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September 19, 2016 - State Highway 7 West was the scene of a three-vehicle crash Friday, September 16, 2016 which resulted in injuries for several involved and the arrest of one driver.

When emergency personnel first arrived on scene just east of FM 2913, vehicles were in two different locations at a distance from one another with injured parties reported at both ends of the crash. While West Shelby Volunteer Firemen provided traffic control with other passersby, Center Fire Department firemen were on scene working to extricate one driver from a vehicle as they assisted ACE EMS.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Taylor Buster, at 2:20pm a blue 2003 Ford Expedition driven by Mario Garza-Cuatio, 33, of Nacogdoches was westbound on State Highway 7 in the inside lane. Garza-Cuatio crossed the double yellow line into the eastbound side and struck a white 2013 Ford F-150 driven by Monte Griffith, 47, of Center in its front.

This caused the F-150 to slide sideways into the westbound traffic lanes where it struck a maroon 2003 Ford Explorer driven by Kelley Nicole Fountain, 21, of Center who was traveling with a 5-month-old female and 1-year-old male passenger.

Fountain's Explorer rolled over and came to rest on its top in the westbound ditch, trapping Fountain. Garza-Cuatio's Explorer was disabled by the crash and came to rest back on the westbound side of the roadway in a ditch.

Fountain and her passengers were transported by ACE EMS to a hospital in Nacogdoches for treatment. Griffith refused treatment at the scene and was later taken by private vehicle to a hospital.

Garza-Cuatio was examined by ambulance personnel and upon being cleared by EMS failed a sobriety test given by DPS. Garza-Cuatio was arrested and the scene and was charged with intoxication assault, no driver's license and driving on wrong side of roadway no passing zone. He was then booked into the Shelby County Jail.

DPS Trooper Keith Jones assisted Trooper Buster at the scene with his investigation.

September 16, 2016 - The Center Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire on Pecan Street in Center when city workers discovered the burning building September 16, 2016 at around 5:10pm.

When the firemen arrived at 521 Pecan Street, the structure was fully involved. City workers were trying to prevent the fire from spreading by the use of a nearby water hose.

Once the firemen were on scene they made short work of the blaze, which had reached several nearby trees, and prevented the fire from reaching the house.

"It appears the structure had been burning for some time, it was already almost on the ground. We extinguished the fire, called SWEPCO. They found an electrical problem in the breaker box and I requested for the city electrical inspector to come out to see if the meter needs to be pulled or just red tag the box that appeared to have a problem," said Keith Byndom, Center Fire Chief.

The homeowner was not at the residence at the time of the fire.

September 16, 2016 AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced the arrest of 25 suspected child predators following a joint operation led by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU) and assisted by the attorney general’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit (FAU).

Over a three day period, the sting operation targeted adults in southeast Harris County who used the Internet and social media to solicit minors. Twenty-five suspects were apprehended after traveling to locations where they expected sex with a child. According to authorities, several persons arrived armed, and one man showed up with his 2-year-old son.

“This effort demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of law enforcement when it works together to crack down on child predators,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I commend everyone involved in the operation who helped identify and capture the predators before they could victimize children in Texas or elsewhere.”

Eight members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force joined the HTCU and FAU in the operation: the Houston Police Department, Katy ISD Police Department, Deer Park Police Department, Department of Homeland Security, Harris County Precinct 1 Constables Office, Waller County District Attorney’s Office, Webster Police Department, and Cypress Creek EMS.

To view the list of the 25 individuals charged with online solicitation of a minor click here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/HTCU_Chat_Operation_Mug_Shots.pdf?cachebuster:16

Attorney General Paxton urges all parents to talk to their children about Internet safety, especially on social media, where the majority of child predators lurk for victims. For more information on cyber safety, please visit https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cj/cyber-safety.

September 15, 2016 - Thanks to a Louisiana couple traveling down US 84 outside of Tenaha, 911 was alerted to a single-vehicle crash involving a mother and her 2-year-old child Thursday, September 15, 2016, 4 tenths of a mile west of Ramah Church.

According to Department of Public Safety (DPS) State Trooper Austin Lunsford, a blue Chevrolet Cobalt LT was traveling east on US Highway 84 and failed to drive in a single lane. The car ran off the roadway to the right striking a culvert and became airborne where it flipped a couple of times before coming to rest upside down hidden in a wooded area.

Yellow arrow indicates where the car stuck the culvert and the green arrow indicates where the car entered the wooded area.The driver of the car, Kelly Diedrich, 26 of Tenaha, was able to exit the vehicle along with her son and make their way through the underbrush to the highway where a couple traveling on US 84 pulled over to assist them. Both were transported to East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) in Carthage by ACE EMS. The child appeared to be unharmed at the scene but was transported with the mother who had visible minor injuries.

The yellow arrow shows were the car entered and the green arrow indicates where the car came to rest on the other side of the bushes and small trees.

Diedrich was very thankful of the Louisiana couple who stopped and rendered aid along with another woman who also stopped. Both assisted with caring for the toddler during the emergency situation.

Tenaha City Marshal Jimmy Wagstaff assisted the wrecker who was in need of a chainsaw in order to remove the vehicle along with Tenaha Volunteer Fireman Matt Barton. DPS State Trooper Jesse Fountain and Sergeant Robert Shugart also arrived on scene.

September 15, 2016 - TYLER, Texas – A 65-year-old Dallas County, Texas, physician, has been resentenced to federal prison for health care fraud and identity theft violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.

In July 2014, Tariq Mahmood, of Cedar Hill, Texas, was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, seven counts of health care fraud, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft following a four-day trial before U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider. Mahmood had been indicted by a federal grand jury on April 11, 2013.

According to information presented in court, Mahmood, a general practitioner, owned and operated several hospitals in the state of Texas, including Cozby Germany Hospital in Grand Saline, Renaissance Terrell Hospital in Terrell, Central Texas Hospital in Cameron, Community General Hospital in Dilley, and Lake Whitney Medical Center in Whitney.  From January 2010 to April 2013, Mahmood and others carried out a scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid through the submission of false and fraudulent claims.  Mahmood and others added, changed, and incorrectly sequenced diagnostic codes in a way that did not reflect the actual diagnoses and conditions of the patients and often did so without reviewing the medical records. They submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid based on the added, changed, and incorrectly sequenced diagnostic codes. Mahmood and others also unlawfully used Medicare beneficiaries’ names and Medicare numbers in order to commit health care fraud.

Following his appeal, Mahmood was resentenced to 135 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $145,358.23 to Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

The case was investigated by the Texas Office of the Attorney General – Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld and Frank Coan and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken McGurk.

Any individuals with knowledge of these or other health care fraud violations are encouraged to contact the Department of Health and Human Services’ fraud hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (447-8477)

September 15, 2016 - The Huxley Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a house fire on CR 2016 just before 9am Thursday, September 15, 2016.

When the firemen arrived at the residence of Felecia Gardner, the house was already burned mostly to the ground, and they requested the assistance of the Shelbyville Fire Department (SVFD). The Huxley firemen worked to prevent the flames from traveling into nearby woods and also requested the assistance of the Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department (JVFD) in applying foam to the building.

Once the JVFD arrived on scene, HVFD and SVFD winched the roof off the building so the JVFD could apply foam to what remained of the structure.

Gerald Huddleston, Huxley Director of City Operations (City Manager), responded with the firemen to help fight the house fire. His willingness to help the firemen and active participation well outside of the city limits of Huxley was well noted on scene.

The house was a total loss and no known cause was reported at the time of the fire.

September 14, 2016 - The Center Fire Department was dispatched to a house fire located behind the old Pilgrim's Pride Hatchery on Santa Fe Street in Center at 5:16am September 14, 2016.

When the firemen arrived, the house was engulfed in flames. Two vehicles beside the building received heat damage as a result of being so close to the house.

The firemen extinguished the flames to the house, which was a total loss, and returned to the station at 7:25am. A contractor working for Pilgrim's Pride was using the house as an office space and employees were parking the vehicles there while they were working.

Firemen were dispatched back to the scene of the fire at 3:50pm on the same day when it was reported the fire rekindled. The firemen searched for hot spots and extinguished them.

September 14, 2016 - Center Police Department received information on September 13, 2016, that suspect Anthony Letroy James had fled to Shreveport, LA. James was wanted for Aggravated Sexual Assault (x2), Aggravated Assault and Unlawful Restraint in connection with an incident that had occurred in Center on September 11, 2016.

Center Police Department contacted the United States Marshall Service in Shreveport for help with locating the suspect. The suspect was apprehended and transported to the Caddo Parish Correctional Facility.

The Center Police Department would like to thank the U.S. Marshall's Service with their assistance in capturing this wanted fugitive.

Center Police Department
Detective Sgt. Nicole Faulkner

Related story:
Center PD Seeking Aggravated Sexual Assault Suspect's Whereabouts

September 14, 2016 - UPDATE: The Boil water notice has been lifted that was issued for part of Sand Hills Water Supply customers on September 8, 2016.

This boil notice is only for Sand Hills Water Supply customers that were out of water on September 8th, 2016.

Due to a water line break, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has required our water System, Sand Hills Water Supply, to notify customers of the need to boil water prior to consumption. To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and making ice should be boiled and cooled prior to use. The water should be brought to a vigorous, rolling boil and boiled for 2 minutes. In lieu of boiling,you may purchase bottled water or obtain water from some other suitable source. When it is no longer to boil water, the water system officials will notify you that the water is safe for consumption. Instructions to discontinue boiling will be issued in the same manner as this notice. If you have any questions you may call Derek at 936-332-7683.

Photo by Denise Mathews

September 9, 2016 - The Center Fire Department was dispatched to a mobile home on fire off Waterhouse Road September 9, 2016.

When firemen arrived at the residence of LaQuita Watt at 2135 Waterhouse Lot #5, the fire was fully involved, as well as a Ford SUV parked at the front of the house.

No one was reported to have been injured as a result of the fire. A cause of the fire is not known at this time.

Photo by Denise Mathews

Photo by Denise Mathews

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