News Coverage of Cases Handled by John Schiro
Daycare owner makes first court appearance
By: Myra Sandchick
Source: Fox 6 Milwaukee
OZAUKEE CO. (WITI) — Trista Ziehr ran the Family Tree Learning Center — a Cedarburg daycare, and is accused of knowing a child was being molested by a 12-year-old boy and not reporting it. Ziehr made her first court appearance on Wednesday, May 1st. The Family Tree Learning Center remains closed down. It has been that way since April 19th, when Cedarburg police received reports of sexual assaults by a 12-year-old boy. Ziehr had nothing to say as she walked into Ozaukee County court on Wednesday. Ziehr’s lawyer told the judge she is pleading not guilty in the case. A criminal complaint alleges a mother told Ziehr a 12-year-old boy was molesting another child. Police say Ziehr, a mandatory reporter in her role as a daycare worker, did not report the allegations. The judge released Ziehr on a $1,000 signature bond. She had nothing to say as she left the courthouse. Jaymie Lacey is the aunt of a six-year-old girl who was at the daycare. The girl is one of more than a dozen children now being interviewed by child experts to see whether the boy may have assaulted them as well. “I know that he spent a lot of time at that daycare with my niece and other children, so I don’t know if they were together or not or if anything’s happened to her,” Lacey said. Lacey was not pleased to learn of Ziehr’s bond. “A $1,000 signature bond is not enough. She knew this kid had a problem. She allowed him to be alone with children at the daycare and that’s a horrible thing to do,” Lacey said. The 12-year-old boy is in juvenile detention and is scheduled to enter a plea to charges of sexual assault on Friday, May 3rd. “He’s old enough to know what he’s doing, and he needs to be in a place where he can’t do this to other kids,” Lacey said. Ziehr will be back in court on June 17th as the case moves forward.
Milwaukee couple sentenced in day care fraud case
By: John Diedrich
A couple who ripped off Wisconsin's taxpayer-financed child care system will each spend six months in federal prison and together must pay about $100,000 in restitution, a federal judge ordered Wednesday.
The state of Wisconsin said Wednesday the state had saved more than $148 million following its crackdown on fraud - prompted by a Journal Sentinel investigation that uncovered millions in taxpayer dollars squandered by parents and providers scamming the $350 million Wisconsin Shares program.
Duane and Shontina Gladney pleaded guilty to fraud as part of a larger case involving two other women, including Latasha Jackson, who built a 7,600-square-foot mansion in Menomonee Falls and bought a Jaguar convertible while collecting millions in taxpayer subsidies from her Milwaukee child care center.
In addition to the six months, each of the Gladneys was sentenced to three years of probation by Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert. Duane Gladney will serve six months of that supervision on electronically monitored house arrest; Shontina will serve three months on house arrest.
Jackson, who is listed in court documents as Latasha Wilder, already has been sentenced to 14 months in prison and ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution. Nearly $100,000 of that restitution amount overlaps with the Gladneys' restitution. The total restitution amount in the federal case is just over $200,000, according to court documents.
According to court documents, the Gladneys committed fraud at their Milwaukee center, Executive Kids. In 2007, Jackson's center, Latasha's Learning Enterprise, was shut down because she beat her nephew with a belt. She told the state that she sent 45 children to Executive Kids for day care. The children didn't attend Executive Kids, but the Gladneys billed the state anyway. The Gladneys paid Jackson for the information.
In all, Executive Kids collected more than $2 million from the Wisconsin Shares program from 2005 to 2010, according to records.
Also convicted in the federal court case was Telisa Hopgood, Shontina Gladney's sister. Earlier, she received two years of probation and was ordered to pay about $1,000 in restitution.
Wednesday's action completes the federal cases involving day care fraud in the state. State court cases remain pending.
The federal case and dozens of state criminal cases were brought in the wake of the newspaper's investigation, which also discovered hundreds of criminals working in the child care business, with some of Milwaukee's biggest crime bosses having ties to centers. The investigation sparked taxpayer outrage and led to the closing of more than 170 centers.
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson issued a statement after Wednesday's sentencing: "By stealing from the taxpayers, the Gladneys drained scarce resources and tarnished the image of honest and hard-working day care providers. Their sentencing serves as a warning to other corrupt providers who steal from Wisconsin taxpayers that they will be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions."
Nigerian counterfeiter gets four-year prison term
By: Nicole Levy
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinal
A 28-year-old Nigerian counterfeiter, caught by savvy federal officials using the Internet, was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison.
The difficulty of investigating and prosecuting criminals overseas makes the case "an exceptional opportunity" for the federal court in Milwaukee to "send a strong message to deter such criminals," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Manning said in a memo to the court. Only six Nigerians have been extradited to the U.S. to face charges in the past 10 years, he noted.
"Even in a little place like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we can bring you to account," he told U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller.
According to federal court records:
In 2009, Nimionwantue "Mike" Idahor, a college graduate, began working with a Chicago distributor to smuggle counterfeit $100 bills sewn into hats into the U.S. and pass them at Wisconsin and Illinois retail stores in exchange for goods and genuine currency.
In 2011, Idahor was lured from Nigeria to Milwaukee by U.S. Secret Service Agent Dave LaMonte, who posed online as an American willing to help him get his student visa, and Deputy U.S. Marshal Camilla Adair, who in telephone conversations assumed the identity of Idahor's prospective American bride.
LaMonte convinced Idahor in a series of emails to the defendant's Yahoo account that he had secured him a student visa and had enrolled him at Marquette University. Idahor sent LaMonte photocopies of his Nigerian passport, his national identity card and his high school transcript as attachments to emails. The agent identified Idahor during an online video conference call with the counterfeiter.
When Idahor flew into Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport on Dec. 19 (he was arrested upon arrival), he came voluntarily, a plea agreement says. At Thursday's sentencing hearing, Idahor begged the court for mercy.
"I'm like a prodigal son," said Idahor, who has no criminal history and who confessed to his crime upon his arrest.
Idahor's alleged personal misfortunes include a brother who died of typhoid fever, a father whose left side was paralyzed by a stroke and a mother who was forced to retire from her civil service job. Before Idahor became involved with two Nigerian counterfeiters and a Chicago accomplice, he supported his family by farming cassava and running a laundry service company.
"I said to my dad, I will do what I can so he doesn't die wretched," Idahor recalled in his statement to the court.
Stadtmueller said: "While the court accepts your apology, make no mistake about it: You, like the court, didn't fall off the turnip wagon." He called Idahor's claims of naiveté "balderdash."
Stadtmueller accused the defendant of taking "a huge shortcut to success" and disrespecting the laws of the country Idahor said he had long dreamed of immigrating to.
More than $300,000 worth of U.S. currency counterfeited in West Africa has been passed in the U.S., according to a federal court document.
While "no one lost life or limb, that does not depreciate the seriousness of the case," said Stadtmueller, who hoped the outcome of Idahor's case would deter other Nigerians from bilking Americans.
Locksmith Who Posted Phony Ads Gets Probation for Identity Theft
By: George Hesselberg
Wisconsin State Journal
Madison - April 26, 2011 - Joshua Burlin, who placed phony ads on Craigslist and phone reviews on the Internet to interrupt competitors' locksmith businesses, then lied about it to investigators, was sentenced Tuesday to two years probation by Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara.
Burlin, 26, was convicted of identify theft and making false statements under oath, both felonies. His probation was moved to California, where he now resides.
Assistant Attorney General Eric D. Defort had argued that Burlin should get some jail time, a recommendation included in the plea agreement.
Burlin had been charged with five counts of false swearing and one count of identify theft and faced maximum penalties of a $10,000.00 fine and six years in prison for each count. As part of his plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to two counts, and the four others were dismissed, but considered in sentencing.
Burlin's business practices in the Madison area - including phony addresses to attract lockout victims to expensive emergency service and false names to file negative comments about competitors - were detailed in Wisconsin State Journal articles two years ago. Burlin, running Madison Locksmith with Shachar Elhara, said then that the method of operating - using numerous different names and addresses and telephone numbers for essentially one business - was a proven marketing strategy success.
David Koenig, whose business, Capital Lock, was targeted by Burlin via Craigslist and Internet reviews, said he was disappointed in the sentence Burlin received.
"It sends exactly the wrong message. He needed jail time to send a clear message, at least for Wisconsin, that we don't want these kinds of criminal business practices here," he said.
The business partners are named in a separate civil lawsuit, also brought by the State Justice Department, alleging they violated consumer protection laws by advertising phony business addresses, posting fraudulent online comments and telling customers they needed expensive lock replacements instead of repairs. The next court date for that case is May 24.
Charges Filed Against Madison Locksmith
By: Chris Woodard of NBC 15
Wisconsin State Journal
Madison - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - A local locksmith appears in court facing six felony charges and an NBC 15 investigation helps put him there. State investigators say Joshua Burlin lied under oath about his allegedly shady business practices. In March of 2009 we confronted Joshua Burlin. We had a lot of questions about allegations he and his business, Madison Locksmith, LLC, deceived and overcharged customers, operated under several names, posted phony addresses for his businesses online and posted fake positive reviews for his business and negative reviews for other businesses. When it came to those phony addresses Burlin was very clear. This, he said, was just good business.
Back then he told us, "This is something new. It's called points of service because we offer a mobile service not to confuse customers that they see a locksmith shop is over here on Park Street, one is on Regent Street. How are they going to know who's the closest and who can give a fast response?"
We asked if it bothers him to be telling people he has a business location that doesn't exist.
He says, "No, we don't tell them we have a location. It's point of service."
We pointed out there are addresses listed that are actually other people's businesses.
He said, "You know it's intersections and it's, you know, basically these are what we call points of service."
When investigators began looking into Burlin's business practices he told them a very different story, flatly denying under oath that he had ever listed false addresses even though investigators reminded him that's not what he told us. That discrepancy landed a far different looking Burlin in court today facing five felony counts of lying under oath and one felony count of identity theft for allegedly posting a craigslist ad stating a competitors business was for sale. One competing locksmith says the whole industry is glad to see Burlin facing charges. Owner of The Locksmiths David Hornung says, "When you lose 30-40 percent of your business to someone who is out there ripping the public off and lying in articles that are written about your company that you can't change it hurts."
Since we last heard from Burlin he's moved his business to a shop on East Johnson. There is also a new name over the door, Mad City Locksmith. Burlin also told the court he moved to San Diego but his lawyer confirms Madison Locksmith LLC is still in business in the Madison area and Burlin is still involved. Each of the felony counts is punishable by up to a 10-thousand dollar fine and 10 years in prison. Investigators also filed a civil case against Burlin and his business partner alleging they deceived customers so they could charge higher prices.
Woman Given Probation in Madison Kieffer Death
By: Tom Kertscher of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin State Journal
Milwaukee, WI - August 6, 2010 - Brittany Blue, who was the source of one of the prescription drugs that killed 15-year-old Madison Kiefer of Whitefish Bay, was sentenced Friday to three years of probation.
The 19-year-old Glendale woman was sentenced by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski.
Several days before Kiefer's death on March 1, 2009, Blue met Matthew Laughrin, a 23-year-old Whitefish Bay man with a long history of drug abuse.
Blue told authorities she gave Laughrin six or seven of her Suboxone pills. Suboxone, a relatively new drug, is prescribed to people addicted to opiates such as heroin or certain prescription painkillers. Laughrin in turn gave Kiefer, who also had a history of drug abuse, a Suboxone pill. She had come to his home to buy drugs. Kiefer was pronounced dead the next morning, shortly after Laughrin and his father, Richard Laughrin, dropped her outside of the Whitefish Bay home of one of Kiefer's friends. The combination of Suboxone and Klonopin, a prescription drug for seizures and panic attacks that Kiefer had taken before the Suboxone, killed her, according to the medical examiner.
Matthew Laughrin was sentenced to 12 years in prison for second-degree reckless homicide and two other crimes. Richard Laughrin, 60, of Shorewood was sentenced to two years in prison for child abandonment.
Man Pleads to Child Abuse Case
LaCrosse, WI - July 21, 2010 - A town of Greenfield man who authorities said caused what could be permanent brain damage to his infant son was placed on three years of probation Tuesday.
Matthew Lessard, 29, entered an Alford plea in La Crosse County Circuit Court to a reduced charge of physical abuse of a child. The plea means he admits no wrongdoing but concedes a jury likely would find him guilty.
Attorneys agreed to ask for probation because Lessard cooperated with Children In Need of Protection conditions and has been reunited with the child.
Lessard, who did not address the judge before sentencing, faced a maximum of three years in prison and three years on extended supervision.
"I have good faith you're going to complete probation without having to come back and see me," said Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke, who also imposed 50 hours of community service.
Lessard told authorities he squeezed his son "pretty hard" when he discovered the child was not breathing Feb. 20, 2008, according to the complaint. Lessard attempted CPR and tried to wake the child with water before calling 911.
Doctors found serious head injuries, bleeding within the skull and bruising on the chest and buttocks consistent with being shaken, the complaint stated.
Defense attorney John Schiro said the child continues to have "significant medical problems."
"Above all, I wish (the victim) a good life and a recovery from any injuries he sustained," Assistant District Attorney Tania Bonnett said.
Cascade Man Acquitted in Dog Hanging
By: Eric Litke of Sheboygan County Press
Sheboygan, WI - July 3, 2010 - A jury deliberated less than two hours Friday before finding James DeGroff not guilty of hanging a dog on a park swing a year and a half ago.
The verdict - handed down by the jury of nine woman and three men - concluded a four day trial in which the prosecution attempted to prove an admittedly circumstantial case. DeGroff's DNA was found on the dog's collar and the owner immediately fingered him as a suspect, but a nine-month investigation yielded no direct evidence tying DeGroff to the crime.
"Not only was (DeGroff) not guilty, he was innocent," defense attorney John Schiro said alleging the investigation focused exclusively on DeGroff because of the owner's claim. "Unfortunately as a result of this investigation, the person who killed this dog is going to get away with it … You cannot search for the truth if you're going to decide at the beginning of the investigation who did it and then seek to prove that.."
Schiro capped his case with a theatrical closing that ranged from mocking the deputy who investigated the case to sarcastically praising DeGroff's ability to commit the crime while texting.
DeGroff, 21, of Cascade, was charged last July with felony mistreatment of animals causing death after the dog was found hanging from a swing at Cascade Memorial Park on November 4, 2008. The dog had been taken when its owner, Jacob Odekirk, let it out the night before.
Schiro said at trial that DeGroff's DNA was on the collar because he stayed overnight at Odekirk's house for several weeks leading up to the dog's disappearance. He noted that DNA from two other people was found on the collar, but Deputy Barry Nelson of the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department never compared the DNA to the state database or collected samples from other witnesses.
Schiro spent the majority of his closing attacking Nelson, at one point playing the part of Nelson in a hypothetical case investigation intended to show the jury how he believed the investigation should have been handled.
Phone records show DeGroff was sending constant texts - leaving gaps of no more than four minutes between them - around the time of the disappearance, Schiro said. Addressing the point in his closing, Schiro sarcastically said DeGroff must have been a "remarkable man" to kidnap and hang a dog while texting and running the mile between his house and Odekirk's.
"The great DeGroff is performing his miracles!" Schiro yelled, finishing with his arms raised in the air.
Assistant District Attorney Joel Urmanski said he hoped the totality of evidence would yield a guilty verdict. His case was built around two witnesses who said they heard DeGroff reference the crime but couldn't remember when and DeGroff's inconsistent statements to Nelson about his activities and whereabouts the night the dog was killed.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed, but at the same rate I understand the case was very difficult, especially because witnesses' recollections were very foggy," Urmanski said. "But putting them all together and combing that with the fact that the defendant and the defendant's girlfriend gave very inconsistent statements trying to establish what the defendant was doing and where he was - which turned out not to be accurate - I was hoping that would be enough."
Urmanski also defended the work of Nelson, who he called an "excellent deputy."
"I look forward to his cases and I'd love to take any of his cases to trial," Urmanski said.
Man Cleared in Hanging of Dog
By: Associated Press in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sheboygan, WI - July 3, 2010 - A jury has cleared a 21-year-old Sheboygan County man who was accused after a dog was found hanged by its collar on a park swing. The jury deliberated less than two hours Friday before clearing James DeGroff of Cascade. The evidence was circumstantial. DeGroff's DNA was found on the dog's collar but a nine-month investigation yielded no direct evidence tying him to the crime.
Defense attorney John Schiro says it's unfortunate the real killer hasn't been brought to justice. Schiro says his client's DNA was on the collar because he had stayed overnight at the dog's owner house. He says authorities failed to investigate two other DNA samples on the collar.
Assistant district attorney Joel Urmanski tells The Sheboygan Press he's disappointed by the verdict.
Theft Charge Against Grocer Nehring Dropped
By: Mike Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Waukesha- A criminal charge that accused John E. Nehring of selling stolen produce in his upscale V. Richards Market in Brookfield was dismissed today.
Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney Sue Opper said she could not proceed with the case against Nehring because a delivery driver who is suspected of stealing the produce and selling it to him could not be located to testify at a preliminary hearing today.
As a result, the single count of receiving stolen property that had been filed against Nehring in July was dropped. The charge could be refiled if the delivery driver is located, Opper said.
Opper said sheriff's deputies tried to locate the driver over the weekend to serve him with a subpoena ordering him to appear in court but could not locate him at two addresses that he had earlier provided.
Nehring's produce manager, Angel Vasquez, 28, of Milwaukee, also was charged with one count of receiving stolen property. After he failed to appear in court in August, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
There are unsubstantiated rumors that Vasquez may have fled to Mexico, Opper said.
Opper said the charge against Nehring also could be refiled if Vasquez is located.
Nehring's attorney, John S. Schiro, said he expected all along that the charge against his client would be dismissed. He said the charge was based on the statement of the truck driver, who is a registered sex offender.
"This is what happens when you try to besmirch the name of an honest, reputable businessman with a crack using sex offender criminal, which is what the state based its case on," Schiro said. "That he didn't show isn't surprising to anybody who would look at his background. … If they find him or not, no one will ever believe one word this man says. John remained innocent and always has been."
According to the criminal complaint, Nehring and Vasquez paid $1,500 cash to the delivery driver for stolen cases of pineapple and peaches and boxes of Gala apples last summer. The stolen produce included 70 cases of pineapples, 102 cases of peaches and 42 boxes of Gala apples, which in total were valued at $2,883.
The delivery driver, who has not been charged, worked for the Milwaukee-based Tropic Banana Co. An employee of the N. Van Buren St. business confronted Nehring and Vasquez on Aug. 29 regarding the stolen produce, and the employee told police that Nehring and Vasquez admitted to paying a driver for the produce, according to the criminal complaint.
Nehring bought V. Richards in 2002. He also owns a Sendik's store in Shorewood and G. Groppi Food Market in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood.