Monthly Archives: February 2012

Welfare Abuse Reaction & Blocking ATM Transactions

These state-issued welfare debit cards can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash....even in strip clubs.

Often when covering polarizing issues like welfare abuse, I’ll get emails from people who feel passionately about the subject.

I like to think my report proved to be objective when I get criticized by people who would disagree with each other:

One viewer said I didn’t focus enough on welfare recipients while another said I was too tough.

I’m glad my report has people talking.

In the mean time, I want to share with you this letter (see below) that was sent out to “prohibited” businesses.

Colorado’s Health and Human Services Department asked Chase Bank (which handles welfare Colorado Quest cards) to send letters to all liquor stores, casinos and bingo halls asking them to block welfare transactions on their property.

The letters were not sent to strip clubs because under Colorado law, strip clubs are NOT considered prohibited businesses.

It’s quite clear the technology exists to block Colorado Quest cards at specific cash machines.  This example is the letter sent to liquor stores:


Subject:           Restriction on the use of the State of Colorado Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card at Automated Teller Machines (ATM) located in Retail Establishments Licensed to Sell Malt, Vinous, or Spirituous Liquors

Dear Business Owner:

This letter is to request your cooperation in restricting the use of Colorado EBT Cards to withdraw cash from ATMs located in liquor stores within the state of Colorado. This effort is mandated by Colorado State Law. The Colorado Department of Human Services has requested that J.P. Morgan, as its EBT provider, work with liquor stores to restrict this access.

The State of Colorado Human Services Code 26-2-104 prohibits clients from accessing EBT cash benefits from ATMs in liquor stores:

“Clients shall not be allowed to access cash benefits through electronic benefits transfer service from automated teller machines in this state located in licensed gaming establishments as defined in section 12-47.1-103 (15), C.R.S. , in-state simulcast facilities as defined in section 12-60-102 (14), C.R.S., tracks for racing as defined in section 12-60-102 (26),C.R.S., commercial bingo facilities as defined in section 12-9-102 (2.3),C.R.S., stores or establishments in which the principal business is the sale of firearms, or retail establishments licensed  to sell malt, vinous, or spirituous liquors pursuant to part 3 of article 47 of title 12,C.R.S.”

J.P. Morgan has assigned a Project Manager, Mr. Todd McEwan, to assist you in the steps to take to block the Colorado EBT Card Bank Identification Number (BIN) on your ATM(s).

Please provide the following information to Mr. McEwan to enable him to take action with your ATM processor:

  • Number of ATMs physically located in your business location(s).
  • All ATM terminal Identification Numbers.
  • Name of the ATM owner/operator.
  • Contact information (phone number and address) of the ATM owner/operator.


If you would prefer to work with your ATM processor, please take the following steps:

  1. Contact your ATM processor.
  2. Provide your processor with the Terminal Identification Numbers for all ATMs physically located in your business.
    1. Request that your processor block Colorado EBT BIN (507681) from each ATM.
    2. Report the following information that the ATM has been blocked to Mr. McEwan for State reporting purposes:
      1. Number of ATMs physically located in your business location(s) that have been blocked.
      2. Name of the ATM owner/operator
      3. Contact information (phone number and address) of the ATM owner/operator.


(Note: I redacted the email and contact phone number of Todd McEwan to spare him from spam).

On Gabriel Trujillo and other lost children.

Gabriel Trujillo, 4, died of alleged child abuse. His grandmother faces charges.

I am not a first responder.

I am not an officer.

I am also not a paramedic.

I am not sure if I could stomach the horrors these honorable folks see up close when children are involved.

My colleagues will tell you the toughest stories to cover are always those involving the death of a child.

We often get close to families who express grief when they lose someone little and young.

We hear their wails of pain and their anger.   We sit in living rooms with them and we listen.

Sometimes they turn to us for answers.

Sometimes they want justice.

Sometimes we are able to give them a voice when there is no justice.

It’s impossible not to feel loss in our own hearts when we leave such interviews or crime scenes.  The most stoic of us can hide it well and bury it deep.

Others quickly brush it off like water and move on to the duty of the deadline so quickly, I can only wonder if they will remember what they saw and heard.

Sometimes I play this role.

But I know my colleagues remember like I remember.

I can’t count how many scenes I’ve rolled up to where a family is grieving near crime tape or where I’ve met a devastated mother or father.

Too many shootings, too many child abuse cases, too many neglect cases, too many drunk driving cases.

When I worked in Albuquerque, I remember driving around town with my wife on the weekends.

An errand to the grocery store would turn into a silent memorial in my head.  I would drive by a park, a neighborhood or a street where a little boy or girl had their last moments.

I would picture the young dead standing there, like ghosts, looking back at me.

I never knew them, but I told thousands of people about their short little life and showed their faces.

There is a small piece of them in me today because I took piece of them and I shared them.

And sadly another child has arrived and is now ingrained in my memory.

His name was Gabriel Trujillo.  He was just 4-years-old.

Today I saw his family weep….hard.

I met them a few hours after they let Gabriel succumb to death at the hospital.  The little guy was on life support for the past three days.

His maternal grandmother told police he fell off a chair, but police believe she beat him severely.

I flinch inside just picturing the crime in my head like a movie.  I can’t help it.

And like many of these horrible stories, the story of Gabriel involves a simple photograph we used to acknowledge him.

There’s nothing like the innocence of a child captured by a camera.   You can’t express it in words.  This is why we show photographs of children.

The public needs to see their little faces and remember they lived in circumstances that could have been changed and prevented.

But for many of us who share their stories, the mental memory is often so much more vivid.

To report child abuse in Colorado, call 303-866-5932.  Even it makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward to get involved, remember your discomfort is far less than what children like Gabriel may be experiencing now. 

Gabriel Trujillo, 4, died of alleged child abuse. His grandmother faces charges.

Nude photos of middle school student spread through text-messages

A page from a search warrant describing how a student's nude photo spread among students

The nude photo of a female middle school student spread like a virus among other students.

I encountered this document (see photo for narrative/page from search warrant) that describes a disturbing incident at Cresthill Middle School back in the fall.

According this search warrant, a female student sent a nude photo of herself to a boy, who in turn, sent that photo to several of his friends at the school.

Eight cell phones have been confiscated according to the warrant.

I’m not sure what has happened to the case, but it’s quite alarming.

From the investigator’s narrative:

“…..she sent nude photos of herself to a friend in [redacted] named [redacted], a former classmate of hers at Lone Tree Elementary.  …..she asked [redacted] to delete the photos and he told her that he had done so. [She] had sent the photos to [redacted] for his birthday and he apparently sent them to some friends…..”



Facebook Fury Over an Accident

When accidents happen live on air, they happen in front of thousands of people who are armed with keyboards and status updates.

Pitchforks and torches have turned into mouse clicks and furious keystrokes.

As a TV news person who does investigative work, I’ve received my share of viewer feedback on my facebook page.


What they sound like:


I don’t mean to make light of these posts….okay maybe a little because some of them I’ve been seeing lately are absurd.

But on a serious note….

Critical emails and facebook wall-posts come with the territory of working in television news.  It’s part of our jobs of working in the public eye.

We are easy targets and in this day and age, we often become digital dart boards when we end up involved with something that infuriates a segment of the audience.

Rightfully, we should be subject to scrutiny because of our line of work.   After all, we are paid to scrutinize people publicly too.

Before facebook, I remember getting hate mail….in the mail. 

About ten years ago I mispronounced the word realtor by saying real-AH -tor.

Two days later, I received a scathing, anonymous letter in the mail calling me a “bumbling idiot” because of this mispronunciation.   The letter also suggested I go work at a fast food restaurant because of my “low IQ.”

I remember laughing at that letter because it included an application to Taco Bell.   Genius.

Criticism like that can’t be taken seriously because it’s coming from someone who is making some knee-jerk assumptions.

Today viewer criticism is much more voluminous because it’s easier for people communicate.

On my facebook page a few years ago I had numerous Albuquerque firefighters flock to my wall and call me a “hack” and other not- so-glamorous names.

The firefighters were angry about a report I aired that exposed a cozy relationship between their union president and a mayor (the union president got a big city raise thanks to the mayor right after a union endorsement during an election year).

I kept the “hack” and other nasty references up on my facebook page because I believe in freedom of speech and my position as a public figure.

The name calling was seen by all of my friends and family.

One family member of mine was quite hurt and angry about the name calling I received on facebook and begged me to delete it.

I was concerned because the criticism was affecting people who had nothing to do with my reporting.

I couldn’t help but think about Kyle Dyer’s family after reading through her facebook wall.

While it’s comforting to see so much support from her fans, the harsh vitriolic stuff is hard to ignore.

I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t find some of the comments infuriating.

One woman suggested that Kyle Dyer should be “put to sleep” and asked her friends to post the same message on Kyle’s wall.

Other people have resorted to vicious name calling.

Not cool.

Nobody deserves messages like that, especially as they suffer with an injury.

So what’s the point I’m trying to raise with this blog post?

I’m not sure.

Perhaps this post is my way of trying to stand up for Kyle because she is a co-worker of mine and someone who I deeply respect.

I’ve only been here a for a few months at 9News and I can say she is awesome.  She made me feel welcome at this place during my first few days here and I feel sick at the attacks she is receiving.

While I can’t silence the cyberbullies, I do hope this post will give some insight, if anything.

It’s clear people are angry because an innocent dog was just being a dog.

Let’s not forget Kyle is just a human too.

Glitter Bomber Speaks – More Quotes

Peter Lucas Smith, 20, Glitter Bomber

On Wednesday I was able to land a brief phone interview with CU Denver student Peter Smith who is facing some misdemeanor charges for trying to glitter-bomb Mitt Romney on Tuesday.  Here’s the storyHere are some more quotes from Smith:

Why did you do it?

I was thinking about how intuitive the idea of glitter is, because it’s very visible to a camera. It is very hard to deal with at the moment, especially when cameras are rolling, and it causes no physical harm.I think it’s very useful in expressing discomfort or whatever to political candidates in a non-harmful, First-Amendment, kosher-kind of way.

Was it worth it given the fact you may face expulsion from college?

For me personally and for the people who share my political beliefs, I do believe it was worth it.  However I’m very concerned about my future, my political future, my career, my education, which I cherish more than anything else.I hope it gave some people some hope and realize that we don’t have to just sit here in a listen and feel deterred, and feel disgruntled every time we hear politicians speak.

What do you think about the charges you’re facing?

I was just trying to express my First Amendment right.  If I had malicious intent, I could understand where the charges would be warranted. But I did not. Mr. Romney did not want to press charges.  He understood it was a peaceful protest and so my life is being affected.

Any regrets?

As of now, no. I would say I don’t.  I am worried for my future, but as it goes, I’m very politically minded and I try to be very strong-headed.  I made a statement, and I don’t have any regrets at the moment.  But it’s the beginning.  It’s day one. We’ll see how it goes.