NIOSH


It’s been more than two years since Hartford Firefighter Kevin Bell was killed while battling a massive blaze in the city's North End and a final report reveals what factors contributed to his death.

The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) report reveals how the firefighter died and lists several recommendations for the fire department. 

During the October 2014 fire at Blue Hills, Bell died after he was separated from his lieutenant and his tank ran out of air.

The report details contributing factors including fireground tactics, crew integrity, personnel accountability, air management, may day procedures and personal protective equipment use.

NIOSH recommends the department ensure risk assessments are done prior to initial operations and throughout the incident.

In addition, the agency also recommends the Hartford Fire Department use personnel accountability system and make sure firefighters are properly trained in mayday procedures. 

When Bell became separated after his low-air alarmt went off, the lieutenant sent out a mayday signal that wen unacknowledged. 

Multiple firefighters also had their helmets knocked off during the fire after being hit by a hose stream. Hartford firefighters are not required to wear protective hoods to prevent helmets from being hit off again. 

NBC Connecticut reached out to the Hartford Fire Department, a Bell family attorney and a Bell family spokesperson. 

Tribes Say They Are Days Away from Announcing Site of New Casino


Officials from Connecticut's two federally recognized tribes say they're days away from announcing a location for their proposed jointly owned casino near the Massachusetts border. 

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes own and operate the state's only casinos in southeastern Connecticut. They joined forces 15 months ago to combat competition from the new MGM Resorts International casino that is opening in late 2018 in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts. 

They've narrowed their possible sites to locations in East Windsor and Windsor Locks.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Doctor Called 'Monster' Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Abuse


Toting a Bible, disgraced gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar appeared in court Thursday to plead not guilty to molesting young girls — the latest in a string of charges that led Michigan's top prosecutor to call him "a monster," NBC News reported. 

A judge ordered Nassar held without bond — a moot point since he is already locked up without bail on federal child pornography charges and a state charge that he repeatedly molested a family friend starting when she was 6 years old.

Wearing orange jail garb with his left hand shackled to his waist, Nassar gave only brief answers to the judge's questions at the first of two back-to-back arraignments in two counties on 22 counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

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Photo Credit: David Eggert/AP Photo

Family Said Student Pilot Killed in East Haven Crash Devoted Himself to Flying


The man who was killed in the plane crash in East Haven on Wednesday was a student pilot who loved being in the skies, according to those who knew him. 

Pablo Campos Isona, 31, of East Haven, was killed when the Piper PA-38 Tomahawk he was in crashed in East Haven on Wednesday afternoon. 

He was a front desk employee at the La Quinta Hotel on Long Wharf in New Haven and a photo of him now sits where he works. 

His nephew, Will Gonzalez, said his uncle devoted himself to flying. He had completed half of his flight school courses and was doing well in flight school.

"This is probably the worst day of my life," Gonzalez said. "I was just sitting with him at the kitchen table yesterday when he was studying."

A friend said Campos Isona died doing what he loved.

Photo Credit: Family photos

D'oh! Man Tries to Rob Closed Bank


Police are looking for a man who tried to rob a Connecticut bank Wednesday afternoon, but ran off when he realized it was closed.

Employees were still inside the closed-up People's Bank in Fairfield when the man, wearing a mask and carrying a duffel bag, walked up to the front door shortly after 4 p.m., authorities say. He tried to open it, but it was locked.

The employees who were still inside saw him and he ran back to his car, fleeing toward I-95 southbound, according to police. 

There is no surveillance footage of the suspect at this time. Anyone with information about the attempted robbery is asked to call the Fairfield Police Department at (203) 254-4840.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Jeff Sessions Rescinds Obama's Order on Private Prisons


Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a memo issued during the Obama administration last August, in which the former president ordered the Bureau of Prisons to stop contracting with private prisons.

The order, issued by former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, has now been rescinded and the Bureau of Prisons is directed to resume contracting for the use of private prisons.

"This will restore BOP's flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs," DOJ says.

"The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system. Therefore, I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach," Sessions said in the letter rescission letter.

The Bureau of Prisons now has 12 private prison contracts housing around 21,000 inmates.

Warm for Some, Cool and Dreary for Others


If you love warm weather, living along the shoreline can be frustrating in the end of winter and beginning of spring. The reason? Long Island Sound's cold water. 

Today the mercury climbed to 65F at Bradley Airport - just shy of the daily record of 68F set back in 1990. Along the shoreline temperatures were stuck in the 40s for the better part of the day with a southerly wind blowing right in off the Sound.

Cooler temperatures are fine when the sun is out but today was grey and foggy at the beaches. Warmer air blowing over the cold Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean resulted in a persistent but shallow layer of stratus clouds that got about as far north as Wallingford and Middletown.

This is known as "advection fog" and it isn't terribly unusual for coastal Connecticut. Several warm and sunny spring days are ruined every year around New Haven as this fog rolls in. Another way to look at this is through the atmospheric temperature profile. 

This sounding from New Haven at 8 a.m. this morning shows how temperatures change with height. About 1,500 feet above the ground temperatures were in the mid-50s while temperatures near the surface were in the mid-40s. This temperature inversion allows low clouds and moisture to be trapped and can result in clouds and thick fog like we had today. Across inland Connecticut the inversion was mixed out resulting in almost complete sunshine and warm temperatures.

Today's cooler temperature and fog along the Sound was actually well forecast. Our computer models have improved immensely over the years and generally do a good job sniffing out foggy days like this. If you're in New Haven or Branford or Old Saybrook and want some sunshine - drive north for about 15 miles and you'll have plenty of it.

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