Former Roanoke woman sentenced for SML mortgage fraud

Gavel-Court-LegalLYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) _ A former Roanoke woman has been sentenced to eight years in prison for operating a Smith Mountain Lake mortgage fraud scheme. Susanne Helbig, who now lives in Georgia, also was ordered to repay $10.5 million to the banks she defrauded and pay nearly $180,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. The 50-year-old Helbig pleaded to one count of mortgage fraud conspiracy and one count of tax fraud in October. She was sentenced Friday in U.S. District  Court in Lynchburg. According to the indictment, Helbig and others submitted false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and settlement statements in the name of straw purchasers. Helbig kept the loan proceeds for her own purposes.

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With closure looming, postal workers hold out hope Roanoke processing center can remain open

US Postal ServiceThe union representing workers at Roanoke’s mail processing facility continue to hold out hope it can remain open past July, but as things stand, all first-class mail to and from Roanoke will head through Greensboro by late summer. Roanoke processing employees got the official timetable this week, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports.

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Lawmakers approve new subpoena powers against child porn suspects

General-AssemblyThe General Assembly has passed a bill permitting new law enforcement measures as part of investigations into many sex crimes — notably child pornography. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones.

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General Assembly sinks effort to change boating safety course age requirement

General-AssemblyThe House of Delegates has turned back efforts to change a boating safety law that was passed after several fatalities on Smith Mountain Lake. At issue is a proposed age limit for taking boater safety courses, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports.

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Dominion, Apco customers both set electricity usage record

Winter-Weather-WFIRDominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power both say low temperatures over the past week led its customers to set a record for electricity usage. Appalachian Power Spokesperson Teresa Hamilton Hall says the utility set its unofficial all-time peak by supplying 8,697 megawatt hours of electricity Friday morning. Dominion officials say their usage also reached a peak at 8:00 Friday, a morning of countless record lows for the date and, in Lynchburg‘s case, the lowest temperature ever recorded.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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The long-term cost of an oil derailment: CSX to pay $380,000 to Va. – and that’s not all

CSX Oil Train Derailment FireIt’s been almost ten months since the fiery train derailment in Lynchburg, and the CSX Railroad’s resulting responsibilities are far from over. The Department of Environmental Quality says CSX will pay about $380,000 in fines and costs, and as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports, that does not include continued cleanup and monitoring.

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Click here to read the entire proposed consent order

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Heading to the governor: bill to apply photo ID law to more absentee voters

General-AssemblyA bill that would change Virginia’s voter photo ID law is now headed to Governor McAuliffe’s desk. Right now, anyone voting in person or applying in person for an absentee ballot must show a photo ID. As WFIR’s Evan Jones reports, the bill would require more people applying to vote absentee by mail to also submit a photocopy of their ID.

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Falls lead the way among current ER cases, but doctors warn on dangers of extreme cold

Winter-Weather-WFIRLocal emergency rooms and urgent care centers report plenty of patients coming in from falls, with broken wrists among the largest number of cases.¬† They report relatively few cases so far directly connected to the record-breaking temperatures, but doctors say you need to take precautions when heading out this morning. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story.

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Winter-Weather-WFIRWhen the temperatures go way down, the demands on home furnaces and heat pumps go way up — and older ones in particular are more likely to fail. Experts say the one thing you can do more than any other to reduce your chances of a service call are to simply turn your thermostat down three to five degrees. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story.

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When temperatures go way down, the numbers at shelters go way up

Rescue-MissionWith frigid temperatures on the way the next two mornings, shelters like the Roanoke Rescue Mission expect to serve more people than normal. The Mission typically has about 300 people staying overnight this time of year, but the number this week has been closed to 350, and it may be even greater the next two nights, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports.

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