Police raided a storeroom near St. Peter’s Square and seized a cache of Vatican souvenirs and trinkets including flags, bracelets, and key rings bearing Pope Francis’ image. The souvenirs, numbering some 340,000, were confiscated because they were counterfeit, Rome’s financial police said in a statement May 2.
Christian Ventisette was stopped at Madrid airport after an international arrest warrant was issued for the French-Italian businessman, Italy’s financial police said Feb. 24. Ventisette is accused of scamming more than 250 investors out of around 30 million euros ($33 million) in an international operation involving an Argentine priest. The retired cleric, the Rev. Patrizio Benvenuti, was put under house arrest in Italy earlier this month. He previously worked at a Vatican tribunal and currently has residency in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the west coast of Africa.
Fraud is a strong word. Webster's defines fraud as deceit and trickery, and an "intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another person to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right." Fraud is a serious matter.
The word "fraud" is on billboards around Ohio. I started noticing this a few weeks ago, when I was driving through a working class African American community in Cleveland and noticed a billboard that read: "Voter Fraud is a Felony: 3 1/2 years & $10,000 fine."
The red-and-black sign is accented by a large gavel in the lower right hand corner. A few days later, I noticed a similar billboard in Dayton, and late last week saw two such billboards near my home in urban Cincinnati. In an election season that has seen more jockeying around voter fraud and voter suppression than any in my memory, these billboards caught my eye.
Voter fraud sure sounds horrible, and based on these billboards in Ohio, one would imagine that it is an epidemic. After all, one of the hallmarks of American democracy is our fair and free elections.
But the billboards quickly created dissonance for me based on a recent meeting I and other pastors from Ohio Prophetic Voices enjoyed with Ohio Secretary of State John Husted. During the meeting, Husted told us that voter fraud is extremely rare and almost nonexistent. Statistics back up Husted's contention.
Florida governor Rick Scott says he won't take the federal money that would enable Medicaid to be expanded in his state, The Nation's blog reports:
"Nearly 1 million Floridians will be denied access to Medicaid they would have otherwise received under the Affordable Care Act if Governor Rick Scott gets his way. The Supreme Court ruling last week on the law made it easier for states to opt out of an expansion, and Sunday night the governor’s office e-mailed a statement from Scott that 'since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.'”
This choice is particularly ironic, given that Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s: that company was found to have defrauded Medicare on his watch. Eventually the company pled guilty to 14 felonies and paid fines of $1.7 billion. Scott denied knowing what was going on when he was in charge of the company. As the Miami Herald reported:
"He has denied knowing frauds were taking place while he was there, and he was never charged with any crimes.
"However, federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal -- specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001."
While awaiting sentencing for defrauding investors with a $65 billion Ponzi scheme, Bernard Madoff has undergone what friends and family are describing as a jailhouse conversion that has given him new hope despite the near certainty of life imprisonment.