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Tri-County News
Kimball, Minnesota
December 24, 2009     Tri-County News
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December 24, 2009

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Thursday, December 24, 2009 Community Page 7 Tri-County News * Kimball, MN Thompson found guilty of attemPted first-degree murder Hometown Heroes Jerry Lee Thompson, DOB 2/24/59, was con- victed Thursday, Dec. LZ of three counts of lttempted first-degree uurder, kidnapping, nil first-degree bur- ;lary, as well as other elony assault charges involving three sepa- rate victims arising out Jf a domestic violence ncident in Fairhaven Township ug. 5, 2008. Thompson waived his right to a jury trial and the case was heard by the Honor- able Vicki Landwehr. Judge Landwehr also found that the exis- tence of several aggra- vating factors had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, including commis- sion of the crimes in the presence of children, use of a firearm to commit the crimes, and the particularly serious man- ner in which the crimes were com- mitted. Aggravating factors can be used to increase an offender&apos;s sen- tence beyond the standard sen- tence authorized by the Minne- sota Sentencing Guidelines. Thompson will be sentenced March 25, 2010, at 10:30 a.m. before Judge Landwehr. The state will seek an aggravated upward departure sentence. Arrest, confiscation includes $500,000 of marijuana A two-month long investigation into the importation and dis- Eribution of high-grade marijuana from the restern United States Io the central Minne- sota region concluded Eoday with the arrest of ru Van ]?ran, age 48, of Waite Park. Authorities siezed more than half a million dollars in marijuana from a storage unit in Sartell. Over the previous two months, investigators of the Central Min- nesota Drug and Gang Task Force worked on tips and information provided by the Montana Highway Patrol and other sources which identified a residence in Tri County Mobile Home Park of Waite Park involved in the wholesale distribu- tion of marijuana. Investigators gath- ered informationwhich led to a search war- rant at a storage facil- ity in Sartell. They exe- cuted the search war- rant on Dec. 15, where they seized 146 pounds of marijuana. Central Minnesota Drug and Gang Task Force offi- cials report that high-grade mari- juana buds such as were seized in this case, sell for between $3,800 and $4,000 per pound. A subse- quent search warrant at a resi- dence in the Tri County Mobile Home Park, in Waite Park, yielded more than $22,000 in cash along with an SKS assault rifle and a loaded semi-automatic handgun. The marijuana, which was indi- vidually packaged in one-pound vacuum-sealed bags, is believed to originate from Canada. The investigation was con- ducted by the Central Minnesota Drug and Gang Task Force with the assistance of the Sartell, Sank Rap- ids and Waite Park Police Depart- ments. Tu Van Tran was arrested at his place of employment and is cur- rently held in the Stearns County Jail awaiting an initial appearance for first-degree controlled sub- stance sales; which holds a maxi- mum penalty of 30 years in prison and/or up to a $1,000,000 fine. Visa, FTC and BBB partner to educate consumers about online scams Twenty-nine percent of online U.S. consumers victimized by deceptive marketing Last week, the Better Busi- ness Bureau (BBB) joined Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) and the Federal Trade Commission in a press conference to alert consumers to deceptive online marketing practices asso- ciated with free trials with a nega- tive option feature. According to a Visa survey, 29 percent of American consumers have fallen victim to deceptive marketing when unscru- pulous e-commerce merchants require them to cancel or opt-out of a recurring charge for future prod- ucts or services. With free trials with a nega- tive option feature, a company takes a consumer's failure to can- cel as permission to begin charg- ing. While many merchants use this billing process appropriately, oth- ers pre-check consent boxes, bury the details of the offers in the terms and conditions and make cancella- tions or returns difficult, catching consumers in a cycle of recurring charges for products and services they do not want. "Most e-commerce merchants care about their customers and conduct business fairly, but even a few bad actors can cause consumer distrust," said William M. Sheedy, Group President, "The Americas, Visa Inc. "We want to let consum- ers know more about the protec- tions they have against these types of practices and how to pursue a reversal of charges if they've been charged improperly." Visa monitors its payment net- work to identify merchants with excessive levels of cardholder dis- putes which may indicate the use of deceptive marketing practices. In fact, merchants who use decep- tive marketing practices have up to 20 times as many consumer dis- putes as the average e-commerce merchant. Visa requires the mer- chant and its bank to take correc- tive action to reduce excessive con- sumer disputes, or risk termination of Visa acceptance privileges. According to the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, consumers should research businesses before making their purchases. "Free trials sound harm- less enough, but when it comes to online shopping, too many cus- tomers have discovered signing up for these "free" offers leads to unexpected monthly charges and unwanted headaches," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. "Consumers need to under- stand that by clicking on these pro- motions they may be agreeing to an arrangement wherein their credit or debit card will be charged on an ongoing basis, unless they cancel before the trial period ends." Cus- tomers should always check the company's Reliability Report with the Better Business Bureau before giving out their debit or credit card numbers. Visa, the FTC and the BBB offers tips to online shoppers on how to spot deceptive free trial offers and deceptive negative option features, and how to deal with unauthorized charges: Take time to read and under- stand all terms and conditions, so a free trial doesn't turn into a costly purchase you didn't intend to make. Pay particular attention to any pre-checked boxes before you sub- mit your payment card information for an order. Failing to un-check the boxes may bind you to terms and conditions you're not interested in. Review card statements when you get them for any unauthorized charges, and notify the card issuer promptly of any unusual activity or unauthorized charges. Try to resolve the situation with the merchant. If you're unsuccess- ful, contact the card issuer immedi- ately to dispute the charge. David Vladeck, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection said, "Online shoppers: If you see charges on your statement or deb- its that you didn't authorize, fight it. Start by contacting the merchant. If you are unable to contact the mer- chant or they can't or won't help, call your card issuer and then file a complaint with the FTC. You can do that online at <>, or by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELE" The FTC has outlined five prin- ciples regarding the appropriate use of negative options, which call for: Disclosing material terms in an understandable manner, without making them unnecessarily long or inconsistent; Making tl disclosures clear and conspicuous by placing them where consumers are likely to look on Web pages, by labeling disclo- sures (and links to them) to indi- cate their importance and rele- vance, and by using easy-to-read fonts and colors; Disclosing the offer's material terms before the consumer incurs a financial obligation; Getting consumers' affirmative consent to the offer by, for exam- ple, having them click"I Agree" And without relying on pre-checked boxes; Not impeding the effective operation of promised cancellation procedures and honoring cancella- tion requests that comply with such procedures. Consumers who think they've been victims of deceptive mar- keting and who haven't been able to resolve the issue directly with the merchant should call their card issuer to dispute the charge. They also may report their experi- ences to the FTC at < complaint>, or their local BBB at <>. More informa- tion is available at <www. visa.corn negativeoption>. A new feature of the Tri-County News Volunteer emergency responders Picture this, if you will. It's 11:25 p.m. on a Thursday night. It's been a long, hard week with snow and blizzard conditions earlier in the week, and bitterly cold temper- atures ever since. It's about 6 below (and dropping) tonight. Dinner is long done. The kids' homework is done, and they've been asleep for a couple of hours now. You're bundled up in your jammies for the night, catching a little late-night television before falling asleep. You've finally warmed up after being out in the weather today, and the thought of bedtime starts to dominate the part of your brain that's still con- scious. Then your pager goes off. A structure fire off of Highway 55. Maybe a house, maybe a shed; the dispatcher doesn't specify. You shift into automatic mode, and you're dressed, in your car, and headed up the road toward the fire hall in about a minute and a half. (Did I mention that it's 6 below?) You might be out for an hour, or it may take until dawn. Like so many other communi- ties, Kimball is blessed to have 30 volunteer firefighters, men and women who are willing to tem- porarily stop their regular lives in order to put out fires, assist in car accidents, and aid those who are in medical emergencies. No matter what they're doing, and no matter what time of day or night. When the county dispatch call comes, these volunteers usually don't know the names of those they will be helping. Sometimes they do. What goes through their minds when they're called for medical assistance to someone they know? What happens when they're called to help unknown victims, and one turns out to be a friend? Or someone they had a fierce argument earlier that week? These are questions that I, not a volunteer firefighter, have the lux- ury to ponder. Anyone can volunteer for a local fire and rescue department. There will be requirements to live or work in the service area, or within so many minutes of the fire hall. There are, of course, physical abil- ity requirements. And then there's training. A full year of training before you can work a fire on the front line, without constant super- vision, and a good two years before you're considered ready. And then there's continuing training - on equipment, procedures, situations - at monthly meetings. All this for a yearly check of $8 an hour for calls answered. But these volunteers don't serve 20 years or more for the pay. They do it, in part, for a pension they're eligible for after meeting those requirements. But mainly they do it for their communities. Because they Can. And because it's the right thing to do. Volunteer fire departments are funded by the communities (cities and townships) they serve. They may receive money from th) state. They hold fundraisers for build- ings and equipment, and some- times they receive grants. But they would be nothing without the doz- ens of volunteers who are willing to interrupt their workdays and family time to help their friends, neighbors, and strangers - in the cold, heat, blizzards, swamps, wind, rain, and dead of night. I've gone out and taken pho- tos of the Kimball, Watkins, and South Haven volunteers at fires in the middle of the night, car acci- dents in the middle of the work- day, and several in-between. The best photo ops are those at train- ing exercises, practice-burning down houses or responding to a pretend trainwreck or other emer- gency. These are great opportu- nities to see and photograph our hometown heroes doing their jobs, but without any real victims. I photograph our hometown heroes in action whenever pos- sible, to honor their service and sacrifice. I have to be careful, and respectful, at emergency scenes. It's sometimes disturbing, and sometimes a relief that the call was for nothing serious. But I don't always go. I didn't go out that cold Decem- ber evening to photograph Kim- ball firefighters putting out a house fire. For one thing, I was comfy and settled in for the evening. It was, after all, 6 degrees below. But there were two more important reasons: my cameras don't take good pic- tures in the dark, and they would quickly fail (and probably break) in the bitter cold; and respond- ing to a fire along the highway in the middle of the night could be potentially dangerous, both for me and emergency personnel. So, the next time you hear sirens, I encourage you to say two quick prayers: one for help, calm and success for the victim(s) of the emergency, and the other a prayer of thanks for the emergency responders. Where would we be without these selfless volunteers? We don't even want to think about it! If you are interested in joining a volunteer fire and rescue depart- ment, you can find more informa- tion on-line at <www.volunteerFD. org>. Then contact your local fire chief to see when there may be openings. Jean Doran Matua, Editor Now offering MigraSpray Dr. GaryVerbovanec WATKINS Chiropractic Clinic 320-764-3000 Central Avenue Watkins