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Police Release Photos of ATM Card Thieves


Police are asking for help to identify the two people who they said illegally used a debit card at ATMs in Watertown and Waterbury.

Police said they used machines at the Waterbury Plaza in Watertown at 7:14 p.m. on Dec. 19 and at one on North Main Street in Waterbury at 2:58 a.m. on Dec. 20.

One of the people police are looking for appears to be in his late teens or early 20s. He was wearing a dark hoodie or jacket.

The other person, who is also a male, was wearing a two-tone hoodie or jacket.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Watertown Police Department at 860-945-5200 or Crime Stoppers at 860-945-9940.

Photo Credit: Wateryown Police

1 Dead in New Haven Apartment Fire


One man is dead after a fire at an apartment building in New Haven early Friday morning.

Fire broke out around 2 a.m. in a fifth-floor apartment at 60 Warren St., according to firefighters at the scene.

When crews went in to extinguish the blaze, they found a man on the floor, according to fire marshal Robert Doyle.

The victim was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he died. The man’s name has not been released, but officials said he was around 50 years old.

"Companies arrived shortly thereafter, finding a fire on the 5th floor, went to extinguish it, at that point, found a victim on the floor, who was taken to Yale-New Haven,” Doyle said.

The smoke detectors and sprinkers were working, according to officials, and everyone else was accounted for.

One other person was taken to hospital as a precaution, but was not injured, officials said.

The building sustained water damage below the fifth floor to the basement, and one person is displaced. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Car Crashes Into Putnam Home


A car crashed into a house in Putnam early Friday morning and four people have been taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

The driver of a GMC K1500 pickup lost control while heading east on Grove Street, hit a grass embankment and went into the air, police said.

After the truck landed, it hit a parked vehicle, then crashed into the side wall of the house at 11 Arthur Street.

The crash happened at 12:54 a.m. and the male driver, female passenger and two of the three residents home at the time of the crash were transported to Day Kimball Hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

Officials said the structure is not safe and police are investigating the crash.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hartford Firefighter on Leave After Driving Under Influence Arrest


A Hartford firefighter is on unpaid leave from the department after being arrested on an operating a vehicle while under the influence charge over the weekend.

State police stopped Cinque Scott, 45, of West Hartford, on Route 2A in Preston just before 1:30 a.m. on Friday because he was driving erratically, according to information provided by state police. He was also charged with operating under a suspended license and failure to drive right.

Scott has been placed on administrative leave without pay as an investigation is conducted, according to a statement from the Hartford fire department.

Scott, who has been a member of the Hartford Fire Department since 2000, was on administrative leave with pay when he was arrested.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

1 Dead After Industrial Accident in Middletown


A man is dead after an industrial accident at Primary Steel in Middletown on Friday morning.

Police said the person was hit by steel at 760 Newfield St., which is also Route 3.

"They were in the process of moving some steel around inside the warehouse part of the building, and somehow the steel got swinging. It was on a crane inside the warehouse and it struck one of the employees," Fire Marshal Albert Santostefano said.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration is at the scene.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Biden: Community College Plan a "Gigantic Opportunity"


Vice President Joe Biden visited Los Angeles on Friday to talk about helping more Americans go to college, three days after President Barack Obama called on Congress to make two years of community college free.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Obama said he wants two years of college to be "as free and universal in America as high school is today." He also vowed to work with Congress to reduce monthly student loan payments for students already in debt.

"You think 12 years is enough? In the year 2015?" Biden said Friday at West Los Angeles Community College, touting Obama's proposal

The community college plan would benefit an estimated 9 million students each year and cost taxpayers a projected $60 billion over 10 years.

Students would have to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Community colleges would be required to offer programs with credits that can be transferred to four-year colleges and universities or offer in-demand, career-oriented training.

"We have a gigantic opportunity to do a great service not only to our children and our young people and people who need to be retrained, but we have a gigantic opportunity to position the United States of America in a position for the second half of the second decade of this century to lead the world -- this is not hyperbole -- lead the economy of the world for the next 50 years," Biden said.

West Los Angeles College is one of 15 California community colleges that received approval Tuesday to start offering career-oriented bachelor's degrees. The cost of college has become prohibitive for many people who are juggling education, family and work, Biden said

"We're delighted with this visit as we are delighted with the President's announcement," said West Los Angeles College President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh. "Colleges fees are not the most pressing need. The cost of living in California, support for students, home care, child care for working mothers, cost of transportation, housing, the difficulty of maintaining a working schedule... those are some of the big questions we hope to raise."

The Republican-controlled Congress is likely to be hesitant to embrace such a high-cost idea. States would have to contribute a quarter of the cost, and it's unclear how many would support the program.

Ninio Fetalvo, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, blasted the community college proposal as yet another burden on taxpayers.

"Delivering empty rhetoric and misleading proposals are hallmarks of Obama's failed presidency, but the reality is Vice President Biden will continue to be a puppet for the president's costly proposals as they continue to refuse to work with Congress to create real solutions," Fetalvo said. "The president and vice president are misleading the American people on their college proposal, claiming it's free, when in reality it costs billions of dollars and taxes the college savings plans of middle-class Americans."

On Saturday, Biden will be in Irvine to deliver the keynote speech at the Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit at the Hotel Irvine, 17900 Jamboree Road.

He made a surprise visit to a downtown LA diner as well.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Niece Stole Thousands from Elderly Aunt: Police


Greenwich police have arrested a 46-year-old Stamford woman who is accused of stealing more than $10,000 from her elderly aunt.

Eileen Johnson turned herself in to police on Friday and has been charged with first-degree larceny and first-degree forgery.

Police said the victim contacted authorities in October because she noticed an unusual number of checks cashed from her account, several of which were made out to “cash” and her niece’s landlord, police said.

When the victim confronted her niece, Johnson said she stole the checkbook to pay rent and other living expenses, according to police.

She also agreed to pay her aunt back, but never did, police said.

When the victim checked further into her finances, she found that much more money was missing. In all, more than $10,000 was gone, which severely impacted the woman’s standard of living, police said.

Photo Credit: Greenwich Police

Skymall Fans Unsettled By Bankruptcy


Skymall, the in-flight catalog that sells an array of quirky gadgets and goods, could soon be grounded. The parent company that owns the business filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, The Wall Street Journal first reported.

The Twitter-verse reacted swiftly, with users swapping quips and sharing images of their self-proclaimed favorite products, including the SkyRest Travel Pillow, an NFL-themed shoe wine holder and the Zombie of Montclaire Moores lawn decoration.

"The real victims of Skymall closing are the dogs who need stairs to get on the couch," read one such tweet from user @DanAbramson.

Xhibit Corp filed for Chapter 11 protection in Arizona, and will seek approval to sell off its Skymall brand, according to a document posted Friday on Xhibit Corp's website.

The company said that it hoped to find a buyer.

"We are extremely disappointed in this result and are hopeful that SkyMall and the iconic 'SkyMall' brand find a home to continue to operate as SkyMall has for the last 25 years," said Scott Wiley, CFO and Acting CEO of Xhibit, in a press release included with the document.

Photo Credit: Skymall.com
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Madoff Defends Late Sons in Email


In an email sent to NBC News Friday, Bernie Madoff, the man behind one of the most infamous Ponzi schemes in American history, discussed the pain of losing his two sons and refuted claims that they knowingly participated in the scam.

"As difficult as it is for me to live with the pain I have inflicted on so many, there is nothing to compare with the degree of pain I endure with the loss of my son's Mark and Andy," Madoff said.

His son Andrew died in September at age 48 after a long battle with cancer. His son Mark committed suicide in 2010 at age 46 on the second anniversary of his father's arrest.

Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee seeking to recover money for bilked investors filed an updated lawsuit last summer accusing Madoff's sons of having full knowledge of their father's scheme and using it as their "personal cookie jar" that they tapped through sham loans, fictitious trades and deferred compensation.

"What is still my most important goal is to do everything in my power to protect their legacy," Madoff said of his sons. "Although neither of my son's were ever charged with anything. They were subjected to the completely false and slanderous claims and remarks of the Trustee and the media."

Madoff said his sons were compensated at the same rate as the traders that they managed, disputing Picard's claim that his sons should have known their compensation was unrealistic.

Madoff also defended has sons against several other claims Picard made, including an alleged incriminating email Andrew sent to Mark and loans linking his sons to the scam. Click here to see Madoff's full email.

In a statement to CNBC, Amanda Remus, a spokeswoman for Picard's office, said Madoff's credibility was "highly suspect."

"We stand by our filings, which speak for themselves, and we intend to pursue recoveries against both estates," she said.

Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009.

Photo Credit: EFE

McDonnell’s Law License Suspended


The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board has suspended former Gov. Bob McDonnell's license to practice law, citing his felony public corruption convictions.

The bar said Friday that the suspension takes effect next Thursday. McDonnell was directed to appear before the disciplinary panel on Feb. 20 to show cause why his license should not be further suspended or revoked. However, the former governor is scheduled to report to federal prison on Feb. 9 to begin serving his two-year sentence.

According to the bar, McDonnell's license also was administratively suspended for nonpayment of dues to the organization since Oct. 15.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of accepting gifts and loans from a vitamin executive in exchange for promoting his products. Maureen McDonnell will be sentenced Feb. 20.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Own Mel Gibson’s Former Greenwich Estate


A Greenwich estate that actor Mel Gibson once owned is back on the market.

The 15-bedroom, almost 16,000- square foot Tudor Manor on Old Mill Road in Greenwich is listed for $31.5 million.

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has the listing and describes the house as “truly one of the most significant estates available on the East Coast.”

The sprawling home includes 10 bathrooms, a horse stable, a life-size outdoor chess set, a spring-fed lake and much, much more.

Gibson bought the house in 1994 for $9.3 million and sold it in 2010 for $24 million.

Photo Credit: Coldwell Banker

Driver Dies After Car Runs Red Light in Bloomfield: Police


A 67-year-old driver has died after another car sped through a red light and struck his driver's side door in Bloomfield on Friday, according to police.

According to police, the man who died was turning from Woodland Avenue onto Blue Hills Avenue around 9:25 a.m. Friday when another car drove through a red light and smashed into his vehicle.

Both cars spun out of control and hit a third vehicle stopped at the intersection of Woodland and Blue Hills avenues, police said.

The victim, identified only as a 67-year-old man from Bloomfield, was rushed to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, where he died.

The driver that struck him, a 27-year-old man from Granby, was hospitalized for treatment of minor injuries. Police said the third driver was not hurt.

An accident reconstruction squad is investigation.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

NFL Patriots Probe


The New England Patriots used footballs that were under-inflated in the first half of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, evidence so far in the National Football League's investigation has found. 

But the team's footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed to have been properly inflated at the conclusion of the game, the NFL said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The NFL's investigation into the "Deflategate" controversy involving the Patriots is ongoing, and 40 interviews have been conducted so far, including of Patriots personnel, game officials and third parties with relevant information and expertise, the league said. The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss.

The league said it has obtained and is continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. It has also hired an investigatory firm with expertise in forensics to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

"The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action," the statement said. "We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence."

The league said the Patriots have pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available upon request. In the coming days, the NFL will be conducting interviews, examining video and other forensic evidence, in addition to any relevant physical evidence.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft also issued a statement on Friday, saying that he received a letter from the league on Monday informing him of the investigation. He said he instructed Patriots staff to be "completely cooperative and transparent with the league's investigators." During the three days the investigators were in Foxboro, he said the team provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league's representatives asked to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.

"It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously," Kraft said. "Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation."

The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game. Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player, or the way it travels through the air.

"Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well," the statement said. "As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly."

No timetable was given by the NFL for when the investigation might be wrapped up.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has denied altering the ball "in any way," saying that he would never break the rules. Coach Bill Belichick said he had "no explanation" for what happened, and like Brady said the first he heard of the entire ordeal was on Monday morning.

The Patriots will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

New Jersey Fugitive Caught in Willimantic


Police in Willimantic have arrested a man wanted on sexual assault charges in New Jersey who has been on the run for 18 months.

Jermaine Torres, 25, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, was arrested in Willimantic around 1:15 p.m. Jan. 23 and members of the U.S. Marshal Service tracked him to the city, according to police.

Torres was charged as a fugitive from justice and with criminal attempt at sexual assault, showing obscene material to a minor and endangering child welfare.

He's being held on $150,000 bond at Willimantic Police Headquarters and is due in Danielson Superior Court on Monday.

Photo Credit: Willimantic Police Department

Woodbridge Attorney to Serve Time for Tax Evasion


A Woodbridge attorney has been sentenced to six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release after failing to pay nearly $400,000 in federal income taxes, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Jerry Gruenbaum, 59, declined to report $1.3 million in taxable income between 2005 and 2010, federal prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty to two counts of filing a false federal tax return in July 2014

From 2005 to 2007, he deliberately filed tax returns that underestimated his income and didn't file tax returns at all from 2009 to 2010, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Federal prosecutors said Gruenbaum also tried to deceive the IRS by calculating gross receipt figures for just one of several corporate bank accounts, some of which he used to pay personal expenses.

Gruenbaum is required to pay $877,646 in back taxes, penalties and interest, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Photo Credit: flickr/401(K) 2013

Psych Evaluation Wrapping Up in Plaskon Murder Trial


The Milford high school student accused of stabbing and killing a classmate last April is in the final stages of a psychological evaluation, attorneys said during court proceedings Friday.

Christopher Plaskon, 17, is facing murder charges in the stabbing death of Maren Sanchez, 16, inside Jonathan Law High School. Sanchez's death was ruled a homicide and a medical examiner said she died of stab wounds to the neck and chest.

Sanchez died hours before the school prom, and students have speculated that Plaskon stabbed her because she refused to go as his date. Police said he was spotted moments after the stabbing with blood on his clothes and hands.

Plaskon is being tried as an adult and has pleaded not guilty. He waived a trial by jury and instead will go before a three-judge panel.

He's being held at the Manson Youth Training Institute in Cheshire, a correctional facility for boys and young men ages 12 to 19.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Crews Respond to Hazmat Situation in Newington


Emergency crews responded to a hazmat situation on Ivy Lane in Newington, according to police dispatchers.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Vernon Home Catches Fire


Firefighters are responding to 58 Daryl Drive in Vernon after the home caught fire Friday evening, according to emergency dispatchers.

It's not clear if anyone was inside when the fire broke out. Dispatchers said flames were visible when firefighters arrived at the scene around 6:45 p.m.

The Vernon Fire Department was still on Daryl Drive as of 10 p.m. It's not clear if anyone was treated at the scene for injuries, but dispatchers said no one was hospitalized.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Kevin Heimer

Chocolate Prices on the Rise


Call it the cocoa conundrum, or the Valentine’s Day dilemma. No matter how you slice it, one thing is for sure, chocolate loves aren’t going to like it.

According to Carmen Romeo of Fascia’s Chocolates in Waterbury, experts are predicting more chocolate consumption than cacao growers can keep up with.

The good news: it isn’t happening just yet. The bad news: when it does, a bite from your favorite box could cost you.

“We are going to do everything we can to not change our prices but it might be inevitable. I can't look into a crystal ball,” said Romeo.

It's the same way no one could foresee the Ebola outbreak. Romeo said the inability of workers to travel from one farm to another in Africa temporarily tampered with the cocoa bean harvest there.

Other cost concerns have to do with chocolate’s growing popularity in places like China and India.

“There was an almond issues not too long ago, even peanuts; peanut butter went through the roof. There are a lot of things that cost as much or more than the chocolate,” said Romeo.

Despite 15-20 percent fluctuations, Romeo is working hard to keep his prices stable. He also said work is being done by the major chocolate companies around the world to steady supplies.

“They are actually working in the countries where chocolate is produced, to work with farmers to make their crops better, to have more yield, to have more trees and not lose trees,”

So turn that frown upside down, Romeo promises the chocolate chain will continue.

New Criticism of State Capitol Security Measures


A pair of Democrats from Waterbury and Danbury want the entire General Assembly to consider changing the security systems installed at the state capitol over the summer.

“Personally, I’d take the whole damn thing out," said State Rep. Bob Godfrey, who represents Danbury. "Give it to Bradley Airport."

Godfrey is leading the effort to reverse the $600,000 security upgrades, including metal detectors, wands and new security staff.

He said he feels there's now a barrier between legislators and residents just trying to meet with their elected officials.

“If I have constituents who come up, I just can’t get them into the building easily," Godfrey explained. "Are we assuming that my mother is a terrorist?"

After years of receiving security recommendations, legislative leadership finally decided on the current system last year and installed it over the summer.

Capitol Police oversee the contracted firm that staffs security checkpoints in the Legislative Office Building and the Connecticut Capitol.

Staff, press and members of the General Assembly are given computer-coded badges that allow them access to bypass security in both buildings. In the LOB, there are open-air turnstile-type entrances and exits.

The Connecticut Capitol contains closed vestibules allowing only one person to enter the building at a time. That's an issue Godfrey has had personal experience with.

“I've been trapped in some of the air locks," he said. "The system counted me as two people once and... this wasn’t well thought through.”

Visitors to the Capitol on Friday said they thought the building was beautiful.

Cindy Davis from Canterbury said getting through the security wasn't a problem and that it was "much, much easier" than at the airport.

She also said she felt an extra layer of security just going through the metal detector.

“I think it does give you that feeling of a little bit of safety,” she explained.

Lawmakers could consider Godfrey's proposal to discuss changing the system over the next few months.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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