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Criminal activity in the Bull Mountains must be stopped – Daily Montanan

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The Bull Mountains just north of Billings are home to Montana’s only underground coal mine, owned by Signal Peak Energy.

I have ranched in these hills my entire life, just like my parents before me. We have ranched alongside coal production for generations. It’s always been a challenge because coal mining inherently causes damage to the land and water we depend on for our cattle and livelihood. But we’ve always found a way to make it work. 

We try to be honest and forthright. We work to maintain respectful relationships with the workers earning a living for their families. When dealing with corporate executives, we stand up for our rights, uphold our values, and do our best to protect our community without undercutting the livelihoods of others. Managing these relationships takes work and patience. It requires civility and understanding others’ perspectives. Fourteen years ago, Signal Peak moved into our community. Soon after that, civility and respect were shoved aside, and it’s only gotten worse since. 

Headlines about Signal Peak’s repeated criminal convictions, investigations, and the wild details involved are plentiful. They sound sensational and would be hard to believe if not for the facts detailed in criminal court proceedings and law enforcement reports. In one case, a workplace injury led to a finger amputation, and the worker’s superiors bribed him with a cash-filled envelope to refrain from reporting it. 

In another case, former mine executive Larry Price, Jr., staged his own kidnapping while trying to outrun business investors he had swindled $20 million from. He was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and lying to the FBI about the false abduction. 

In January, Signal Peak was sentenced in federal criminal court to a $1 million fine and three years’ probation after pleading guilty to multiple counts of health and safety violations. One violation involved pumping toxic waste slurry into the ground, threatening the safety of our community’s water sources. 

A Department of Justice statement about the investigation says, “….mine managers lied about the mine’s expenses, its safety record, and other matters, which… resulted in individual criminal convictions and charges for nine persons, including former mine vice presidents and their associates, on crimes ranging from embezzlement, tax evasion and bank fraud to money laundering, drugs and firearms violations.”

This toxic culture has extended to the treatment of landowners who ranch over the mine. Signal Peak is trying to drive us off our land by tearing out spring developments and water storage facilities (as documented in a DEQ complaint and order for Signal Peak to provide replacement water), cutting us off from water sources we have the legal right to use, and by forcing us into endless legal cases, one of which was ruled harassment to landowners by the District Court in Billings.

Now Signal Peak is canceling long-term leases we’ve held for over 65 years, claiming they can kick us off our own deeded land and block access for the next eight years, imperiling our ranching operations and our livelihoods.  

The toxic culture and criminal behavior of Signal Peak is not surprising given the history of the parent companies that created it. Wayne Boich, Jr., FirstEnergy Corporation, and Gunvor Group jointly own Signal Peak. These entities have a disturbing history of criminal charges, bribery schemes, and well-documented international corruption. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury found that Russian President Vladimir Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds. 

Court documents show that former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Johnson passed along an image of himself, Wayne Boich, and other associates’ faces Photoshopped onto Mount Rushmore with the caption “F*** ANYBODY WHO AIN’T US.” They were bragging about a $60 million bribery scandal and legislative bailout scheme in Ohio that analysts have called “the worst energy policy in the country.” 

Apparently, “F*** ANYBODY WHO AIN’T US” is their version of the golden rule. Signal Peak and its owners have held to this rule with us and the rest of Montana. These are not the type of people we want doing business in our state. The Department of Environmental Quality has an obligation to protect our communities from habitual criminal offenders who have no morals and no respect for ranchers, local residents, or even their own employees.

Steve Charter is a Bull Mountain rancher and member of Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture group founded in 1972 by Bull Mountain ranch families and others.


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In Minnesota, abortion issue is key to Keith Ellison’s 2nd term hopes

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Keith Ellison gave up a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota attorney general, saying it was his best chance to push back against the policies of Donald Trump. Now locked in a tough reelection fight, he’s arguing that he’s been far less of a partisan warrior than his critics claim.

Ellison squeaked into office in 2018, taking a post that Democrats had traditionally won easily. But he was a polarizing figure in the eyes of some voters. The outspoken progressive came from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, and Republicans tried to draw attention to his past associations with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, though Ellison had publicly renounced Farrakhan when he first ran for the U.S. House in 2006.

His bid for a second term as attorney general comes after four tumultuous years that put Minnesota in the world spotlight over the police killings of George Floyd and other Black men. His Republican opponent, hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz, says Ellison deserves much of the blame for the surge in violent crime that followed.

To fight back, Ellison has used this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision rolling back abortion rights to rally Democrats and suburban swing voters. He’s also urged those voters to look at his work on more everyday issues such as affordable health care and prescription drugs, consumer and business fraud protections and protections for workers against wage theft — all things that belie his image, he said.

“They think I’m going to be a firebrand and I end up being a fairly pragmatic guy,” Ellison said in an interview. “That’s true of my entire service.”

Ellison was already leading a major initiative for greater police accountability when Floyd died under the knee of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. Ellison went on to lead the prosecution team that got Chauvin convicted of murder the next year, a verdict that potentially averted another eruption of violence.

Ellison also took a step that his Republican critics are now trying to use against him. He strongly backed a charter amendment in Minneapolis that arose from the “defund the police” movement. It would have replaced the city’s police department with a loosely defined department of public safety, with details to be worked out later. Voters rejected it.

On the campaign trail, Schultz depicts Ellison as being “at the forefront of the defund-the-police movement” and blames that movement for the departures of hundreds of dispirited police officers in Minneapolis and elsewhere. And he blames those losses for the spike in gun violence, carjackings and other crimes since the pandemic.

“Far left, extreme politicians like Keith Ellison have gotten behind really reckless policies like defunding the police,” Schultz said in an interview. “It’s deeply wrong. It’s immoral.”

Violent crime has been rising across Minnesota since the pandemic began, with Minneapolis accounting for much of the increase, while its police force has fallen about 300 officers short of its authorized strength. Minnesota saw a 21.6% statewide increase in violent crime in 2021 from 2020, with violent crime in greater Minnesota rising by 16% and by 23.9% in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Ellison said he doesn’t regret supporting the charter amendment, but he said he never supported “defunding the police” and said it didn’t accurately describe the amendment.

He also dismissed Schultz’s claim that he’s hostile to police, saying he regards policing as a noble profession and that Chauvin did more to invite scorn and demoralize officers than anything he ever did.

“I’m the one who prosecuted him for killing George Floyd,” Ellison said. “So I’m the one trying to restore the honor and dignity of policing.”

Ellison also led the prosecution of former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who said she confused her gun for her Taser when she killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year. She was convicted of manslaughter in December. Schultz has said he would support commuting her two-year sentence.

Crime isn’t the only issue that has Schultz, a 36-year-old political newcomer, hopeful of being the first Republican to occupy the attorney general’s office since 1971. He also accuses Ellison of “unbelievable incompetence” for failing to stop a massive fraud scheme in its early stages, with 49 people charged so far with stealing at least $250 million from federal programs administered by the state to provide low-income children with nutritious meals during the pandemic. Ellison has countered that his office helped uncover the fraud.

If Ellison is to survive both that attack and the policing criticism to win a second term, abortion rights is likely to be the issue that does it.

Schultz vowed this spring to do everything in his power as attorney general to aggressively defend the unborn. After Roe’s reversal, he joined many other Republicans trying to pivot away from abortion and back to crime in a state where abortion rights are protected under the state constitution.

Meanwhile, Ellison brought New York Attorney General Letitia James to Minnesota in early September to raise money from abortion rights supporters in the legal community. Soon after, he visited an abortion clinic in Moorhead that moved across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, to escape a trigger ban on abortion. Ellison vowed early on that his office won’t cooperate if other states seek to prosecute women who come to Minnesota for abortions.

Ellison said the election is about more than abortion rights or crime. Trump’s rhetoric, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and the rise of “MAGA Republicans” have put democracy in doubt, he said.

“Here’s what we can’t do,” Ellison said. “We can’t tell people we got this. Quite frankly, I’m glad people see my race as close because it means they’re going to show up.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.




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In Minnesota, abortion key to Keith Ellison’s 2nd term hopes – Twin Cities

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By STEVE KARNOWSKI

Keith Ellison gave up a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota attorney general, saying it was his best chance to push back against the policies of Donald Trump. Now locked in a tough reelection fight, he’s arguing that he’s been far less of a partisan warrior than his critics claim.

Ellison squeaked into office in 2018, taking a post that Democrats had traditionally won easily. But he was a polarizing figure in the eyes of some voters. The outspoken progressive came from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, and Republicans tried to draw attention to his past associations with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, though Ellison had publicly renounced Farrakhan when he first ran for the U.S. House in 2006.

His bid for a second term as attorney general comes after four tumultuous years that put Minnesota in the world spotlight over the police killings of George Floyd and other Black men. His Republican opponent, hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz, says Ellison deserves much of the blame for the surge in violent crime that followed.

To fight back, Ellison has used this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision rolling back abortion rights to rally Democrats and suburban swing voters. He’s also urged those voters to look at his work on more everyday issues such as affordable health care and prescription drugs, consumer and business fraud protections and protections for workers against wage theft — all things that belie his image, he said.

“They think I’m going to be a firebrand and I end up being a fairly pragmatic guy,” Ellison said in an interview. “That’s true of my entire service.”

Ellison was already leading a major initiative for greater police accountability when Floyd died under the knee of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. Ellison went on to lead the prosecution team that got Chauvin convicted of murder the next year, a verdict that potentially averted another eruption of violence.

Ellison also took a step that his Republican critics are now trying to use against him. He strongly backed a charter amendment in Minneapolis that arose from the “defund the police” movement. It would have replaced the city’s police department with a loosely defined department of public safety, with details to be worked out later. Voters rejected it.

On the campaign trail, Schultz depicts Ellison as being “at the forefront of the defund-the-police movement” and blames that movement for the departures of hundreds of dispirited police officers in Minneapolis and elsewhere. And he blames those losses for the spike in gun violence, carjackings and other crimes since the pandemic.

“Far left, extreme politicians like Keith Ellison have gotten behind really reckless policies like defunding the police,” Schultz said in an interview. “It’s deeply wrong. It’s immoral.”

Violent crime has been rising across Minnesota since the pandemic began, with Minneapolis accounting for much of the increase, while its police force has fallen about 300 officers short of its authorized strength. Minnesota saw a 21.6% statewide increase in violent crime in 2021 from 2020, with violent crime in greater Minnesota rising by 16% and by 23.9% in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Ellison said he doesn’t regret supporting the charter amendment, but he said he never supported “defunding the police” and said it didn’t accurately describe the amendment.

He also dismissed Schultz’s claim that he’s hostile to police, saying he regards policing as a noble profession and that Chauvin did more to invite scorn and demoralize officers than anything he ever did.

“I’m the one who prosecuted him for killing George Floyd,” Ellison said. “So I’m the one trying to restore the honor and dignity of policing.”

Ellison also led the prosecution of former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who said she confused her gun for her Taser when she killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year. She was convicted of manslaughter in December. Schultz has said he would support commuting her two-year sentence.

Crime isn’t the only issue that has Schultz, a 36-year-old political newcomer, hopeful of being the first Republican to occupy the attorney general’s office since 1971. He also accuses Ellison of “unbelievable incompetence” for failing to stop a massive fraud scheme in its early stages, with 49 people charged so far with stealing at least $250 million from federal programs administered by the state to provide low-income children with nutritious meals during the pandemic. Ellison has countered that his office helped uncover the fraud.

If Ellison is to survive both that attack and the policing criticism to win a second term, abortion rights is likely to be the issue that does it.

Schultz vowed this spring to do everything in his power as attorney general to aggressively defend the unborn. After Roe’s reversal, he joined many other Republicans trying to pivot away from abortion and back to crime in a state where abortion rights are protected under the state constitution.

Meanwhile, Ellison brought New York Attorney General Letitia James to Minnesota in early September to raise money from abortion rights supporters in the legal community. Soon after, he visited an abortion clinic in Moorhead that moved across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, to escape a trigger ban on abortion. Ellison vowed early on that his office won’t cooperate if other states seek to prosecute women who come to Minnesota for abortions.

Ellison said the election is about more than abortion rights or crime. Trump’s rhetoric, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and the rise of “MAGA Republicans” have put democracy in doubt, he said.

“Here’s what we can’t do,” Ellison said. “We can’t tell people we got this. Quite frankly, I’m glad people see my race as close because it means they’re going to show up.”


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How you can help seniors avoid becoming victims of fraud

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Financial fraud is a problem that affects millions of Canadians every year, with older Canadians increasingly becoming the target of potential fraudsters.

Many of the most common scams law enforcement officials are seeing today – including the so-called “grandparent scam” – are designed to specifically target seniors.

In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received reports of 379 cases involving 115 victims, with more than $1.7 million in losses related to the grandparent scam alone. But since the start of 2022, the Centre says there have been 674 cases involving 273 victims and resulting in $2.7 million in losses. At the same time, the CAFC estimates that only a small fraction of victims report these types of frauds due to embarrassment.

As fraudsters increasingly leverage new technologies and tactics to create more sophisticated scams, it’s important to have conversations with older friends and family members to help them better understand how to identify and avoid fraud.

READ: Eight things your bank would never ask you

“Seniors are often targeted by fraudsters because they are perceived to have more wealth and presumed to be less knowledgeable about navigating online,” says Adrienne Vickery, Associate Vice President, North American Fraud Operations, Customer, Colleague & Strategic Initiatives, TD Bank Group.

“It’s increasingly important to stay aware of the latest fraud trends and scams and share your knowledge with the seniors in your life to help protect one another from falling victim to fraud,” she said.

Here are some tips to help guide a conversation about how fraud can impact seniors:

  • Learn to recognize common scams: Talk to the seniors in your life about how to spot some of the more common types of scams – including romance scams, investment scams, and the grandparent scam. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is a great resource for current fraud trends.
  • Talk to family and friends about how they can protect themselves: Provide family members with a few helpful reminders to protect themselves, such as being mindful of not sharing personal or financial information with someone over the phone or online.
  • Encourage seniors you know to keep an eye on their finances: Suggest signing up for online and telephone banking so they can regularly review their account activity. If they have a mobile phone, suggest they sign up for text message fraud alerts from their bank.
  • Tell seniors you know that it’s okay to ask for help: Remind them that if something seems strange or too good to be true, it’s okay to ask a trusted friend for a second opinion.

Most of all, it’s important for seniors, and all Canadians, to shake off the stigma that comes with being defrauded.

Fraud doesn’t discriminate – Canadians of all ages lost $379 million to fraudsters in 2021, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) – and that only represents the fraud that was reported. The CAFC estimates that fewer than 5% of victims file a fraud report with the agency. As of July 31, 2022, the CAFC has received 52,735 reports of fraud with losses totaling more than $284 million.


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