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CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Secret investigation taking place into state government issues

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A secret investigation is reportedly taking place into a number of state government issues -- including possible election law violations in recall contests. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said former long-time federal prosecutor Francis Schmitz is leading a John Doe investigation. Columnist Dan Bice said Kenosha County Circuit Judge Barbara Kluka is presiding over the probe -- which prosecutors often use to gather evidence for criminal cases. The Journal Sentinel said Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf initiated the investigation, but he's not answering questions about it. Bice said the probe has spread to five counties, but much of the activity is centered in Dane County, the home to Madison and the State Capitol. The Journal Sentinel says the state-related case had opened as early as February of last year. Nine senators were targeted for recalls in 2011, in connection with the law that virtually ended collective bargaining for most public employee unions. Two G-O-P senators lost their seats in '11, and the Republicans lost one of four recall contests the following year -- when Governor Scott Walker survived his recall effort.

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The number of Wisconsinites facing federal charges in a property-sales' scam has grown to eight. The U-S Attorney's office said the defendants are accused of bilking 14-hundred people out of two-point-three million dollars. The four newest defendants are 36-year-old Jason Schultz, 28-year-old Tina Baalman, and 24-year-old Jessica Gilbert, all of Green Bay -- and 30-year-old Jessica Weinhart of Neenah. According to prosecutors, they worked for companies which called people and said they could sell their time-shares, as long as they paid upfront fees of up to thousands of dollars. Investigators said there's no evidence that a single time-share was sold -- and most of the victims were elderly. Officials said the four defendants worked for various companies in Green Bay from 2007-through-2011. Four others were charged in July, and they're due to appear in federal court November 26th.

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Authorities said a 50-year-old Eau Claire man gave officers a creative excuse as he tried to escape his eighth drunk driving arrest. Officials said Joseph O'Connell claimed that leprechauns were driving his car when it veered into a ditch near Bloomer a couple weeks ago. Authorities said he was knocking on doors at 2:45 in the morning on October sixth, to seek help to get his vehicle out of a ditch. His blood alcohol level was point-22, almost three times the legal limit. O'Connell is due back in Chippewa County Circuit Court November 15th. For now, he's free on bond. The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram said O'Connell's most recent O-W-I conviction came seven years ago -- and he served two years in prison for it. 

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It was a year ago today when Radcliffe Haughton stormed into a spa in Brookfield, and killed his estranged wife and two other women who were working there. Haughton also injured four other women before turning the gun on himself at the Azana Salon-and-Spa. The salon is closed today in remembrance of the shootings. The three women killed -- Zina Haughton, Maelyn Lind, and Cary Robuck -- will be remembered at a candlelight vigil tonight.  

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Sharon Wand -- who was badly burned in a house fire in Argyle -- is now charged with identify theft. Prosecutors said she was recovering at a nursing home in Dodgeville when she ordered Mother's Day flowers for herself from two florists, using the names of five other people -- including three cousins and two strangers. The 28-year-old Wand was severely burned 13 months ago, in a house fire set by her husband Armin that killed three of their boys and an unborn daughter. He's currently serving three life prison terms plus 105 years. Sharon's new charges include seven felony counts of identify theft, and one misdemeanor theft count. In May, Sharon Wand was charged with three misdemeanor theft counts after authorities said she stole jewelry, a ceramic figurine, and other items from people at the same Dodgeville nursing home. The florists apparently knew that something was amiss when the names of the purported buyers had incorrect addresses. Police said they interviewed Wand in late May, and she claimed to be shocked to receive all the flowers in her room. A status conference is set for November 12th, in which all of her charges will be discussed.

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The boyfriend of a missing Milwaukee woman appeared in Sunday court on five drug charges. 38-year-old Kris Zocco is believed to be one of the last people to see 27-year-old Kelly Dwyer before she vanished October 11th. Prosecutors said Dwyer went to Zocco's house to use drugs, and she was last seen spending the night there. A judge ordered a five-thousand-dollar cash bond. A preliminary hearing was set for next Monday on three felony counts of maintaining a drug house, possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver, and possessing narcotics. Zocco is also charged with misdemeanor possessions of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Dwyer is still missing. Her family called police October 12th after she failed to show up for work.

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts with his wife and two daughters. 
(715) 243-7767 x243
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