- The GoFundMe campaign that raised funds to build President Donald Trump’s southern border wall began construction over memorial day weekend.
- The group behind it, We Build The Wall, said it built a half-mile-long stretch of the wall in three days.
- On Tuesday, the group said it received a cease and desist from Sunland Park, New Mexico, where the wall is being built.
- The city claims that the group did not receive proper permits, did not have a complete application, and was in violation of city ordinance.
- We Build The Wall claims they have everything they need for construction.
We Build the Wall Starts Construction
We Build The Wall, a privately funded effort to construct a wall on the southern border, was hit with a cease and desist on Tuesday after completing a half-mile of construction.
In December 2018, veteran Brian Kolfage launched a GoFundMe to raise money to build a border wall after President Donald Trump’s plans saw continuous blocks. Kolfage set a goal of one billion dollars for his project.
GoFundMe ended up offering contributors a refund after Kolfage edited his fundraising pitch to say that the funds go to a nonprofit that he founded called We Build The Wall. Still, as of now, the page has raised over 23 million dollars.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the group began construction in Sunland Park, New Mexico. On Monday, Kolfage tweeted that the first segment of the wall was nearly complete, along with a video showcasing the building process.
The wall is being built on private property, which is owned by a brick company. According to We Build The Wall, the nearly half-mile stretch that has been built cost between 6 and 8 million dollars.
Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon, who is now a chairman for We Build The Wall, told CNN that this stretch is meant to connect two separate sections of existing fencing. CNN, however, says they were unable to verify this claim.
Cease and Desist Ordered
On Tuesday, We Build The Wall ran into complications with construction when the City of Sunland Park issued a cease and desist against them. The city claims that the group did not have proper permits to build and says that their construction did not comply with city ordinance.
Sunland Park’s mayor, Javier Perea said that the city was denied access to the site on Thursday. The city then received an application for the wall’s construction on Friday. However, he says those documents were not approved before building.
“The staff has been reviewing those particular documents and have determined that at this point it is incomplete,” Perea said in a press conference on Tuesday. “And that construction on the wall at this point is in violation of city ordinance.”
Mayor Perea also added that the group did not submit a site plan or survey to the city and says that this wall exceeds the six-foot limit Sunland Park allows on wall construction.
New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham released a statement to the New York Times, criticizing the need for a privately-built wall.
“To act as though throwing up a small section of wall on private land does anything to effectively secure our southern border from human- and drug-trafficking or address the humanitarian needs of the asylum seekers and local communities receiving them — that’s nonsense,” she said. “It takes us farther away from where we all need to be.”
We Build the Wall Responds
We Build The Wall, however, maintains that despite Mayor Perea’s claims, they have followed city rules.
“We Build The Wall has done everything they need to do to be in compliance with all regulations,” they said in a statement to ABC-7 in El Paso.
We’ve had members from Sunland Park city government out to inspect the site and to witness the first concrete pour. We believe this is a last ditch effort to intimidate us from completing this historic project by a local government with a long history of corruption problems.”
Kolfage also took to Twitter to express his frustrations with the cease and desist. He claimed the city had already green-lighted the project.
He then accused the city of having involvement with drug cartels, and brought up the Sunland Park’s history with corruption.
He also claimed that his legal team knew more about city ordinances than the mayor and said that the Trump Administration called The International Boundary and Water Commission to authorize building.
Meanwhile, the donations have continued to pour in. According to Kolfage, the GoFundMe page saw a million dollars in donations in just 24 hours.
Mayor Perea has addressed the accusations of local government corruption by acknowledging the city’s past.
“Yes, there was corruption in the past in the city of Sunland Park, but we maintain clean audits with the city of Sunland Park,” he said to ABC-7. “That image is a whole lot different than it was, six or seven years ago.”
Mayor Perea says that the next step is for this situation to be turned over the courts.
See what others are saying: (ABC-7) (Washington Post) (CNN)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.