News in brief

Posted: April 27, 2012

Murder charges filed in fatal Tacony crash

A Rhawnhurst man was charged in a fatal accident that killed two people Thursday morning in Northeast Philadelphia, police said.

George Vidra, 26, of the 7800 block of Lorna Drive, was driving a red Chevrolet Camaro that ran a stop sign and crashed into a silver Kia at Ditman and Disston Streets in Tacony, police said. The Kia exploded in flames, and its two occupants, a 26-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man, were pronounced dead at the scene. Their names were not released Thursday night.

Vidra was charged with driving under the influence and two counts each of homicide by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while DUI, murder, and related crimes, police said.

— Peter Mucha

2d group of Occupy protesters acquitted

For the second time this year, a group of Occupy Philadelphia protesters walked out of court free and clear after a Philadelphia judge on Thursday dismissed all charges.

“I feel like this is a good day for the First Amendment,” Dustin Slaughter, 32, said after leaving the Criminal Justice Center. The freelance journalist and photographer was one of 30 defendants charged with obstruction of a highway, failure to disperse, and conspiracy stemming from a protest sparked when police forced the Occupiers from their Dilworth Plaza encampment Nov. 30.

After hearing from the lone prosecution witness, Police Capt. William Fisher, watching video of the protest, and hearing arguments from lawyers on both sides, Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons concluded that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to bring their case to a jury and declared a judgment of acquittal. The same ruling was handed down Feb. 23 when 10 other Occupy protesters were tried for blocking traffic outside Police Headquarters.

Two more groups of Occupy protesters will be tried in June on similar charges for protests at a Wells Fargo Bank branch and at the Center City headquarters of Comcast.

— Mensah M. Dean

Neshaminy teachers union reelects Boyd

Louise Boyd, president of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers for the last 10 years, won reelection Thursday to head the 650-member union for another term.

Boyd defeated Chuck Deal, while Marian Reed won the treasurer position over Peggy Gale. Elected as vice presidents were Jeff Dunkley, Anne Schmidt, Mary Cwiklinski, Jared Katz, and Paul Notwick. They defeated challengers Joe Bodri and Jason Leigh.

The two-year terms begin July 1. — Bill Reed

Burlco woman gets prison for student loan fraud

La’Vada Cruse, 25, of Browns Mills, was sentenced Thursday to more than five years in prison in connection with the fraudulent submission of more than 90 student loan applications seeking over $1.7 million. She was granted 17 of the loans and collected more than $192,000, prosecutors said.

Cruse applied for the loans between 2003 and 2007 using her name and the identities and Social Security numbers of unwitting family members, she previously admitted in federal court in Camden. She claimed to be a full-time college student and included fake enrollment letters and biographies, employment letters, and financial information. When the applications were approved, banks cut her checks for as much as $22,000.

Cruse pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, two counts of tax evasion, and one of aggravated identity theft. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle sentenced Cruse to five years of supervised release and ordered her to pay restitution of $136,403.

— Sam Wood

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