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Regional Briefing

Friday, October 16, 2009

PUBLIC SAFETY

Man Found Slain in Laurel Home

The city of Laurel recorded its first homicide of the year Wednesday when the medical examiner's office ruled that a 44-year-old man found dead in his townhouse Tuesday was killed by blunt force trauma to his head, authorities said.

Andrew Sparacino, who lived alone in the 16000 block of Dorset Drive, was found dead by police Monday after relatives called to say that he had not shown up to work at a local Verizon office and that they had been unable to reach him for several days. Investigators immediately spotted the head trauma but were unsure whether someone had inflicted it or Sparacino had fallen. There were no signs of forced entry, and nothing was taken. "The house was secure," said Jim Collins, a spokesman for the Laurel Police Department. "All the doors and windows were locked. It seemed like whoever it was . . . the victim knew who this person was, or people."

-- Matt Zapotosky

Woman Held in Loudoun Scheme

A Loudoun County real estate agent, accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $50 million in mortgages for buyers who couldn't afford them, was arrested in Turkey on Wednesday and is awaiting extradition proceedings there, the Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Diane H. Frederick Atari, 42, of Ashburn left the country in July after being indicted by a Loudoun grand jury for mortgage fraud. Atari owned and operated ACR Consulting and Atari Management. She is charged with targeting homebuyers who were unable to qualify for mortgages because of bad credit or low income. Authorities said she offered "rent-to-own" services for customers who wanted to eventually buy a house but used false information to help them get loans.

The scheme operated between 2006 and 2008. Atari was indicted for money laundering, racketeering and 10 counts of making false statements to obtain credit.

-- Tom Jackman

FBI Agent Charged in Fraud

An FBI agent has been charged with lying on forms to obtain nearly $50,000 in housing reimbursement payments from the bureau, federal prosecutors said.

Jeffrey Shim, 40, was charged this week in the District's federal court with making a false statement. The charge came in a "criminal information," a document that can be filed only with the defendant's request and signals a plea deal is near.

Federal prosecutors wrote in court papers that Shim, who joined the bureau in 2002, was temporarily assigned to work at FBI headquarters in 2008 and filed fraudulent paperwork seeking reimbursement for rent he paid while living in the D.C. area. Shim received $48,700 in such payments, prosecutors wrote, even though he was living in a house he and his wife owned in Olney. Prosecutors also alleged that Shim forged the signature of a landlord on rental agreements and receipts submitted to the bureau.

-- Del Quentin Wilber

Baltimore Reports Legionnaires'

Officials are scrambling for clues to what caused an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a senior living facility in Baltimore that has sickened five people, including one who died.

Officials at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Baltimore Health Department were interviewing those who have fallen ill and planning to test water sources for the origins of the outbreak at Stadium Place, built 10 years ago on the former site of Memorial Stadium.

-- Baltimore Sun

Inmate Charged in More Attacks

A Maryland prisoner known as the "Aspen Hill rapist" for a series of attacks in the early 1980s was indicted Thursday in connection with four rapes in Montgomery County, one dating to 1977. Detectives had submitted evidence samples collected long ago for DNA analysis, and the tests matched Timothy J. Buzbee, officials said Thursday.

Although Buzbee is serving life sentences for crimes in 1981 and 1982, he is on "parole-able" status, said Montgomery State's Attorney John McCarthy. If convicted of the latest charges, that could lengthen Buzbee's sentence.

The four additional cases, according to police, occurred April 14, 1977, near a building on Venice Drive in Silver Spring; June 3, 1978, in a yard along Baylor Avenue in Rockville; Jan. 25, 1979, in a yard along Bluehill Road in Wheaton; and Aug. 19, 1980, in a yard off Norbeck Road in Rockville.

-- Dan Morse

TRANSPORTATION

Wilson Bridge Speed Back to 55

With most of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project completed, the 55-mph maximum speed limit in place elsewhere on the Capital Beltway has been restored in the eight-mile project corridor.

The speed limit had been reduced since 2005.

-- Ashley Halsey III

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