Racial Justice

Graphic Novel Spotlights 

Black Wealth Before 1921 

Tulsa Massacre

By Lily Bohlke
Producer / PNS

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - (PNS) - 8/21/2021 - A graphic novel illustrated by a University of Illinois professor aims to serve as a primer for young people to learn about the history of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, often known as Black Wall Street, destroyed by a white mob in 1921.

    It's called "Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre," by Alverne Ball of Joliet.

    Stacey Robinson, assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, illustrated the book. He said it is about the destruction, but also the rebuilding, of the city, and the survivors that to this day are still seeking justice.

    "The weight of this subject matter is balanced by very beautiful, very opulent colors, and there's joy in the book as well," Robinson remarked. "American history did not happen in black and white; it did not happen in sepia tones. I wanted the audience to feel this Black beauty, to feel the opulence of this town."

    Survivors and descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre are calling on the JusticeDepartment to launch an investigation and help find the mass graves of hundreds of Black residents who were killed. They said they do not trust local and state officials to handle the remains with compassion, or to meaningfully investigate the deaths.

    Robinson noted in Tulsa before 1921, it is said dollars circulated more than 20 times before leaving the Black community, which is a key component of wealth-building. He argued kids and teens should be aware of the history to help understand the racial wealth gap that exists today. The net worth of the average white family is ten times more than the average Black family.

    "If you know Black Panther, there's the nation of Wakanda, right? Well, Black people have had our Wakandas, we've had our Black liberated, autonomous spaces," Robinson explained. "And when we have these spaces, they are destroyed because we are Black and affluent."

    Robinson added while the Tulsa Race Massacre is not often taught in schools, more and more people are learning about it with its 100-year anniversary. He noted the HBO series Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, set in Tulsa, are also boosting awareness, and hopes the graphic novel can serve as another entry point.

Letter Justice for Greenwood 08/13/2021
Wealth gap report Brookings Institution 02/27/2020

Story credit: Public News Service.

Medicare Fraud

 Company Owner Indicted for 

$784 Million Health Care 

Fraud Scheme

     (DOJ) - 8/16/2021 - A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned a superseding indictment on Aug. 10 charging a Florida owner of multiple telemedicine companies with orchestrating a health care fraud and illegal kickback scheme that involved the submission of over $784 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. This is one of the largest Medicare fraud schemes ever charged by the Justice Department. The superseding indictment also charges the defendant with concealing and disguising the proceeds of the scheme in order to avoid paying income taxes.  

    Creaghan Harry, 53, of Highland Beach, Florida, is charged in the superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and four counts of income tax evasion. Harry previously was charged in an indictment along with co-conspirators Lester Stockett and Elliot Loewenstern with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive kickbacks, four counts of receipt of kickbacks, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Stockett and Loewenstern previously pleaded guilty. If convicted, Harry faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for the conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, five years’ imprisonment on each count of tax evasion, five years’ imprisonment for the conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive kickbacks, 10 years’ imprisonment for each count of receipt of kickbacks, and 20 years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy to commit money laundering.  

    A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

    According to allegations in the superseding indictment, Harry and his co-conspirators solicited illegal kickbacks and bribes from durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers and marketers in exchange for orders for DME braces and medications. Harry’s telemedicine companies then allegedly paid physicians to write medically unnecessary orders for these braces and medications. Harry’s telemedicine companies provided orders to DME suppliers that fraudulently billed Medicare over $784 million. Medicare ended up paying over $247 million. 

    In order to conceal and disguise the health care fraud and illegal kickback scheme, the superseding indictment alleges, Harry directed DME suppliers and marketers not to directly pay his telemedicine companies and instead to pay shell companies that had been opened in the names of straw owners in the United States and foreign countries, such as the Dominican Republic. Harry then transferred the funds from the shell companies to his telemedicine companies in order to pay physicians to write the unnecessary orders.

    The superseding indictment alleges that Harry falsely claimed to prospective investors, lawyers and others that his telemedicine companies had not received any kickbacks. Harry instead falsely represented that the telemedicine companies had been receiving revenue of “about $10 million per year” from fees paid by patients to receive telemedicine services, when in fact the revenue of the telemedicine companies was derived from illegal kickbacks and bribes.

    The superseding indictment further alleges that Harry committed income tax evasion in the calendar years between 2015 and 2018 by receiving the proceeds of the illegal scheme in the accounts of shell companies belonging to nominee owners and using those proceeds to live a lavish lifestyle. Harry did not file an income tax return or pay taxes on this income. 

    Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig for the District of New Jersey; Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch of the FBI’s Newark Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez of IRS-Criminal Investigations, Newark, made the announcement.

    HHS-OIG, the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigations are investigating the case.

    Assistant Chief Jacob Foster of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section’s National Rapid Response Strike Force and Trial Attorney Darren Halverson of the Newark Strike Force are prosecuting the case.

    The Fraud Section leads the Health Care Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 federal districts, has charged more than 4,600 defendants who have collectively billed federal health care programs and private insurers for approximately $23 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers. 

    The Fraud Section uses the Victim Notification System (VNS) to provide victims with case information and updates related to this case. Victims with questions may contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Assistance Unit by calling the Victim Assistance phone line at 1-888-549-3945 or by emailing Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov. To learn more about victims’ rights, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/victim-rights-derechos-de-las-v-ctimas.  

    An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Law and Justice


Former DEA Special Agent

Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison

     (DOJ) - 8/15-2021 - A former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent was sentenced on Aug. 12 to 160 months in prison for nine crimes related to official misconduct, including perjury, obstruction of justice, and theft.

    According to court documents, Chad Allan Scott, 53, of Covington, Louisiana, perjured himself and directed others to commit perjury to obtain a conviction against an alleged drug dealer. He also falsified forms so that he could take possession of a truck bought for him by a drug dealer. When he and two other law enforcement officers began to worry that they would be investigated, Scott and the others conspired to throw evidence of their wrongdoing into the swamps outside New Orleans. Scott also stole money and possessions from defendants his DEA group had arrested. Scott was found guilty in August 2019 and June 2021 after his case was severed into two separate federal trials by Federal District Court Judge Milazzo.

    “Chad Scott took an oath to serve his community with integrity, but rather than use his badge to protect his community, he used it to break the law,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “This goes against everything that the Drug Enforcement Administration stands for. Scott betrayed the very people he was entrusted to protect and today he is being held accountable for his crimes.”

    The case was initially investigated by the Louisiana State Police and later by the FBI, DEA Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and DOJ-OIG.

    Assistant Deputy Chief Timothy A. Duree of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Charles A. Miracle of the Justice Department’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section prosecuted the case.

    “While he was a law enforcement agent, Scott compromised cases and conspired to steal from the people he arrested,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas B. Bruce of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) Denver Field Office. “His actions were antithetical to the oath he swore to uphold. Now, he will rightly serve time for his many crimes.”

Economic Analysis

House Price Index Shows Decline 

In Affordability for 

Third Month in a Row

    SANTA ANA, Calif. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 8/12/2021 - First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, released the May 2021 First American Real House Price Index (RHPI) on July 27. The RHPI measures the price changes of single-family properties throughout the U.S. adjusted for the impact of income and interest rate changes on consumer house-buying power over time at national, state and metropolitan area levels. Because the RHPI adjusts for house-buying power, it also serves as a measure of housing affordability.

Chief Economist Analysis: Record Nominal House Price Appreciation Outpaces House-Buying Power Growth in May

    “Housing affordability declined on a year-over-year basis for the third month in a row in May, following a two-year streak of rising affordability,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “The decline in May occurred even as two of the three key drivers of the Real House Price Index (RHPI), household income and mortgage rates, swung in favor of greater affordability relative to one year ago.

    “House-buying power increased by 8 percent in May compared with a year ago, propelled by lower mortgage rates and higher household income. The affordability gains from house-buying power, however, were offset by the third component of the RHPI, nominal house price appreciation, which reached a record 18 percent in May, surpassing the previous peak from 2005,” said Fleming. “As always, real estate is local and national affordability trends are not necessarily reflected in local trends, as house-buying power and nominal house price gains vary greatly from city to city.”

Affordability Declined in 49 of the 50 Major Markets

    “The drop in affordability was broadly felt as affordability declined year over year in 49 of the 50 markets we track,” said Fleming. “The five markets with the greatest year-over-year decline in affordability were:

  1. Phoenix (-22.7 percent)
  2. Seattle (-20.1 percent)
  3. Kansas City, Mo. (-19.6 percent)
  4. Tampa, Fla. (-17.8 percent)
  5. Las Vegas (-17.2 percent)

    “Mortgage rates are generally the same across the country, so a decline in mortgage rates boosts affordability equally in each market,” said Fleming. “Household income growth and nominal house prices, on the other hand, differ from market to market, so the affordability dynamic varies as well.

    “In May, Phoenix had the greatest year-over-year decrease in affordability. While annual income growth was steady at 1.9 percent, Phoenix experienced the biggest annual increase in nominal house prices of any major market – 29.3 percent. The steep increase in nominal house prices overshadowed any affordability gains from increased house-buying power,” said Fleming. “A similar dynamic played out in Tampa as year-over-year nominal house price appreciation of 25.6 percent outpaced house-buying power.

    “In Seattle and Las Vegas, house-buying power ticked up as the positive impact of falling mortgage rates offset a decline in household incomes. However, like Phoenix and Tampa, nominal house price growth in Seattle (20.7 percent) and Las Vegas (19.9 percent) overshadowed the house-buying power gains,” said Fleming. “Kansas City was the only one of the five markets where house-buying power declined, combining with faster house price appreciation to drive a decline in affordability.”

Where Are Nominal House Prices Headed?

    “Declining affordability may cause potential home buyers on the margin to be priced out, prompting fewer or less intense bidding wars and causing house price appreciation to moderate. The increase in housing inventory may likewise ease pressure on nominal house price growth, though the increase remains small relative to historic levels and the broader housing supply shortage is likely to take years to reverse,” said Fleming. “Affordability trends in the coming months will depend on the supply and demand dynamics behind nominal house price appreciation – dynamics which will play out differently in each market.”

May 2021 Real House Price Index Highlights

  • Real house prices increased 0.7 percent between April 2021 and May 2021.
  • Real house prices increased 8.9 percent between May 2020 and May 2021.
  • Consumer house-buying power, how much one can buy based on changes in income and interest rates, increased 1.4 percent between April 2021 and May 2021, and increased 8.4 percent year over year.
  • Median household income has increased 4.7 percent since May 2020 and 78.0 percent since January 2000.
  • Real house prices are 19.9 percent less expensive than in January 2000.
  • While unadjusted house prices are now 30.1 percent above the housing boom peak in 2006, real, house-buying power-adjusted house prices remain 43.8 percent below their 2006 housing boom peak.

May 2021 Real House Price State Highlights

  • The five states with the greatest year-over-year increase in the RHPI are: Arizona (+19.4 percent), Vermont (+17.0 percent), Washington (+16.6 percent), Nevada (+16.3 percent), and Connecticut (+15.4 percent).
  • There were no states with a year-over-year decrease in the RHPI.

May 2021 Real House Price Local Market Highlights

  • Among the Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) tracked by First American, the five markets with the greatest year-over-year increase in the RHPI are: Phoenix (+22.7 percent), Seattle (+20.1 percent), Kansas City, Mo. (+19.6 percent), Tampa, Fla. (+17.8 percent), and Las Vegas (+17.2 percent).
  • Among the Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) tracked by First American, the only market with a year-over-year decrease in the RHPI is San Francisco (-0.1 percent).

Next Release

    The next release of the First American Real House Price Index will take place the week of August 30, 2021 for June 2021 data.


First American Data & Analytics
Freddie Mac
Census Bureau


    The methodology statement for the First American Real House Price Index is available at http://www.firstam.com/economics/real-house-price-index.

Note: Original release date, July 27, 2021.

Voting Rights

Groups Urge Lawmakers to Protect,

Not Restrict, Voting Rights

By Lily Bohlke
Producer / PNS 
    INDIANAPOLIS - (PNS) - 8/4/2021 - Voting-rights advocates applauded a recent federal appeals-court decision to prevent Indiana from purging some voters from the rolls without notifying them first. However, they said there is more work to do to ensure everyone has access to a ballot.

    Two Indiana state laws, Senate Bill 442 in 2017 and Senate Bill 334 in 2020, aimed to remove a voter's registration if it appears they'd registered in another state.

    Barbara Bolling-Williams, Indiana state conference president for the NAACP, said neither held up in court, because they violated the National Voter Registration Act.

    "The federal act requires that there is contact with the voter, you know, to say, 'It appears that you're registered in Ohio, is that you? Have you moved to Ohio; are you no longer going to be registered to vote here in Indiana?'" Bolling-Williams explained.

    If a voter does not respond, officials need to give notice that the person is set to be removed from the rolls, and then wait two federal election periods.

    Bolling-Williams pointed out other policies, like same-day registration, have increased access in other states, but Indiana's voter registration period ends 30 days before Election Day.

    Legal battles around voter purges and other laws to restrict voting access, especially for historically marginalized communities, are not unique to Indiana.

    As of July 14, 18 states had passed 30 laws in 2021 alone, making it harder to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Proponents argued they are meant to prevent fraud, but Bolling-Williams countered lawmakers are not taking voters' needs into account.

    "In this climate of not wanting people to vote, basically, we understand that if everybody has an opportunity to vote, then the will of the people will reign, and not the dictatorship of a few," Bolling-Williams contended.

    Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Sen Todd Young, R-Ind., were among those who blocked federal legislation, the "For the People Act," which would have prevented many of the new, more restrictive state laws from going into effect.