Morning Press: Identity theft, sheriff retiring, Rip City

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Identity theft on the rise in Clark County

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Clark County sheriff’s Detective Tom Mitchum said he isn’t surprised that identity theft increased by nearly one-third from 2012 to 2013 in the county and in Vancouver.

It’s too easy these days to fall victim, he said. “Technology has a grip on everybody’s identity.”

As those fraud and forgery crimes increase, property and violent crimes are trending downward in the county, according to crime data compiled by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Experts predict there will be more financial crimes as the world becomes more wireless and criminals get better at data mining and hacking. It’s also easier emotionally to steal from someone you can’t see, Clark County sheriff’s Detective Kevin Harper said. To a criminal finding financial information online, the person they’re stealing from is just a number.

These days, criminals scour websites for personal information, such as names, addresses and Social Security numbers. They can purchase credit card information for a couple of bucks online and use the information to set up accounts in the cardholder’s name, Mitchum said.

Criminals also still manage to steal personal information the old-fashioned way, by swiping a purse from a car or intercepting someone’s mail. Armed with someone else’s name, address and stolen credit card, they can set up online accounts to make purchases. Often, an identity theft victim doesn’t even realize they’re a victim until they get a call later on from a financial institution about an out-of-character purchase made in their name.

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Sheriff Lucas won't seek re-election

photoClark County Sheriff Garry Lucas says he's withheld requests for additional budget expenditures for his department for the past six years as the county dealt with austere budget times. The expectation, he says, is that commissioners would pony up for public safety once money became available. Now he says he's done waiting.

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Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas announced Wednesday night that he plans to retire at the end of his term.

“There’s a time and a place for everything, and this is it for me,” Lucas said in an interview with The Columbian. “I’ve always been proud to be associated with my organization and the people I work with.”

Lucas, a 70-year-old Republican, is serving his sixth four-year term as Clark County sheriff. He made the announcement before a crowd at Kiggins Theatre during a live filming of Hello Vancouver!, a community talk show hosted by Temple Lentz.

Whether Lucas would seek re-election this year was a big question in the race for his seat, which has drawn four candidates so far.

The four who have announced their candidacies ahead of the May filing deadline are: former sheriff’s office commanders Chuck Atkins and John Graser, both running as Republicans; sheriff’s Sgt. Shane Gardner, who is running as a nonpartisan candidate; and former deputy Ed Owens, an independent. Democrat Timothy Shotwell has withdrawn from the race and is endorsing Gardner.

First elected in 1990, Lucas, a Vancouver resident, is one of the longest-serving elected officials in Clark County. He joined the department in 1968 and worked his way up through several ranks before taking the helm.

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Illegal tree-cutting could prompt hefty fine

photoAn official with the city of Vancouver said the man illegally removed several trees near his home to enhance the view.

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A Vancouver man could face thousands of dollars in penalties after illegally cutting a large swath of trees on a slope near his home.

The city last week received a complaint about an illegal tree removal that happened early this month, said Urban Forester Charles Ray. A site visit determined that 16 large trees were cut, plus “a lot more saplings,” he said. Officials soon learned that Bill Patterson, who lives nearby but doesn’t own the land, was the one who cleared it.

The reason?

“View enhancement,” Ray said.

While the city is still weighing possible penalties, Patterson said he does accept responsibility for the cutting. He considers relationships with neighbors, property owners and the city to be of “utmost importance,” he said.

“We’re working with the city and the property owner to resolve (those) issues,” Patterson said, declining to comment further.

The affected area covers about 15,000 square feet immediately south of Cedar Street, on the steep bank above East Fifth Street. The felled trees were simply left in a heap where they lay.

The city is still completing its investigation, and could decide on possible penalties within a week or two, Ray said.

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Treasurer accused of stealing $800K from Vancouver Masons

photoPortraits of past Masters of the Masons hang inside Vancouver's main Masonic lodge in 2008. The treasurer for the Vancouver Masonic Temple faces charges of stealing nearly $800,000 from the social and charitable organization.

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The treasurer for the Vancouver Masonic Temple faces charges of stealing nearly $800,000 from the social and charitable organization.

Jesten Jay Galland III, 47, appeared in court Monday to face accusations that over the course of six years, he used the organization’s account to write checks to himself and his company, Jay Galland Consulting, totaling $798,202.25.

Judge Robert Lewis found probable cause for charges against Galland: four counts of first-degree theft, 209 of second-degree theft and 15 of forgery.

David Daily, a board member for the temple, first noticed the theft in March after discovering that the organization hadn’t paid its property taxes, according to documents filed in Clark County Superior Court.

Daily then found that as of December, the organization’s Edward Jones investment account balance was zero, down from its highest balance in December 2006 of $1,295,819.62, according to court documents.

Further investigation found financial reports submitted to the board of trustees with false financial information in which “Galland intentionally fabricated the account balance on the Treasurer’s report,” according to court documents.

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Micah Rice: Everyman strikes back in Boston

photoColumbian Sport Editor Micah Rice ran the Boston Marathon on Monday in Boston.

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BOSTON — One year ago, riding the shock waves of the Boston Marathon bombings, good will rippled across the world.

Monday, that camaraderie and compassion returned to its source. The world converged on Boston to take back that race with a show of strength and love.

Monday was my fourth consecutive year running the Boston Marathon. Last year was still fresh in my mind, and the poignancy of visiting the bombing sites Sunday was impossible to prepare for.

Thankfully, I was nowhere near the finish line when the bombs exploded. But you didn’t have to be nearby or even in the city to be affected by those attacks.

Instead of targeting the elite runners, the explosions harmed those in the middle of the pack. It was an attack on the Everyman.

Monday, it was the Everyman who struck back against hatred and violence.

Like a runner easing into a race, scattered spectators generally ease into a throng as the route runs its 26-mile eastward course into the city.

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Rip City fever

photoPortland Trail Blazers' Wesley Matthews (2) tries to drive past Houston Rockets' James Harden during the first half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Sunday in Houston.

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The Blazers take on the Rockets in Game 4 of their NBA playoff series Sunday. Reporter Erik Gundersen provides analysis on the Blazer Banter blog.