Statewide Senior Scam

May 22nd, 2012

Arrests in “Operation False Comfort;” Four charged in statewide senior financial fraud scheme

HARRISBURG, PA — Agents from the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section and Elder Abuse Unit have filed criminal charges against four Philadelphia area men accused of operating an elaborate financial fraud scheme targeting hundreds of senior citizens across Pennsylvania.

Attorney General Linda Kelly identified the defendants as Bruce Howard Cherry, 52, of Philadelphia; Ross M. Rabelow, 52, of Southampton, Bucks County; Thomas J. Muldoon, 57, of Broomall, Delaware County; and Robert P. Lerner, 56, of Philadelphia.

Kelly said the four defendants are accused of conspiring to operate a financial fraud scheme specifically aimed at elderly victims who were deceived into spending thousands of dollars for “home care” or “home security” services that would supposedly assist seniors with their future care.

“This was a disturbing and despicable scheme designed to extract as much money as possible from unwitting seniors who believed they were protecting themselves against costly future home-care expenses,” Kelly said. “These con artists left a string of more than 200 victims, stretching from Philadelphia to Erie, and stole more than $700,000 through the sale of contracts for bogus home care services or stolen insurance premiums.”

Kelly said that investigators have identified at least 218 victims located in 41 counties. Many were widowed; living alone and without any nearby family members and the average age of the victims is estimated at 83 years old.

The investigation, known as “Operation False Comfort,” involved the presentation of extensive evidence and testimony to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges that were announced today.

According to the grand jury, the scheme revolved around the sale of service contracts for businesses that supposedly provided specialty services for seniors:

American Comfort Home Care Services – owned by Ross Rabelow, with Bruce Cherry serving as the primary salesman – which claimed to provide non-medical home care services for the elderly.
Global Services for the Home – supposedly operated by Thomas Muldoon – which claimed to provide specialty services for seniors, including home safety equipment and/or serving as a “health advocate” to assist older residents in dealing with insurance companies.
Bruce Cherry also identified himself as the proprietor of “Cherry Senior Solutions,” a business that supposedly provided expert counseling regarding long term health care and other insurance needs.

“In reality, these businesses were little more than names on pieces of paper, serving only as a mechanism to repeatedly approach seniors with sales presentations,” Kelly said. “Victims were often encouraged to purchase multiple overlapping contracts or to pay for duplicate ‘services’ included in this scheme, and in some cases were advised to cancel legitimate insurance policies for long-term health care in favor of the bogus programs being pushed by the defendants.”

Often working as a team, Cherry, Rabelow and Muldoon would allegedly approach victims unannounced, at their homes.

“Holding themselves out as experts in providing assistance to the elderly, the defendants aggressively promoted contracts for Rabelow’s business, ‘American Comfort,’ which supposedly provided clients with non-medical in-home services like housekeeping, cooking, shopping, assistance while dressing and other similar services,” Kelly said.

According to the grand jury, victims were typically encouraged to purchase 1000 hours of services, to be used within a one-year period of time, for a cost of $1590.

“One of the key points that was stressed during these sales calls was that seniors could purchases these services for an extremely low hourly price – approximately $1.59 per hour – which was far below what other in-home services would cost,” Kelly said. “Victims were often approached on a repeated basis and persuaded to buy a confusing array of multiple or overlapping contracts, often with no clear way to determine how much service they were supposed to receive, and regardless of their need or their ability to use all of these so-called services.”

Kelly said that seniors who did purchase contracts for American Comfort were further victimized if they ever attempted to use any of the services they had purchased.

“Despite contracts that clearly stated the services would be provided ‘upon demand’ and ‘without condition’, victims’ requests for assistance were often ignored, delayed, discouraged or minimized in a concerted effort to avoid providing any service,” Kelly said. “Only when faced with the most persistent seniors were any services provided, and the grand jury found no evidence that American Comfort ever provided any customer with all of the hours of service they had paid for.”

The grand jury also determined that no plans were put in place by American Comfort and no resources were set aside to pay for the ever-increasing hours of service the company was supposed to provide to seniors.

“According to the grand jury, approximately 70% of all the checks written on the American Comfort account were payments made to Rabelow, Cherry and other salesmen,” Kelly said. “Records indicate that only about 3% of the funds the company received from its victims were used to provide any services.”

“Not satisfied with selling worthless American Comfort contracts to unsuspecting seniors, the defendants also pushed victims to purchase additional services from Muldoon’s company, Global Service for the Home,” Kelly said. “Under the guise that Muldoon was a ‘home safety specialist,’ victims were often charged thousands of dollars for cursory inspections or installation of inexpensive off-the-shelf items like smoke detectors, which the victims could have purchased themselves at a fraction of the cost.”

According to the grand jury, Muldoon was introduced to many of the victims by Cherry, after they had already been approached by Cherry about purchasing American Comfort contracts. Working as a team, Muldoon and Cherry allegedly made repeated visits to victims’ homes, encouraging them to purchase additional services, even though most victims received little or nothing in return.

Kelly explained that in one of the worst cases identified to-date, a 79-year old retired school teacher from Central Pennsylvania, who was widowed and living alone, was approached nearly 40 times over a two-year period between January 2009 and April 2011.

“Over that two year period, the defendants allegedly stole more than $57,000 from this woman, who believed that she was taking steps to protect her health and safety,” Kelly said.

According to the grand jury, the victim was convinced to purchase six different contracts with American Comfort, totaling $11,660; two contracts with Global Services, at a cost of $3,554; along with 16 different payments totaling $41,921 to Thomas Muldoon – supposedly for services ranging from “health advocate” to “security services.”

Kelly said that in another example, a 90-year old victim preparing for hip replacement surgery tried to arrange for the American Comfort home care services she had purchased. Repeated calls and phone messages before and after the surgery were ignored, forcing the woman to depend on friends – all in their 70’s, 80’s or 90’s – for assistance, even though the victim had purchased two different contracts promising her a total of 1,600 hours of service.

According to the grand jury, Cherry, Muldoon and Rabelow visited the victim’s home several days after the surgery and told her that according to the “fine print” on her contract the agreement was void because her friends provided care for her.

In another situation, involving an 82-year old woman from southeastern Pennsylvania, repeated calls from concerned family members who were trying to arrange for care were initially ignored. Later, Rabelow allegedly made an appointment to “evaluate” the victim, even though the American Comfort contract called for services to be provided upon request, with no contingencies.

Eventually, in the face of constant pressure from family members, Rabelow arranged for some care. Unbeknownst to the victim or her family, the caregiver was hired by Rabelow via an advertisement placed on Craigslist, following a brief interview conducted at a Dunkin’ Donuts. No background check or detailed review of qualifications was ever conducted and the caregiver was expressly instructed to not provide more than 18 hours of service every two weeks.

Rabelow allegedly dismissed efforts to obtain additional services, despite continued pleas from family members and the recommendation of the caregiver who had been hired, who all agreed that the victim needed more care.

“Further compounding the harm done to these victims, Cherry, Muldoon and Robert Lerner allegedly convinced some seniors to write checks, payable directly to them or to Global Services, which were supposed to be forwarded to insurance companies for legitimate long-term health care policies,” Kelly said. “Instead of paying those premiums, the defendants allegedly stole the money – giving victims the false belief that they had coverage or causing legitimate insurance policies to lapse because of non-payment.”

According to the criminal complaint, Cherry, Muldoon and Lerner also stole blank checks from the home at of least one victim from suburban Philadelphia. Nine of those checks were later forged and cashed, with the payments going directly to those three men.

Kelly noted that some of the victims were retired school teachers who were told by Cherry that American Comfort was endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), a statewide organization of education professionals. In reality, PSEA had not endorsed American Comfort and had no knowledge of the deceptive claims being made by Cherry and others during their sales calls.

The grand jury investigation has identified at least 218 victims. While most of the activity appears to be concentrated in southeastern and south central Pennsylvania, victims are located in 41 counties, including Adams (1), Allegheny (7), Beaver (1), Berks (15), Blair (1), Bradford (3), Bucks (10), Butler (5), Centre (1), Chester (8), Columbia (5), Crawford (1), Cumberland (5), Dauphin (2), Delaware (12), Erie (2), Fayette (10), Franklin (3), Greene (2), Indiana (2), Juniata (1), Lancaster (16), Lawrence (3), Lebanon (5), Lehigh (24), Luzerne (1), Lycoming (6), Mercer (4), Mifflin (4), Montgomery (15), Northampton (10), Northumberland (3), Perry (1), Snyder (4), Somerset (5), Union (1), Venango (1), Warren (1), Washington (2), Westmoreland (3) and York (7).

Victims have also been identified in three other states: New York (8), New Jersey (2) and Maryland (1).

Kelly emphasized that this remains an ongoing investigation. Individuals who believe they were victimized by this scheme or others with information related to the case are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section, Norristown Office, at 610-631-5164.

Bruce Howard Cherry, 52, 10166 Dedaker Drive, Philadelphia, is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization and 218 counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, all first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

Additionally, Cherry is charged with 218 counts of theft by deception, 218 counts of insurance fraud, 218 counts of deceptive business practices, eight counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Ross M. Rabelow, 52, 549 Jason Drive, Southampton, Bucks County is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization and 218 counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, all first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

Additionally, Rabelow is charged with 218 counts of theft by deception, 218 counts of insurance fraud, 218 counts of deceptive business practices, eight counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Thomas J. Muldoon, 57, 46 James Road, Broomall, Delaware County is charged with one count of participating in a corrupt organization and 218 counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, all first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

Additionally, Muldoon is charged with 218 counts of theft by deception, 218 counts of insurance fraud, 218 counts of deceptive business practices, eight counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Robert P. Lerner, 56, 920 Emerson St., Philadelphia is charged with three counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, all first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

Additionally, Lerner is charged with three counts of theft by deception, three counts of insurance fraud, two counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, one count of criminal conspiracy, one count of forgery and one count of theft by receiving stolen property, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Criminal charges were filed on Monday, May 21st, before Hatboro, Montgomery County, Magisterial District Judge Paul N. Leo.

The defendant will be prosecuted in Montgomery County by Senior Deputy Attorney General M. Eric Schoenberg of the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section and Elder Abuse Unit.

Attorney General Kelly thanked the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty)

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Bucks County Fun Run

May 15th, 2012

Jog ‘n Hog to Challenge the Stomachs of Philadelphia-Area Runners on July 15, 2012

YARDLEY, PA – Run, eat, run. That is the simple premise behind the inaugural Uncle Dave’s Ice Cream Jog n’ Hog, a fun and slightly crazy event that will challenge participants’ bodies, minds… and stomachs.

Here is how it works: runners jog 2 miles on Shady Brook Farm in Bucks County, stop and eat a QUART of Uncle Dave’s ice cream and then run two miles back to the starting line on expanded stomachs.

The Jog ‘n Hog will be held on Sunday, July 15 (National Ice Cream Day) at 8:30 AM. It is open to everyone age 13 and up. Children under age 13 can run the Junior Hogger, which consists of dashing 100 yards, eating a 3-ounce cup of Uncle Dave’s ice cream and dashing back 100 yards. The Junior Hogger starts at 10 AM. All participants receive a race t-shirt.

Registration for the Jog ‘n Hog is now open at Jog ‘n Hog is a proud supporter of the Bucks County Housing Group’s Penndel Food Pantry. All racers are asked to bring a non-perishable food item with them on race day.

Jog ‘n Hog is a national race series that was founded in 2011 by brothers and Bucks County residents Brian and Andrew Smith. Each race features food that is unique to a particular area of the country.

For more information about Jog ‘n Hog visit or “like” Jog ‘n Hog on Facebook,

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Summer Job Seekers Beware

May 13th, 2012

HARRISBURG, PA – Attorney General Linda Kelly today warned high school and college students, along with adults searching for temporary, to be on the lookout for scammers, who target young people looking for seasonal employment.

“If a summer job seems too good to be true, it usually is,” Kelly said. “Ads or online posting offer easy money for little to no work should always raise a ‘red flag’ for job seekers.”

Kelly said that some of these employment scams advertise the ability to work from home rather than an office, typically using Internet postings or Craigslist ads to offer high pay for part-time employment, including work as personal assistants, ‘mystery shoppers,’ check processors or models. Other questionable offers may be circulated using handmade signs posted throughout communities.

“Falling for one of these bogus offers can trigger a variety of problems – leaving victims unemployed, facing financial losses and possibly becoming the target of identity thieves,” Kelly said.

Kelly noted that the exact details of job scams can change, but most share common themes:

* “Easy money” for a small amount of work.
* The need to respond quickly.
* Difficulty meeting prospective employers face-to-face.
* Most importantly, at some point during these scams, victims may be asked to wire-transfer money to another person.

Kelly urged consumers to avoid offers that ask for upfront application fees, the need to cash checks or wire-transfer funds.

“As with many other scams, these offers revolve around elaborate stories that are designed to convince consumers to deposit counterfeit checks and then wire-transfer money to scam artists, who are typically located outside the United States,” Kelly explained. “Victims discover they have been scammed when their banks notify them that the checks they deposited are worthless, which is often days or weeks after they have electronically transferred money to the con artists.”

Kelly noted that other job-related scams are crafted to gather detailed personal information about the “applicants,” who may be targeted later for identity theft.

“In these types of scams, often involving ads for international jobs, consumers may be asked to submit a copy of their credit report to assist the person reviewing their application,” Kelly said. “It is important for consumers to understand that while legitimate employers do conduct background checks and may review your credit information as part of the application process, they will not ask the applicant to personally retrieve and send their own credit report.”

Kelly said other job related scams can include offers for modeling jobs or other similar work.

“In the case of a modeling scam, victims might get a check as advance payment for their ‘photo session,’ but are asked to transfer some of that money to a photographer, a studio or a booking agent in order to secure the job,” Kelly said. “Con artists are hoping that the attraction of work as a model, along with a paid trip to New York or another exciting location, will cause consumers to quickly send money before verifying that the offer is legitimate.”

Additional warning signs of scam ads include:

Poor grammar or misspellings in ads or email messages.
The use of “generic” email addresses, like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail, rather than a specific business email address.
A lack of details about the actual job.
Stories that change frequently.

Consumers with questions or concerns about possible scams, or other consumer problems, can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555.

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Philadelphia High School Sports

May 8th, 2012

My name is Brianna O’Donnell, I coach the Franklin Towne Charter Girls Soccer team. Our team competes in the A Division for the Public League. I wanted to write the your office about an upcoming game between my soccer team and Central High School. Currently, Central is in first place. They have not lost a game in over 7 years. I have coached at Franklin Towne for the past 3 seasons, and every year our games against Central are competitive. This year I have a very talented group of sophomores, many from the neighborhoods your papers serves. I wanted to see if someone from your office would consider covering our last regular season game or the play off run we hope to make. I know your office does a great job of covering local stories, and being familiar with the match between Franklin Towne and Central I believe it would be an interesting story. Both teams have a athletic group of girls and model what is best about Philadelphia high school sports.

We play Central home, at American Legion Field, Torresdale and Devereaux Aves., in Northeast Philadelphia. The game is scheduled for May 16th at 3 PM.

Please feel free to contact me if you need further information.

The girls Public League Playoffs are scheduled for May 21st, 23rd, and 25th.

Thanks again for all the hard work your staff commits to high school athletics.

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ID Theft and Tax Refund Scheme

May 4th, 2012

HARRISBURG, PA — Agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation have filed charges against a husband and wife from Georgia, along with a Pittsburgh area man, accused of operating a multi-state scheme to fabricate Pennsylvania state tax returns and apply for bogus refunds by stealing the identities of prison inmates from across the country.

Attorney General Linda Kelly identified the defendants as Qadir Abdul Shabazz, also known as DeAngelo M. Moore, age 36, 1677 Dorsey Ave., East Point, Georgia; Leslie Julian Shabazz, also known as Leslie Julian Scott, age 30, of 2864 Cheney St., East Point, Georgia; and Dion Lee McBride, 36, of 2012 Kendon Drive East, Pittsburgh.

Kelly said the defendants allegedly used the names and social security numbers of approximately 185 prison inmates to fabricate Pennsylvania income tax returns which claimed more than $77,000 in refunds.

“This was an intricate scheme that allegedly used stolen personal information, fabricated employment histories, bogus addresses and numerous debit card accounts and bank accounts to steal money from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania,” Kelly said. “The defendants took elaborate steps to hide their scheme, which remains the subject of an active and ongoing investigation.”

According to the criminal complaint, Shabazz and McBride allegedly used popular tax preparation software to create the fraudulent tax returns. In most cases, the employment information on the tax returns was falsified using the names of “temp agencies” and other businesses – including some of the defendants’ previous employers.

Kelly said refund checks, debit cards and other tax-related correspondence were sent to ‘apartments’ at several addresses in the Pittsburgh area, including a video & game storefront on Brownsville Road called “GamerNation,” another location on Main Street in Sharpsburg that supposedly housed a thrift store, along with Dion McBride’s home on Kendon Drive.

McBride allegedly opened the storefront locations and paid rent using funds that were wire transferred from Georgia by Qadir Shabazz.

“The majority of the funds were electronically deposited into bank accounts or debit card accounts that were opened by the defendants, using the same stolen personal information and fake addresses which were used to create the tax returns,” Kelly said. “Investigators determined that at least 48 refunds were sent to non-existent apartments supposedly located inside a little-used storefront in Sharpsburg where McBride was supposedly operating a thrift store, while nearly 50 more were sent to other fictional apartments at McBride’s residence.

Kelly said that bank records and surveillance video show the defendants using ATM machines in the Pittsburgh area and in Georgia to make numerous withdrawals from the bank accounts shortly after refunds were deposited. Because the ATM withdrawals were typically limited to a maximum of $400 per transaction, the defendants were often required to make multiple visits to banks or ATM’s before emptying the accounts.

“While Qadir Shabazz lived in Georgia, he would allegedly travel to Pittsburgh periodically to meet with McBride and collect the refunds and debit cards that had been mailed to the Pittsburgh locations,” Kelly said. “Over a six-day period in April and May of 2011, Qadir Shabazz allegedly withdrew $53,282 from various debit card accounts using ATM machines in the Pittsburgh area.”

Kelly said that Leslie Shabazz, aka Leslie Scott, is registered in Georgia as the CEO of Indigent Inmate Incorporated – an Altanta-based business which supposedly assists prison inmates who are in financial need.

On April 25, 2012, agents from the Attorney General’s Office, assisted by agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), executed search warrants at two apartments in East Point, Georgia used by Leslie and Qadir Shabazz. During the course of those searches, agents discovered and seized a file cabinet containing detailed information about prison inmates located in all 50 states.

According to the criminal complaint, investigators were able to identify inmates in prisons from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey and South Carolina whose personal information was used to fabricate tax returns.

A March 13, 2011 search of McBride’s residence and the Brownsville Road locations resulted in the seizure of a laptop computer and data storage devices, money order receipts sent to Leslie Shabazz, stacks of letters that had been bundled and wrapped with rubber bands and a loaded .40 caliber handgun.

Qadir and Leslie Shabazz were both taken into custody in East Point, Georgia, on April 25th.

An extradition hearing for Qadir Shabazz is schedule for June 7th and an extradition hearing for Leslie Shabazz is scheduled for May 25th, both in Fulton County, Georgia.

Dion McBride was arrested on April 25th, in Wilkinsburg, and is currently being held in the Allegheny County jail awaiting a preliminary hearing.

Qadir Abdul Shabazz / DeAngelo Marquez Mooreis charged with one count each of criminal conspiracy and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering), both first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

He is also charged with one count each of identity theft, computer trespass, access device fraud, theft by deception, aiding the consummation of crime, unlawful use of a computer, criminal use of a communications facility and criminal attempt, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Additionally, he is charged with one count of tax fraud, and ungraded misdemeanor.

Dion L. McBrideis charged with one count each of criminal conspiracy and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering), both first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

He is also charged with one count each of identity theft, computer trespass, access device fraud, theft by deception, aiding the consummation of crime, unlawful use of a computer, criminal use of a communications facility, criminal attempt and persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Additionally, he is charged with one count of tax fraud, and ungraded misdemeanor.

Leslie Julian Shabazz / Leslie Julian Scottis charged with one count each of criminal conspiracy and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering), both first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

She is also charged with one count each of identity theft, computer trespass, access device fraud, theft by deception, aiding the consummation of crime, unlawful use of a computer, criminal use of a communications facility and criminal attempt, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Additionally, she is charged with one count of tax fraud, and ungraded misdemeanor.

The defendants will all be prosecuted in Allegheny County by Senior Deputy Attorney General William F. Caye II.

Attorney General Kelly thanked the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, Bureau of Tax Crimes Investigation, Pittsburgh District Office; the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI); the East Point, Georgia Police Department; the Fulton County Georgia Sheriff’s Department; and the Wilkinsburg Police Department for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)

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Summer Youth Program

April 30th, 2012

Philadelphia, PA – During the British American Business Council (BABC) Breakfast with His Royal Highness The Prince Edward in attendance, Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced that pharmaceutical and healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and The Philadelphia Foundation will provide $1 million in grants to support WorkReady Philadelphia programs.

“This grant will make a tremendous difference in the lives of young Philadelphians that benefit from the programming offered by WorkReady, and it will also create an employee pipeline for area businesses,” said Mayor Nutter. “I appreciate the commitment GlaxoSmithKline has shown to our city and region, and I challenge other area businesses to follow its lead so that even more youth can be served. It costs only $1,600 to provide a summer opportunity for a young person. There is no better investment that we can make in our future than to help our young people achieve success.”

The money will fund 515 educationally-enriched employment opportunities for young people through the WorkReady Philadelphia summer programs and help launch a new bio-medical employment training program. WorkReady Philadelphia is the city’s system of youth workforce preparation programs that is managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN).

The $1 million includes $750,000 from the $5 million GlaxoSmithKline Inspiring Youth Endowment Fund and $250,000 from the Fund for Children. Both funds are administered through The Philadelphia Foundation, which has undertaken a comprehensive study of the out-of-school time needs of older youth to inform future allocations.

Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, visited Philadelphia Thursday and Friday to honor Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee year and to support the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award youth development program in the city. The BABC breakfast recognized GlaxoSmithKline for the creation of the $5 million fund benefiting youth in the City of Philadelphia, including a $500,000 designation to The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Philadelphia Program.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program was established in 1956 by HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is the husband of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward’s father. The program mentors 14- to 25-year-olds through self-selected activities in community service, physical recreation, skill development and an adventurous journey that includes outdoor experiences.

To be funded through the $1 million grant announced today are:
WorkReady Summer programs, which provide valuable exposure to workplaces across the city as well as weekly professional development seminars. The programs challenge youth to understand the correlations between work experience, skill attainment and high school completion and how those variables impact their potential for college and career success. Participants also can attain credits through the School District of Philadelphia.

WorkReady’s Industry Pipeline Model, which provides multi-year training for 11th and 12th grade students in industry-identified skills. The funding will allow for development of a new bio-medical employment training program that will prepare young Philadelphians to enter high-wage, high-demand positions in that industry.

Applicants interested in applying for the programs may visit PYN’s youth website at

About GlaxoSmithKline
GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. For further information go to, follow GSK on or visit the GSK blog: (

About The Philadelphia Foundation
Since 1918, The Philadelphia Foundation has linked those with financial resources to those who serve societal needs. It is the region’s community foundation, serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. For more information, visit

About The Philadelphia Youth Network
A nationally recognized leader in youth workforce development, the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is a non-profit intermediary organization that brings stakeholders together to change systems and improve educational and economic outcomes for the city’s youth. For more information, visit

About The British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia
Since 1991, the British American Business Council (BABC) of Greater Philadelphia has promoted increased trade and investment between the United Kingdom and the Greater Philadelphia region. The BABC of Greater Philadelphia is an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit

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Philadelphia Open Data Policy

April 28th, 2012

Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed an executive order to establish an Open Data policy, which will provide increased access and will enhance the transparency of City data sets. The Executive Order creates a Chief Data Officer (CDO) position, which will oversee and enforce the Open Data Policy and will report to the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The policy provides for the City to publish data online and expands opportunities for the public to participate in the City agency decision-making process by creating the Open Government Portal, which will house departments’ open data catalogue as well as a mechanism for public to offer feedback and assessments of the data sets.

“Transparency is a cornerstone of good governance, and it is vital for the City to be open and available to our citizens,” said Mayor Nutter. “Philadelphia was recently named at the seventh most social media savvy city in the nation. The Open Data policy furthers many of the policies and initiatives already put in place by the City.”

The executive order establishes the Open Data Working Group, which will focus on enhancing internal transparency, accountability, participation and collaboration through the Open Data policy and will develop the Open Government Portal—the City’s forum for public feedback. Following the establishment of the policy and assumption of duties by the CDO, the Mayor will appoint a Data Governance Advisory Board—consisting of nine members—who will oversee the ongoing implementation of the Open Data policy.
“The Open Data Policy puts in place the necessary framework, structure and governance that will increase collaboration among City departments and bring citizens closer to their government,” said Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid. “This policy is the first installment in Mayor Nutter’s vision for Philadelphia to become a model for increasing transparency and removing barriers to information sharing and collaboration.”

The City of Philadelphia has been implementing new digital access programming to increase transparency and provide citizens with greater opportunities to be civically engaged. Mayor Nutter added, “Change By Us Philly facilitates the sharing of ideas and projects among the City and citizens. Digital On-Ramps will provide Philadelphians access to anytime, anywhere learning. Freedom Rings Partnerships KEYSPOTS creates computer centers in neighborhoods throughout the city. My Administration is working hard to bridge the digital divide and to be completely accessible to citizens whether in person, on the phone, or on the internet.”

Also adopted in this Executive Order is the City’s internal social media policy, which outlines the acceptable use of social media by City employees overseen by the CIO and Mayor’s Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships.
Executive Order 1-12

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Attorney General Warns of Weather Scams

April 25th, 2012

HARRISBURG, PA — Attorney General Linda Kelly today cautioned Pennsylvania consumers and businesses about price gouging and scams following an unusual Spring storm that dumped heavy snowfall on parts of western and northern Pennsylvania.

“Our price-gouging law was designed to guard consumers and businesses against sudden, unwarranted price increases during emergency situations,” Kelly said. “The price gouging restrictions apply to anyone involved in the distribution or sale of consumer goods or services, prohibiting ‘unconscionably excessive’ increases above the average prices observed during the week prior to the emergency.”

Kelly said the Governor’s April 23rd declaration of a statewide disaster emergency triggered the price gouging restrictions, which will extend for 30 days after the expiration of the disaster declaration.

“It is important for everyone – consumers and businesses alike – to understand exactly what constitutes price gouging,” Kelly said. “Price increases for consumer goods or services that are 20% or more above the average prices before this storm are not allowed, except in some very limited situations.”

Kelly said the price gouging law gives the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection the authority to investigate price gouging complaints and allows for penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

She noted that the emergency price restrictions not only apply to businesses involved in direct consumer sales, but also to manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and distributors of consumer products and services.

“I encourage any Pennsylvania consumer or business who feels they are the victims of price-gouging to contact our office so we can thoroughly investigate the situation,” Kelly said.

Kelly said consumers can report potential price-gouging by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline, toll-free, at 1-800-441-2555 or by filing an online consumer complaint using the Attorney General’s website, at (Click on the “Complaints” button on the front page of the website and select “Consumer Complaint Form” from the menu that appears).

Additionally, Kelly urged consumers in storm struck communities to be watchful for scams related to home repair.

“It is natural for homeowners to look for speedy repairs for any storm damage,” Kelly said.  “Still, the desire for immediate repairs should not cloud your judgment or research regarding contractors.”

Kelly explained that all home improvement contractors who do more than $5,000 worth of business per year in Pennsylvania are required to register with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  Registration is not an endorsement of the contractor’s honesty or quality of work.

All home improvement and home repair contractors are required to provide consumers with specific information before proceeding with any project, including:

  • The contractor’s registration number, which must be included in all contracts, estimates and advertisements.
  • A written contract for any project costing more than $500.
  • Information about the consumer’s three-day right to cancel a home improvement contract.
  • Details about the materials and labor included in the project.
  • Total cost of the work.
  • An approximate start-date and end-date for the project.

Additionally, Kelly explained that Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act limits the amount of any up-front payments that contractors can collect.  For projects costing more than $5,000, contractors may not accept advance payment of more than one-third of the total price of the contract.

Kelly also encouraged consumers to get multiple estimates for any major project, to check references for recent work before committing to a project and to be wary of individuals who approach you with stories of “just being in the neighborhood” or other unsolicited offers that seem “too good to be true.”

Warning signs for potential home repair scams include:

  • Unsolicited door-to-door sales pitches.
  • Requests for large up-front payments.
  • No written estimates or contracts.
  • Offers to perform work using “left over” or “discount” materials from other jobs.
  • High-pressure sales pitches.

“When consumers understand their rights, they are much better prepared to identify and avoid potential scams,” Kelly said. “If you encounter a contractor who is not providing the information required by Pennsylvania law, we encourage you to file a complaint with our office and consider using another business for your project.”

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Find A Deck Builder

April 21st, 2012

Everything you need to know about Decks, Railings and Outdoor Living Projects. Please check back often!

Gallery of Deck Pictures
Browse Pictures of Decks, Railings, Decking Accessories and Outdoor Structures

Find Deck Builders and Contractors
Search For Contractors For Decks and Outdoor Living Construction Projects

Deck and Outdoor Structure Building Materials Guide
Useful Information To Help With Your Outdoor Projects

Deck Safety Program
NADRA’s Leadership Role in Deck Safety Has Been Unparalleled. May is Deck Safety Month® Find Out How to Stay Safe!

Deck For A Soldier
A community effort to express appreciation for the service & dedication of the men & women of our armed forces.

Articles , News and Info
Keep Up On the Latest Information in the Deck and Railing Industry

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Enter the Philadelphia Recycling Contest

April 12th, 2012

Win free groceries for a year.
Win a trip to Florida.

Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Sweepstakes
The Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Sweepstakes (the “Philly Sweepstakes” or “Sweepstakes”) begins at 12:01 a.m. EST on April 1, 2012 (the “Philly Sweepstakes Start Date”) and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on June 30, 2012 (the “Philly Sweepstakes End Date”) (such period referred to herein as the “Philly Sweepstakes Period”). The Philly Sweepstakes is sponsored by
Recyclebank, LLC (“Recyclebank”, or the “Sponsor”).
To enter the Philly Sweepstakes, participants must take any of four (4) actions available on Recyclebank’s website, Participants will receive one (1) entry for every action taken:
 Register for a Recyclebank account.
 Refer-a-friend who becomes a member of Recyclebank (referred friends must become members of the Recyclebank website during the Philly Sweepstakes Period in order for the referral to count as an entry).
 Earn points for recycling or through other actions made available on Recyclebank’s website.
 Redeem points for rewards on Recyclebank’s website. You may also redeem points for rewards via the Recyclebank Customer Care Center.
To enter the Philly Sweepstakes by mail, print your first and last name, complete address, city, state, zip code, daytime telephone number, date of birth, and e-mail address (if available) on a three-by-five-inch card. Put the card in an envelope, affix first-class postage, and send it to Recyclebank at the address provided under Section 7. No illegible, incomplete, forged or altered
entries will be accepted.  All entries must be received by Recyclebank. Sweepstakes entry limited to one (1) entry per post-card. Multiple Sweepstakes entries through multiple post-cards or multiple actions as described above are permitted. Mechanically reproduced entries not accepted.
All entries become the property of Recyclebank and will not be returned.
Participation in the Philly Sweepstakes is voluntary and does not require you to purchase anything from Recyclebank. All entries are subject to Recyclebank’s Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
Grand Prize: One (1) grand prize winner will receive one (1) year of free groceries from one of the following grocery stores: Whole Foods, Shop Rite and Fresh Grocer. Maximum prize value is $5,000.
First Prize: Ten (10) first prize winners will receive twelve (12) monthly Septa transit passes.  Approximate retail value of each pass is $83. Total approximate retail value of each first prize is $996.
Alternatively, first prize winners may opt to receive $500 cash, in lieu of the Septa transit passes.
Second Prize: Twenty (20) winners will receive a $100 Gift Card from Target to be provided either via email or hard copy. Total approximate retail value of each second prize is $100.
The odds of winning are affected by the number of eligible entries received by Recyclebank during the Philly Sweepstakes Period. Total approximate retail value of all Philly Sweepstakes
prizes: $16,960 (actual value may vary). Allow 3-4 weeks after validation of arrangement for receipt of prize. The actual number of prizes awarded is based on the number of eligible entries received. There is no substitution, cash equivalent or transfer of prizes allowed except where specified. Winners will be solely responsible for all other expenses not specifically set forth herein. Recyclebank reserves the right to substitute prizes of equal or greater value. No other substitution or transfer of prizes permitted. Recyclebank is responsible only for prize delivery; not responsible for prize utility, quality or otherwise. In order to receive a prize, winner may be required to provide proof of identification. Any and all taxes on any prize, including income and/or sales taxes, are the sole responsibility of the winners. However, Recyclebank may elect to cover all or a portion of such tax liability, in Recyclebank’s sole and absolute discretion.

The Sweepstakes is only open to legal residents of the United States who reside within the city limits of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of entry. Entries are limited to individuals only; commercial enterprises and business entities are not eligible. By participating in the Sweepstakes, each participant accepts the conditions stated in these Official Rules, agrees to be bound by the decisions of the Sponsor and warrants that she/he is eligible to participate in the Philly Sweepstakes, as applicable. Employees, independent contractors, officers, and directors of the Sponsor, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising, promotion, and fulfillment agencies, legal advisors, and their immediate family members and persons living
in the same household, are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes.

THE SWEEPSTAKES IS VOID WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW and is subject to applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations.
Twice during the Philly Sweepstakes Period, and once after the Philly Sweepstakes End Date, the Sponsor will randomly select the winners. Winners will be selected from all eligible entries received at the time of the drawing. Drawings for the prizes will occur as follows:
 Drawing #1: Based on entries received through April 30, 2012
 Two (2) first prize winners
 Five (5) second prize winners
Drawing #1 winners will be announced by May 20, 2012.
 Drawing #2: Based on entries received through May 31, 2012
 Two (2) first prize winners
 Five (5) second prize winners
Drawing #2 winners will be announced by June 20, 2012.
 Grand Prize Drawing: Based on entries received through June 30, 2012
 One (1) grand prize winner
 Six (6) first prize winners
 Ten (10) second prize winners
Grand Prize winners will be announced by July 20, 2012.
The winners for the Philly Sweepstakes will be notified by e-mail using the information provided when the participant entered the Philly Sweepstakes. Such notification shall include instructions for proper acceptance of the prizes by the winners. In the event a winner does not accept a prize, a winner is ineligible, or the prize or prize notification is not deliverable, an alternate winner may
be selected. The Sponsor is not responsible for and shall not be liable for late, lost, misdirected or unsuccessful efforts to notify a winner. The winners agree to Sponsor’s use of their name, address, likeness, and/or prize information for promotional purposes in any medium without additional compensation to the extent permitted by law. Where lawful, the winners may be required to sign and return an Affidavit of Eligibility, Release of Liability, and Publicity Release (the “Release”). If the winner is a minor, the Release must be completed by the minor’s parent or legal guardian. Upon a Sweepstakes entry being selected, all other entries submitted by that
participant shall be disqualified for any further prizes other than the Grand Prize.
5. CONDITIONS: The Sponsor, and its respective agents, directors, officers, shareholders, employees, insurers, servants, parents, subsidiaries, divisions, affiliates, predecessors, successors, representatives, advertising, promotion, and fulfillment agencies, and legal advisors (the “Released Entities”), are not responsible for, shall not be liable for, and hereby disclaim all liability arising from or relating to: (i) late, lost, delayed, damaged, misdirected, misaddressed, incomplete, or unintelligible entries; (ii) telephone, electronic, hardware or software program, network, Internet, computer or other malfunctions, failures, or difficulties of any kind, whether human or technical; (iii) failed, incomplete, garbled, or delayed computer or e-mail transmissions; (iv) any condition caused by events beyond the control of the Sponsor; (v) any injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising in connection with or as a result of any prize, or any portion thereof that may have been awarded, or acceptance, possession, or use of any prize, or any portion thereof that may have been awarded, or from participation in the Sweepstakes; or (vi) any printing or typographical errors in any materials associated with the Sweepstakes. The Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to suspend, modify or cancel the Sweepstakes or any component of the Sweepstakes should any unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond the Sponsor’s control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In the event that proper administration of the Sweepstakes is prevented by such causes as contemplated above, the Sponsor will pick the winners from all eligible, non-suspect entries received prior to such action. By participating in the Sweepstakes, participants and winners agree to release, discharge and hold harmless the Released Entities, and all others associated with the development and execution of the Sweepstakes, from any and all losses, damages, rights, claims and actions of any kind arising out of or relating to the Sweepstakes, participation in the Sweepstakes, any prize, or any portion thereof that may have been awarded, and/or acceptance, possession, use or misuse of any prize, or any portion thereof that may have been awarded, including but not limited to statutory and common law claims for misappropriation or participant’s right of publicity. This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes, participants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York, New York.
6. WINNERS LIST: To obtain the first name, last initial, city and state of the Philly Sweepstakes winners after the Philly Sweepstakes End Date, send a separate self-addressed, stamped envelope marked “Philly Recycling Rewards Sweepstakes Winners List” to the
Sponsor. Requests for the winners list must be received no later than ninety (90) days from the Sweepstakes End Date (residents of Vermont and Washington need not include return postage).

7. SPONSOR: Recyclebank LLC
Philly Sweepstakes
95 Morton Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10014
8. NOTICE: The Sponsor reserves the right to prosecute and seek damages against any individual who attempts to deliberately undermine the proper operation of the Sweepstakes in violation of these Official Rules and/or criminal and/or civil law.

Copyright © 2011 Recyclebank, LLC. All rights reserved. Recyclebank and the associated logos are trademarks of Recyclebank, LLC. Any other trademarks in these Official Rules are used for prize identification purposes ONLY and are the properties of their respective owners.

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