Smyrna Police arrest 3, seek 6 in fake online rental scam, sending money to Nigeria

By DJ McAneny 6:04pm, July 31, 2015 - Updated 12:43pm, August 1, 2015
Clockwise, top left: Verna Nowell, Ronald D. Miles Jr., Chase Madden, and Cory A. Bynaker/Courtesy Smyrna Police
An investigation into fraudulent rental practices that began in November 2014 has resulted in three arrests and six arrest warrants being issued for suspects relating to the case, Smyrna Police announced Friday afternoon.

According to police, a report was made in November of 2014by a resident claiming a possible rental theft scam involving town resident Verna Nowell, 63, of the 300 block of Peach Circle.

According to police, the victim responded to an ad on an online property site, where they allegedly began corresponding with Verna Nowell and eventually sent her a check.

While Nowell initially attempted to convince police her identity had been stolen and she'd received no check, police said in January 2015, they were contacted by a Texas resident stating his home was listed on on that same online site as being available for rent--when it was, in fact, not--and through contacting the poster of the rental, he was requested to send $2,300 to a Smyrna, Delaware, resident.

The victim came to terms with the person claiming to be the property owner, and once he'd received an address where the poster wanted the money sent, he passed along that information to police.

Authorities consequently arrested Dustin C. Brennan, 21, of Fairfield Drive in Smyrna (no photo available), based off of this information, and charged him with attempted theft by false pretense.

Authorities said they then linked Brennan's actions to Nowell's previous actions and launched a full-scale, in-depth investigation. during this time, police agencies from "as far away as California and Illinois" began contacting Smyrna authorities, reporting they had victims in those states.

More than 35 victims have been identified since the beginnins of the investigation, police said, and more than $150,231.12 has changed hands by the parties involved.

Clockwise, top left: Barbara McBride, Shirley Watson, Ronald D. Miles Sr., Kimberly Draper/Courtesy Smyrna Police

Click to interact

Police have since also identified the following members operating within the scam hierarchy:
  • Ronald D. Miles Jr., of Smyrna
  • Chase Madden, of Townsend (Nowell's grandson)
  • Barbara McBride, of Smyrna
  • Cory Bynaker, of Smyrna
  • Kimberly Draper, of Clayton
  • Shirley Watson, of Townsend
  • Ronald D. Miles Sr., of Smyrna


  • Police said their investigation unraveled an operation in which Nowell had agreed to send money to subjects residing in Lagos, Nigeria, that she'd met on internet dating websites. She agreed to forward these individuals money via Western Union and MoneyGram after taking a portion of the proceeds which she was receiving from other people via the alleged rental scam.

    Police said the Nigerian suspects would produce the ads and that Nowell had simply agreed to receive the incoming funds, keep a portion, and forward the rest.

    After being flagged by Western Union and MoneyGram for suspicious activity, Nowell then brought in additional associates and family members to assist with the money transfers.

    She was arrested Friday, and charged with racketeering, money laundering, theft-$1,500 or greater, second-degree conspiracy, and falsely reporting an incident in police. She was released after posting a $28,000 secured bail.

    Also on Friday, Ronald D. Miles Jr., 21, of the unit block of West Commerce Street, was arrested and charged with money laundering, theft-$1,500 or greater, and second-degree conspiracy. He was committed to James T. Vaughn Correctional in lieu of $14,000 secured bail.

    Active warrants on the charges money laundering, theft-$1,500 or greater, and second-degree conspiracy are pending for the remaining individuals.


    Wilmington man, 18, charged with 1st-degree murder after being caught in NYC in victim's car

    By DJ McAneny 5:01pm, July 31, 2015
    Taushia Mitchell/Courtesy Wilmington Police
    An 18-year-old Wilmington man has been charged in connection to the July 23, 2015, homicide of a 29-year-old man in the city's Quaker Hill neighborhood, city police announced Friday.

    According to Wilmington Police, Taushia Mitchell was arrested in New York City driving the car of James Rodgers, of Wilmington, who was shot in a home in the 500 block of West 4th Street.

    While held in New York on charges relating to the theft of Rodgers' vehicle, Mitchell was charged with first-degree murder Friday.

    Police charged Mitchell following an investigation that included Wilmington Police, the Delaware Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

    Mitchell is expected to be extradited from New York back to Delaware sometime next week, police said.


    Two children referred for counseling after playing with matches sparks house fire

    By Frank Gerace 1:24pm, August 1, 2015 - Updated 2:09pm, August 1, 2015
    Two children were referred for counseling after a fire damaged a house in Wilmington Friday night.

    City fire crews arrived at 1506 West 7th Street shortly after 6:30 to find smoke and flames coming from the house's rear deck.

    There was heavy smoke inside the house as well, and firefighters had the blaze under control in about 20 minutes.

    Witnesses told investigators two children, ages 9 and 3, were seen playing with matches under the deck, igniting a baby mattress that had been stored there.

    Damage to the house is estimated at 7,000 dollars.

    The children were referred to the fire department's Juvenile Fire Setter program.


    Claymont shooting leaves man hospitalized

    By Frank Gerace 1:24pm, August 1, 2015
    A 20-year-old man was hospitalized after a shooting in Claymont, and police are looking for whoever pulled the trigger.

    County Police said officers responding to a report of shots fired at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Mansion Drive around 6:50 p.m. Friday found the victim, who'd been shot in the leg.

    County Paramedics treated him at the scene and he was taken to Christiana Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

    There's no suspect information at this point, and police are asking anyone who may know something about the shooting to call (302) 573.2800 or visit the department's website at www.nccpd.com.

    Tipsters may also call Crime Stoppers at (800) TIP.3333 or visit the New Castle County Police Department Facebook page.


    Motorcycle-vs-car crash kills Felton man

    By Frank Gerace 1:24pm, August 1, 2015 - Updated 1:32pm, August 1, 2015
    A Felton man is dead after his motorcycle hit a car near Dover Friday afternoon.

    State Police said 21-year-old Tyler Pack turned left onto State Route 10 from southbound US 113 around 1 p.m. and hit a car near the ramp for State Route 1.

    Pack was thrown from the bike onto the road, and paramedics took him to Kent General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

    The driver of the car wasn't hurt.

    Police were still investigating the crash, which closed the westbound lanes of State Route 10 at the scene for about 2 and a half hours.


    TEDx event hosted at Delaware women's prison aimed at promoting 'second chances'

    By Tom Lehman 6:04pm, July 31, 2015 - Updated 7:08pm, July 31, 2015
    VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
    The Baylor Women's Correctional Institution hosted a TEDx Talks Conference near New Castle on Friday focused on second chances, especially for those with criminal histories who hope to rejoin society following their release from prison.

    The series of talks featured members of various organizations and inmates themselves, who talked about their experiences with overcoming challenges and failure. For some of the speakers, those difficulties included addiction or trauma suffered from abuse that affected their lives.

    "They were trying to deal with all those challenges on the street and in dangerous environments and they ended up being arrested and in here," Delaware Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe said. "Our goal is to create a sanctuary for them, a safe place."

    Ajit George, the organizer of the TEDxWilmingtonSalon event, said he believes it helped show inmates who were in attendance that they have value as a person and will continue to after their release.

    "It's about recognizing that in addition to have an eight-digit number when they come in that they are still people," he said.

    "That sends a message to the ladies here that you know what, 'people do care about you on the outside," he said.

    Second Lady Jill Biden and daughter Ashley Biden, the executive director of the Delaware Center for Criminal Justice, also attended the event. The Vice President's wife introduced herself and shook hands with several inmates following the first half of the conference.

    ---

    You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.




    Wilmington ranks 3rd by Entrepreneurship Magazine among 'best small' cities for small businesses

    By Tom Lehman 6:24pm, July 31, 2015 - Updated 12:43pm, August 1, 2015
    A publication has recently named Wilmington one of the best small cities when it comes to providing a positive environment for small businesses to thrive.

    Click here to listen



    Entrepreneurship Magazine ranked Wilmington third in its list of 463 cities with populations between 50,000 and 100,000 people for conditions that are conducive for smaller firms and startups.

    The publication pointed to the geographic location of Delaware's largest city and connection to cities like Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia through transit options and the Interstate system as a major reason for why Wilmington is viable for small businesses.

    "That I think is a huge advantage, having access to some of these markets while also being able to keep your expenses lower," Wilmington Economic Development Director Jeff Flynn said.

    Flynn also said the city offers easy access to stakeholders and politicians along with infrastructure resources that can help startups grow.

    "The business community is well-networked and we have a very good fiber optics backbone here in the state and in the city," he said.

    ---

    You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.




    DSP: Pickup driver may be charged after crash that critically injured passenger

    By Frank Gerace 1:24pm, August 1, 2015
    State Police said charges may be pending against a Bear-area man after a crash that critically injured the passenger in his pickup truck.

    Police said the driver of the pickup was speeding northbound on Route 13 near Marsh Branch Road north of Greenwood around 4:40 Friday afternoon when the truck ran off the road.

    It hit a "one way" sign and a mailbox before traveling back onto the road and into the center median, hitting an embankment and rolling over several times.

    The driver and passenger, neither of whom were wearing seatbelts, were thrown from the truck.

    The passenger, 44-year-old Donald Woods of Newark, was flown to Christiana Hospital, where he's in critical condition.

    Police said the driver, who was treated and released from Milford Memorial Hospital, could be charged in connection with the crash, which closed Route 13 in both directions at the scene for about 2 hours.


    Glasgow crash sends 5 to hospital

    By DJ McAneny 4:48pm, July 31, 2015
    The scene of the crash/(Mike Phillips/WDEL)
    A two-vehicle accident on the edge of Glasgow sent five people to the hospital Friday afternoon.

    WDEL's Mike Phillips reports Delaware State Police are already on scene investigating the incident.

    None of the injuries was classified as life threatening, officials told Phillips, but one individual was trapped for a period.


    Pedestrian hit along I-95

    By Frank Gerace 1:24pm, August 1, 2015 - Updated 1:53pm, August 1, 2015
    County Paramedics said a 59-year-old pedestrian suffered a leg injury when he was hit by a car on I-95 at the Routes 1 and 7 interchange.

    Crews found the man around 7:20 p.m. Friday.

    He was treated at the scene and taken to Christiana Hospital, where he's in serious condition.

    State Police are investigating.


    Hartley man charged with exposing himself to Hartley elementary school, daycare employees

    By DJ McAneny 3:43pm, July 31, 2015
    Brandon M. Tucker/Courtesy Delaware State Police
    An 18-year-old Hartley man was charged with exposing himself at a local daycare and elementary school earlier in July, Delaware State Police announced Friday.

    Police identified Brandon M. Tucker, of the 1300 block of Crystal Road, as the man who exposed himself to a Hartley Elementary School employee on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, at 4:40 p.m.

    Police said the employee was cutting the grass at the school property when a red, two-door vehicle pulled over on the shoulder across from her and Tucker, who was driving and wearing no pants, opened the door and began "touching himself in an inappropriate manner."

    The school was not in session and no children were present at the time of the incident.

    On multiple occasions between July 15 and July 22, 2015, Tucker was allegedly spotted at the Hartley Family Learning Center.

    He was observed once pulling into the lot, opening his door, pulling his pants down to his knees and exposing himself to an employee, following the woman as she left the property in her own vehicle before he drove off in another direction, police said.

    In another instance, he was allegedly spotted by a different employee when he pulled into the lot of the daycare and parked next to the employee's car, following her for a time as she left the lot before driving off in a different direction.

    Tucker was taken into custody on July 28, 2015, and charged with two counts second-degree indecent exposure, two counts of lewdness, and five counts of third-degree criminal trespass. He was released on a $3,050 unsecured bond following arraignment.

    Anyone who believes they may have further information regarding Tucker's activities is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.741.2810.


    Police: Dover mom whipped child with extension cord

    By Amy Cherry 2:39pm, July 31, 2015 - Updated 2:54pm, July 31, 2015
    Nivea Brown/Courtesy Dover Police
    A mother was arrested after she whipped her child with an extension cord, Dover Police said.

    Dover Police handcuffed 28-year-old Nivia Brown outside a residence Monday after a family member complained about the child's injuries to the Delaware Department of Services for Child, Youth, and their Families.

    Police said Brown whipped her 6-year-old daughter because she would not listen to her.

    Brown has been charged with second-degree assault and child endangerment. She was released on unsecured bond after being arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 7


    Final member of Delaware child porn exchanging ring sentenced to 22 years in prison

    By DJ McAneny 10:56am, July 31, 2015
    A prison sentence of nearly 22 years--and a life term of supervised release--was passed down from a federal judge Thursday for a New Castle man convicted of receiving child pornography.

    Officials announced the 262-month federal sentence for 58-year-old Rogelio "Roger" Cordero, who has now been convicted for the second time on charges against a minor and pled guilty to the current charges in March of this year.

    In 1992, Cordero was convicted in Delaware for sexually abusing a pair of female juveniles over the course of 18 months. Then, he was sentenced to 18 years in state prison followed by five years probation. During that time, he was also ordered to undergo 85 months of sex offender treatment.

    Released in December of 2006, Cordero's current conviction on child porn charges involved crimes committed during his probationary period. He came to the attention of the Delaware Child Predator Task Force while authorities began, in October 2012, investigating two other Delaware child sex offenders.

    An AOL user, subsequently identified as Cordero, was transmitting numerous emails containing child pornography using AOL's email services, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped off the task force to the activity. On December 20, 2012, officers executed a search warrant at Cordero's New

    Castle residence, and found devices ranging across the digital spectrum containing child pornography, predominantly featuring prepubescent and adolescent children, including a thumb drive passed through snail-mail containing explicit images, and a pen camera cordero had used to film a child changing clothes.

    Police also discovered at this time that Cordero had been trading child pornography with David Pennington, another registered sex offender whom Cordero had met while both were incarcerated in the Smyrna Correctional Institution on child sex offense charges.

    Pennington's Georgetown residence was raided later that same December day, where evidence of the thumb drive mailings and hand-written correspondence containing child sex abuse stories was recovered. Pennington, at this time, also informed police about a third member of the child pron-sharing group, William Zimmerman, who was also a register sex offender living in Georgetown.

    Zimmerman's residence was searched on January 8, 2013, and hundreds of images of child pornography featuring children from infancy to mid-teens being posed or engaging in sexual acts with adult males were discovered there on several pieces of computer equipment.

    Pennington, then 70, was sentenced to 28 years in Delaware state prison on October 11, 2013. Zimmerman, then 64, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on April 22, 2014. Cordero's conviction is the third and final conviction to bring the case to a close.


    Newest Family Court Chief Judge sworn-in at New Castle County Courthouse

    By DJ McAneny 2:54pm, July 31, 2015
    Hon. Michael K. Newell/Courtesy Delaware.gov
    Newest Chief Judge of the Family Court Honorable Michael K. Newell was formally sworn in at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington Friday for his first term filling the position.

    Newell, a Hockessin resident, has been a judge with the family court system since 2004. He was head of the Family Law Department at Connolly, Bove, Lodge & Hutz, LLP, prior to that.

    From 1978 to 1981, he served as executive assistant to Hon. Robert D. Thompson, who was, at the time, Chief Judge of the Family Court.

    A graduate of the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Arts degree obtained in 1975, Newell received a Master of Science degree from Northeastern University in 1976 and a law degree from Widener University Delaware Law School in 1981, passing the Delaware Bar in 1992.


    Delaware State Police investigating crash involving motorcycle near Dover

    By DJ McAneny 2:18pm, July 31, 2015
    A serious crash involving a motorcycle just outside Dover near the Dover Air Force Base has a road closed while police investigate.

    According to Delaware State Police, the crash between a vehicle and a motorcycle occurred in the area of East Lebanon Road and Pine Cabin Road at approximately 1:04 p.m. on Friday, July 31, 2015.

    The westbound lanes of East Lebanon Road are closed while the Delaware State Police Reconstruction Unit investigates. Delays in the area should be expected.


    Television stolen from Dover home in broad daylight

    By DJ McAneny 11:18am, July 31, 2015
    Police are investigating the theft of a 46" television from a Dover home sometime during work hours Thursday.

    According to Dover Police, an unknown suspect broke into a home in the unit block of North Governors Avenue and removed the Emerson-brand television sometime between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on July 30, 2015.

    Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact Dover authorities at 302.736.7111 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


    Dover Downs cut twice as many jobs as expected

    By Associated Press 11:48am, July 31, 2015
    Dover Downs Hotel and Casino said it eliminated four dozen jobs over the last three months--that's twice the number the company had planned to make.

    Chief Executive Officer Denis McGlynn announced the cuts Thursday during Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment's earnings release, The News Journal reported.

    McGlynn said the additional 24 job cuts resulted from a decline in business stemming from the casino's recent decision to close table game operations during early weekday mornings.

    Dover Downs had eliminated 24 positions in the first quarter of 2015.

    The 72 jobs eliminated this year represents 4.9 percent of the casino and hotel's total workforce as of Jan. 1.

    Casino executives have said additional cuts would be needed if the General Assembly failed to reduce the taxes collected on Delaware's three casinos.




    Delaware appeals court allows prison lawsuit to continue

    By Associated Press 11:50am, July 31, 2015
    A prison/WDEL file
    A federal appeals court said a Delaware prison inmate can continue to pursue a lawsuit challenging conditions of his confinement.

    The appeals court ruled this week that a federal judge in Wilmington improperly dismissed Donald Parkell's claims that officials failed to protect him from prison violence and to ensure his proper medical care.

    The appeal court said Parkell should be given the chance to amend his lawsuit before a determination is made on whether he has stated valid claims against corrections commissioner Robert Coupe and the warden of Howard Young prison.

    Parkell claims he was severely beaten by several other inmates after trying to stand up for weaker inmates who were crowded together with gang members and other violent offenders in a prison wing with insufficient space, food and supplies.


    Rehoboth Beach Police investigate carjacking, attempted robbery

    By Mark Fowser 5:45pm, July 31, 2015
    Rehoboth Beach Police are investigating a carjacking on Rehoboth Avenue.

    It happened outside the Starbucks at 5:00 a.m.

    Police said a Maryland man was walking to his car on Fourth Street when two young men with what he said appeared to be guns, demanded the keys to his Toyota Prius.

    Police said one of the suspects hopped into the victim's car and sped off while the other suspect fled on foot.

    Police said they believe the same two men and a third man tried to rob the 7-11 just 10 minutes before the carjacking. The men got away with nothing.


    Small Business Administration launches Kent County Tubman Byway in Camden

    By Joe Irizarry 5:51pm, July 31, 2015
    The Harriet Tubman Byway Initiative was launched in Kent County Friday by the Small Business Administration of Delaware.

    The byway, in Camden, is a route marking some of Harriet Tubman's whereabouts as she freed slaves from Maryland into Delaware.

    The initiative is a pilot program by SBA that brings small businesses together to offer deals and jointly promote incentives to travelers and tourists.

    SBA Delaware Deputy District Director John Banks says the initiative will also feature coupons redeemable at participating businesses.

    "What better way to direct tourism than to circle historical sites all up and down the byway and by the way bringing opportunities to the businesses that support the areas," Banks said.

    In March, the SBA unveiled New Castle County's byway in Southbridge as part of a Wilmington revitalization effort.


    Most Recent Stories