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WISCONSIN STATE NEWS BRIEFS: Arrests made in state in FBI prostitution crackdown

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news Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

About 100 people were arrested in Wisconsin during the weekend, as part of a national FBI crackdown on child sex trafficking.

Ten children were rescued, after they were said to be recruited for child prostitution. According to the F-B-I, undercover officers went to areas known for prostitution activity, and they made contact with young victims. This was the seventh time that “Operation Cross Country” took place. The latest effort centered on Milwaukee, Madison, Wisconsin Dells, and the Fox Valley. The FBI worked with the state Justice Department and local law enforcement agencies on the crackdown. Officials said the pimps took their victims throughout Wisconsin for prostitution – and they did not necessarily live in the places where authorities found them. A similar operation in Wisconsin netted 60 suspects and rescued six children a year ago. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says it’s well-known that child sex trafficking occurs in Wisconsin – and with newly-added resources, he says such crimes will not be tolerated in the Badger State.

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A man has been arrested for the weekend murder of a 14-year-old boy in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, police are still looking for suspects for a house fire in the same block last night. 14-year-old Japhet Moore was killed early Saturday in a north side Milwaukee neighborhood. Two other boys, ages 15-and-17 were also shot-and-wounded along with a 22-year-old woman. All three are expected to survive. The fire destroyed a two-story on Sunday night on the same block as the killing. Fire officials say the cause is suspicious, and the cause remains under investigation by Milwaukee fire-and-police personnel. No one was home when the blaze broke out, and no one was hurt – although flames spread to a neighboring house. 

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Both sides rested their cases today in the La Crosse double-murder trial of Jeffrey Lepsch. Attorneys will deliver their closing arguments tomorrow morning. Jurors will then decide whether the 56-year-old Lepsch is guilty of killing camera store owner Paul Petras and the owner’s son A-J last September – and stealing almost 20-thousand dollars in camera equipment. Prosecutors said Lepsch needed the money to help pay back an old debt. One of the state’s final witnesses was a Whitehall woman who testified that she bought one of the stolen cameras in the incident. She said she turned it into police after seeing the person she bought it from, Lepsch, on the news. The defendant’s wife Angie said he was not capable of killing anybody, and Lepsch’s mother Sharon said her son never showed any violent behavior. The defendant himself refused to testify.

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ABC Supply Company of Beloit is getting a little bigger. The wholesale supplier of exterior building products has acquired American Wholesale Building Supply of Nashville. It’s a one-location distributor of siding and windows. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. ABC Supply has over 450 branches in 45 states. It’s the nation’s largest wholesale roofing provider – and one of the largest wholesalers for siding, windows, and related outdoor building products. 

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The world’s largest air show is now underway in Oshkosh. EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski says several thousand airplanes arrived to the AirVenture show today, whith many more expected to come. Over a half-million people are expected to attend the event. About 10,000 airplanes and over 2,500 show planes will be at the event, along with 800 exhibitors to demonstrate the latest innovations in aviation. Knapinski says tonight’s festivities include a concert from legendary band “Chicago”. AirVenture runs until August 4, tickets are available at the gate or online at www-dot-airventure-dot-org (www.airventure.org). 

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A 1979 law that caps malpractice damage against University of Wisconsin doctors is being challenged in Dane County court. The Wisconsin State Journal reports 55-year-old Terri Fiez was awarded a one-point-eight million dollar wrongful-death lawsuit of her husband in 2010. However, the law caps damages at $250,000. Fiez says the jury’s decision in the case should be honored. Her case is scheduled for a hearing in Dane County court on August 27. 

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Some good news on Wisconsin food prices from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Inflation projections of four-percent this year have been lowered to one-and-a-half percent for 2013. Food Economist Ricky Volpe says the strengthening U.S. dollar, a decrease in exported farm goods and the low prices in commodities not impacted by the drought are some of the reasons behind the change. Early 2014 projections by the USDA shows normal inflation rates of about two-and-a-half percent.

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Dueling protests were held at the State Capitol today, when two groups of singers showed up on opposite sides of Republican policies. About 50 pro-Walker supporters sang patriotic songs during the noon hour, one floor above the Capitol Rotunda. Meanwhile, the Solidarity Singers – who sing anti-Walker songs almost daily in the building – stayed outside today. There, the group avoided the arrests that marked the previous three business days. Almost 80 citations were given, as Capitol Police cracked down on the requirement that the group get permits to gather in the building – which they have not done. The permits are required for groups of 20-or-more. Former state official and Dane County commissioner David Blaska obtained a permit for his pro-Walker singing group. Police did arrest a man who refused to put down a protest sign about 30-feet away from Blaska’s group. 

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Time Warner Cable says it will not give rebates to its eastern Wisconsin TV customers who’ve been without their local NBC stations since last Thursday. State Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah asked the company to give partial refunds to viewers who cannot get WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, WGBA in Green Bay, and WACY in Appleton on their cable lineups. The stations and Time Warner are in a dispute over rights’ fees the stations should pay to be carried on the cable. The stations are owned by Journal Communications, the same firm that owns the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The paper quoted Ellis as saying, “It is clear your customers are no longer receiving the service they are paying for.” Time Warner responded to the Journal Sentinel that programming packages are changed from time-to-time, and it’s not their practice to issue credits for individual networks.” The paper said Time Warner admitted for the first time that it pulled the NBC channels. The firm previously said it was not contractually allowed to carry them anymore.

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Privacy advocates are concerned, as more Wisconsin police agencies use computerized license plate readers. The machines read the plates of every vehicle which passes by a squad car – and it then tells the officer whether the owners are wanted for any reason. The Wisconsin State Journal said four Madison area police departments stored more than four-million license plate images over the past three years. Those departments are in Sun Prairie, Middleton, Fitchburg, and Verona. The American Civil Liberties’ Union issued a red flag about the technology, which flags about two-and-a-half percent of the vehicles checked by the four Dane County agencies. Wisconsin ACLU director Chris Ahmuty (aa’-muh-tee) says authorities can easily use it when there’s not a reasonable suspicion to target people. Middleton Police Chief Brad Keil says compares the units to an officer on a stakeout – and he says people don’t expect privacy when they’re out in public. Officials say the license plate readers help officers track down stolen vehicles, crime suspects, children who are kidnapped, and vehicles with expired plates. Madison Police use it on their parking enforcement vehicles. Milwaukee Police also have the units, but they’re not saying how they’re used. The state Justice Department says almost 35 law enforcement agencies and UW-Green Bay can have data checked against the state’s automated license plate readers.

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A Madison Ford dealer has agreed to pay almost 77,000 dollars to settle allegations that it broke consumer protection laws in running a contest. The Wisconsin Auto Center, the owners of Metro Ford, mailed thousands of prize notices which encouraged people to see the dealer to get their prizes and consider a new vehicle. The state’s Consumer Protection Department said the mailings did not disclose that only a limited number of people would win the prizes – and they did not say how many prizes there were, or how much they were worth. Officials also said Metro Ford miscalculated the odds of winning each prize – and the information was printed in small type that what’s allowed. As part of the settlement deal, the Wisconsin Auto Center did not legally admit that it broke any laws.   

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