Quick reads: Georgia gun-running, lottery scams, foreclosure fraud in the news

By Lois Norder, ajc.com Staff Writer

A former Atlanta police officer helped run a lottery scam that targeted elderly people in the U.S., and now he is heading to federal prison. Dominic Hugh Smith of Douglasville conspired with others to call elderly victims to tell them they had won jackpots in a Jamaican lottery and persuaded them to pay advance fees before receiving their winnings, the Justice Department said. Then Smith, who also once worked as a Transportation Security Administration agent in the Atlanta metro area, pocketed his split of the money. The 27-year-old drew a 27-month sentence.

If you’re keeping count, a 10th Atlanta-area real estate investor has copped a plea to rigging foreclosure auctions. Trent Gaines admitted he conspired with others not to bid against one another at Fulton and DeKalb foreclosure auctions.

The latest Georgia gun-running case was the peg for an L.A. Times examination of the “Iron Pipeline” – the corridor favored by smugglers taking guns from the South to New York. Prosecutors said that straw buyers purchased more than 100 guns in Atlanta, then Michael Bassier took a low-cost interstate bus to take them to New York City. A secret recording caught him bragging about the haul. “I’ve got MAC-10s on me, an SK assault rifle and four handguns and I’m walking through New York,” he said in a recorded phone call, according to prosecutors. Meanwhile, another gun sting was announced Tuesday in New York, also pegged to the Iron Pipeline. Six men who sold weapons to undercover cops were arrested in and around the Harlem area.

Three months after Georgia ended its $5,000 subsidy for buyers of electric cars, sales have plunged, according to Watchdog.org. If you’ve noticed a lot of new Teslas or Leafs on the road, it’s probably because buyers rushed to buy them before July 1, when the subsidy ended, and since then sales plunged. State lawmakers pulled the plug on the subsidy in April, saying it would save Georgia $125 million a year, the AJC reported earlier this year.

022215 nuke priceWho’s responsible for cost overruns at Plant Vogtle? Contractors had sued Georgia Power, saying they were owed money for additional expenses. Georgia Power had counter-sued. Now, co-owners of the nuclear power plant have settled with all claims with contractors over construction costs. The settlement means that Georgia Power will pay about $350 million, while co-owner Oglethorpe Power says its share will be about $230 million. The deal means Westinghouse will be the sold contractor for the construction. In news releases, Georgia Power said that including the settlement, customers will see less than a 1 percent increase in rates until the project is complete.

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