Archive for June, 2010

Military Drones Report for Civilian Law Enforcement Duty

June 30, 2010
Ned Smith
TechNewsDaily Contributor
LiveScience.com
Tue Jun 29, 4:05 pm ET

While the airborne drones flying over Iraq and Afghanistan have been receiving a lot of attention, a small army of robotic vehicles with military pedigrees is quietly reporting for duty in the civilian world: UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),

UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)

 Rice farmers in Japan have been using small unmanned helicopters to spray their rice fields for years. In the U.S., law enforcement agencies, including the Miami/Dade County Police Department, have been experimenting with the use of UAVs for surveillance purposes.

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which controls the nation’s air space, has been slow to certify unmanned operations.

“It’s not the FAA saying these things aren’t reliable, they aren’t safe, they’re not useful,” Snyder said. “It’s the FAA saying let’s make sure they are safe, let’s make sure we have the rules in place to integrate them and let’s make sure we understand the impact of integrating UAVs in the air space.”

When that day comes in the not-too-distant future, Snyder believes, the initial applications will be in the public safety arena and agricultural use.

But while driverless cars might transport humans around on the ground one day, Snyder says he can’t foresee a day when passenger airplanes fly without pilots.

“I never foresee a passenger aircraft not having a pilot in the cockpit or not having an operator in the cockpit,” Snyder said. “Part of it is human nature and part of it is that it’s going to be a long time before we have that level of confidence in the software and in the systems. But what we might see is unpiloted helicopters being used for medical evacuation in remote locations.”

‘Not in our lifetime’

Commercial pilot Patrick Smith also believes he won’t be losing his job to robotic planes anytime soon. “To compare a UAV to a commercial plane is just outrageous,” Smith, who is also author of Salon.com’s “Ask the Pilot” column. “It’s the ultimate apples and oranges comparison, at least where we are right now.”

For one thing, human are still flying UAVs – it’s just that the pilots are now on the ground, Smith said.

“There’s now this conventional wisdom that planes fly themselves and pilots are just there as monitors. The conventional wisdom is wrong,” Smith said.

But will it ever happen? “Not in our lifetime,” Smith said. “We’re not remotely close to being there.”

In addition the use of UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) and UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles) is expected to increase.

UGVs have actually been among us for a long time. One notable example is the robot the New York Police bomb squad used to help defuse a bomb in a parked van in tourist-packed Times Square. And automakers have been relentlessly working to pack more intelligence into passenger vehicles and trucks, including collision-warning systems and lane-departure warnings.

 But are there driverless vehicles in our future?

 “We’ll have optionally driven cars within 10 years … a car that is smart enough to take over if I ask it to or if it determines it needs to,” said Kyle Snyder, director of knowledge resources for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

 UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles)

 Eventually, Snyder envisions fleets of unmanned pod cars providing on-demand, door-to-door ground transportation in urban areas, along with UGV cargo systems that would send convoys of 18-wheel autonomous cargo transports from coast-to-coast nonstop. He predicts that day is not far off. It’s not the technology that’s holding us back, he said.

 “The sensors are almost there, particularly for highway type driving,” he said. “Building up the supporting infrastructure is one of the main obstacles.”

 Other potential commercial applications, especially for UGVs that move on tank-like tracks, include surveillance in remote areas, or firefighting on rough terrain or at night when firefighting aircraft can’t operate.

 For the UGV vision to succeed, vehicles need to communicate with each other and with the infrastructure itself so the vehicle knows where all the stoplights are. Insurance companies would have to get on board and governments would have to establish rules of the road and figure out how to incorporate both manned and unmanned vehicles in the same transportation ecosystem.

 The federal government has just such a system on its radar. Building the necessary infrastructure is the mission of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) IntelliDrive program, a “multimodal initiative that aims to enable safe, interoperable networked wireless communications among vehicles, the infrastructure, and passengers’ personal communications devices.”

UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles)

 The future Snyder paints is equally bright for unmanned watercraft.

 Though UUVs got a brief black eye June 23 when a deep-sea robot bumped into the cap collecting oil from BP’s disaster-plagued oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, forcing a temporary halt in leak containment, they have a long history of serving as our eyes, ears and arms below the surface of the water.

 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses UUVs to monitor scallop beds in the Atlantic Ocean to see if there are contaminants in the area and how the scallop population is faring. UUVs have also been used by several research groups to explore and photograph exotic life and volcanic activity the bottom of the sea.

 “We’re going to see more growth there and more autonomy,” Snyder said. “They are still largely being remotely operated, but you’ll see more intelligence getting plugged in.”

 Snyder envisions a fleet of UUVs mapping the ocean floor and our lakes and rivers, much as Google Maps vehicles have mapped our streets. Other applications include underwater exploration and pipeline monitoring.

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Convict Sought in Deaths of 2 Tampa Officers

June 29, 2010

By TAMARA LUSH

The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Police were searching Tuesday for the man suspected of fatally shooting two Tampa police officers during an early morning traffic stop of a car that didn’t have a visible license plate.

Law enforcement officers carry high powered weapons as the cross the road near the location where two Tampa, Fla., police officers were shot and killed during a traffic stop early Tuesday, June 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Officer David Curtis pulled over the red Toyota Camry around 2:15 a.m. and called for backup after a background check revealed the male passenger in the car was wanted on a misdemeanor charge for writing a worthless check in Jacksonville.

Tampa, Fla., police officials point to possible evidence near the location where two Tampa, Fla., police officers were shot and killed during a traffic stop early Tuesday, June 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The two officers approached the passenger side of the vehicle and six minutes later a witness called 911 to report they had been shot.

Law enforcement officials gather near the location where two Tampa, Fla., police officers were shot during a traffic stop early Tuesday, June 29, 2010. One of officers was killed. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Curtis and Officer Jeffrey Kocab, both 31, were pronounced dead at the hospital.

The woman who police believe was driving the car, 22-year-old Cortnee Nicole Brantly, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon for questioning, but she was not arrested.

Another individual described as a person of interest, Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, was still being sought by police.

Morris was released from prison in April after serving two years for cocaine possession and sales. He also served about nine months on other cocaine possession charges in 2004, according to prison records.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that in 2006, Morris was found not guilty of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, attempted robbery and possession of a short-barreled shotgun.

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Mayor Pam Iorio announced Kocab’s death at a news conference at the hospital where the officers were taken. Dozens of somber officers filled the hospital.

Kocab had been on the force for 14 months. His wife is nine months pregnant with their first child, police said.

Curtis, a father of four boys, had nearly four years with the department. He remained on life support as doctors prepared to harvest his organs at the family’s request.

“They both said how much Dave and Jeff loved being a Tampa police officer. They both said their loved ones loved going to work everyday…that it was the best job in the world,” Mayor Pam Iorio said of the officers’ families.

“It’s just been heart wrenching as the family members have said goodbye to their loved ones and then it’s been heart wrenching to see the officers and how much they respect them,” she said.

This is the region’s second incident of law enforcers being shot in less than a week. Two Polk County deputies were shot early Friday in Lakeland after stopping a man riding a bicycle. They are expected to recover.

Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report in Miami.

Charlotte City Council Honors Heroic Student

June 28, 2010
By Franco Ordonez
fordonez@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Monday, Jun. 28, 2010

 A rising sophomore at West Charlotte High will be honored by the Charlotte City Council tonight for helping save an elderly woman who had been stabbed.

 Vadahl Torrence was on his way home from band practice last summer when he saw a woman bleeding in the street. He immediately rushed over to the woman and applied pressure to her wounds. He carried her to a nearby store where the owner called 911. Officials say his quick actions may have saved her life.

 “My mom always told me to help someone if they are in need,” he told Charlotte-Mecklenburg School officials.

 Vadahl will be honored with the city’s Do The Right Thing award for his courage and bravery.

 Vadahl, who is originally from Chester, South Carolina, has lived in Charlotte one year. He is a member of West Charlotte’s drumline and chorus. He also participates in the school’s Emerging Leaders Program.

 This is not the first award for Vadahl. In October, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police presented Vadahl with a Good Samaritan award for saving the woman.

 “Vadahl did the right thing and I am very proud of him,” said Shelton Jefferies, principal of West Charlotte High School.”

High-Ranking NC State Trooper Resigns

June 26, 2010
www.newsobserver.com
BY MICHAEL BIESECKER – Staff Writer

RALEIGH — One of the highest-ranking troopers at the N.C. Highway Patrol resigned Wednesday as he was being investigated for inappropriate text messages sent to a female co-worker.

Clendenin

Maj. Everett Clendenin, a 22-year veteran of the patrol, had often served as the public face of the agency as it dealt with embarrassing revelations involving other troopers.

At a hastily called news conference Wednesday morning, Reuben Young, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said an investigation was begun last week after allegations of inappropriate conduct involving Clendenin and a woman who works for the patrol. The woman, who was not publicly identified, is married to a state trooper and is still employed by the patrol.

Clendenin, who is married, offered his resignation willingly, Young said.

“While this is an unfortunate occurrence, it is not reflective of the outstanding character and history of this great organization,” Young said, reading from a prepared statement. “We are committed to maintaining zero tolerance for inappropriate actions and will continue to work to keep the confidence and trust of the people of North Carolina.”

Clendenin served as a spokesman for the patrol for nine years, before being promoted to major and assuming new duties in March. His departure is another blow for an agency that has seen a string of incidents of misconduct.

Troopers have recently been fired for driving drunk, abusing animals and posting objectionable videos online. But most of the problems on the male-dominated force have involved troopers’ interactions with women. Since 1998, at least 30 members of the patrol have been disciplined or fired for sexual misconduct, including having sex while on duty and assaulting women during traffic stops.

Clendenin, who lives in Clayton, issued a written statement denying he had a physical relationship with the woman.

“I used poor judgment in a matter; however, I have not had a sexual relationship with a co-worker,” the former spokesman said in ane-mail message. “I apologized to Secretary Young and Col. [Randy] Glover for any embarrassment my actions have caused.”

Glover was appointed as the patrol’s commander last year by Gov. Bev Perdue, who gave him the task of cleaning up the agency. But his moral authority on the issue was soon called into question after it became known that he was disciplined early in his career for carrying on an extramarital affair with a sheriff’s department dispatcher.

At the news conference Wednesday, Young emphasized that the overwhelming majority of the 1,800 members of the highway patrol serve with honor, but that it had been made clear to the force that those caught misbehaving would lose their jobs.

Chrissy Pearson, Perdue’s spokeswoman, said that as the governor is informed of each new incident of misconduct, she talks with Young and Glover about how to address the problem behavior. As the embarrassing revelations have mounted in recent months, Pearson said those conversations have grown more frank, with the governor expressing her displeasure.

“We are at the point where the governor has spoken with them very plainly,” Pearson said. “There is some frustration.”

NC Trooper Arrested in DUI Hit & Run

June 26, 2010

Posted by privateofficernews on June 26, 2010

ASHEVILLE NC JUNE 26 2010(WTVD) — Yet another North Carolina Highway Patrol officer is in trouble.

 Department officials confirmed Friday that Trooper Timothy Scott Stiwinter was charged with drunken driving and felony hit and run after a wreck at the intersection of Airport Road and Fanning Bridge Road in Asheville Thursday evening.

A 911 call was released Friday afternoon from a citizen who witnessed the crash at an intersection near the Asheville airport.

Caller: I have a hit and run now thanks to the dumb**** that just took off.
911 operator: Ma’am?
Caller: There’s a man that.. I’m at the intersection of Airport Road and Fanning Bridge Road.. there’s an older man that.. that’s been broadsided and the guy that hit him was drunk and took off.

Apparently the man’s injuries were not life threatening. Stiwinter was not on duty and was driving his personal vehicle.

The Asheville Citizen Times reported court papers showed Stiwinter refused to take a field sobriety test and the arresting officer had to get a court order for his blood.

ABC11 has confirmed that Stiwinter was released from the Buncombe County jail Friday morning. He faces charges of DWI and hit and run.

A spokesperson for the Highway Patrol told ABC11 that Stiwinter resigned from his job Friday. He referred all questions about the accident to the Asheville Police Department.

Trooper Stiwinter started with the Patrol in 1999 and was assigned to the Troop G District 3 Hendersonville Patrol Office.

But it turns out this isn’t the first time Stiwinter’s gotten the attention of his Highway Patrol superiors. Stiwinter was on leave back in September after the ABC TV station in Ashville reported that his wife had taken out a protective order saying he threatened to put a bullet between her eyes. But his wife never pressed charges and Stiwinter stayed on with the patrol.

“It seems like it’s one thing after the other,” NCHP Spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said. “We’re gonna take this into account and we’re going to try to rebound from this and keep doing what we do best.”

Gordon says the vast majority of the 1,800 troopers work hard for the public and don’t get into trouble. But even the governor is frustrated by the more three dozen troopers who have made news since 1998 –a figure that seems to have escalated recently.

According to a spokesperson for Bev Perdue, “no one is more frustrated by this latest news about misbehaving troopers than Governor Perdue. While she continues to believe that most of the men and women of the Highway Patrol do an excellent job every day, the simple fact remains, we expect better from all who wear the uniform.”

Stiwinter’s arrest comes just days after Major Everett Clendenin – once the public face of the NC Highway Patrol – announced his resignation over allegations involving text messages with a female co-worker.

And Monday, a third Butner Public Safety officer was fired for his involvement in an April 3 traffic stop involving an off-duty trooper in Granville County. Investigators said Butner officers took Captain James Williams Jr. of the Highway Patrol to a hotel instead of arresting him on suspicion of DWI. Officers did not file any charges against Williams nor were any sobriety tests administered.

Williams was fired from the Highway Patrol.

The Williams and Clendenin cases come after another trooper resigned earlier this month amidst an investigation of alleged misconduct.

That trooper was just the latest in a long line of officers being investigated for everything from inappropriate sex, to K-9 abuse, to drunk driving, and deadly accidents.

ABC11′s I-Team did some checking, and in the last three years, the patrol has had to fire at least five troopers and has accepted at least six resignations.

While the department has been under fire for the problems with some officers, Reuben Young, Secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said at a news conference following Clendenin’s resignation that the patrol should not be judged by the actions of a few.

“It’s unfortunate that we have people from time to time who make bad decisions, exercise poor judgment,” said Young. “When they do that, we address those issues within the confines and the policies of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. But we’re going to keep working hard and we’re going to keep studying what we need to do to try and improve upon making our troopers more prepared for what they do and more mindful of how they should conduct themselves out on the highways.”

Highway Patrol Adopts New Policy On Chases

June 26, 2010

From: www.wsoctv.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new pursuit policy for the North Carolina Highway Patrol outlines when troopers can and cannot chase suspects.

 The policy requires troopers to have more supervisor oversight when chases begin and to activate their blue lights and sirens during chases. It also requires other police agencies that want troopers to get involved in a pursuit to request it.

 There have been several recent instances in which trooper-involved pursuits have ended with crashes. In early June, a trooper was chasing a reckless driver in Shelby when he crashed into a telephone pole and split his car in half.

 Leaders from the Highway Patrol said the new policy is not in reaction to any specific crash.

 “In reality, we’re constantly looking at information, our training and any issues that arise and adapt our policy accordingly,” Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.

 Troop H, which includes troopers in Mecklenburg County and eight other counties, had 75 pursuits last year, which is more than any other division in the state.


 • Greenville area: 40 chases in 2008, 36 in 2009

 • Fayetteville area: 67 in 2008, 72 in 2009

 • Raleigh area:74 in 2008, 64 in 2009
 • Greensboro area: 38 in 2008, 43 in 2009

 *Salisbury and surrounding area: 46 in 2008, 45 in 2009
• Newton and surrounding area: 30 in 2008, 39 in 2009

 • Asheville and surrounding area: 39 in 2008, 23 in 2009
 • Charlotte/Gastonia/Monroe area: 68 in 2008, 75 in 2009


 Vivian Lord, a criminal justice professor, said she thinks the new policy will lead to fewer chases, even if it means more suspects getting away.

 “The Highway Patrol is maybe ratcheting up their concern for the innocent citizen who could be in the way, a bit more,” Lord said.

 Drivers like Sharla Moore welcome that idea.

 “You can’t chase everybody and sometimes you just let them go,” Moore said. “I mean, eventually you’ll catch up with them, anyway.”

Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives

June 26, 2010
Creative Loafing – Charlotte
By AMY GOODMAN

Federal authorities are investigating whether officials of the government south of the border participated in a citizen’s kidnapping and torture — Canadian authorities, that is, investigating the possible role of U.S. officials in the “extraordinary rendition” of Canadian citizen Maher Arar. “Extraordinary rendition” is White House-speak for arresting someone and secretly sending him to another country, where he is likely to be tortured. Arar revealed that, for the past four years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been investigating possible roles of U.S. and Syrian officials in his rendition and torture. This announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that it will not consider Arar’s case, ending his pursuit of justice through U.S. courts.

Arar is the Canadian citizen seized by U.S. officials while changing planes in New York, heading home from a family vacation in September 2002. He was secretly sent to Syria by the Bush administration, where he was held for almost a year in a gravelike cell. He was repeatedly tortured, then returned home to Canada, without charge, a broken man. In 2004, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit in U.S. federal court on Arar’s behalf as he recovered in Canada. While his legal case came to an end this week, his fight against impunity continues.

Ontario Justice Dennis O’Connor headed the Canadian government’s inquiry into Arar’s arrest, removal to Syria and subsequent torture. From 2004 to 2006, O’Connor interviewed scores of people and reviewed thousands of documents. The inquiry completely exonerated Arar. The conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized, and Arar was awarded $11.5 million in reparations and legal fees. Now, we learn, the RCMP, the Canadian equivalent of the FBI, is conducting an investigation that could lead to criminal charges. Arar told me: “They’ve been collecting evidence. They’ve been interviewing people both in Canada and internationally … their focus is on the Syrian torturers, as well as those American officials who were complicit in my torture.”

If the RCMP charges U.S. officials with complicity in the abduction and torture of Arar, it would put the strong extradition treaty between the U.S. and Canada to the test. In the meantime, the Center for Constitutional Rights is encouraging people to contact the White House and their representatives in Congress to demand redress for Arar, including an apology, his removal from the terrorist watch list, financial damages, an investigation and assurances that no one else will suffer a similar fate.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee, expressed his disappointment with this week’s Supreme Court decision, saying the Arar case “remains a stain on this nation’s legacy as a human-rights leader around the world … the United States has continued to deny culpability in this case.” Back in a January 2007 hearing, Leahy fumed at then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: “We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn’t be tortured. He’d be held. He’d be investigated. We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he’d be tortured.”

The Obama administration continues controversial Bush-era policies, with detention without charge at Guantanamo and the Bagram air base, and with, as Leahy has noted, reliance on “state secrets” privilege to dodge legal actions to expose and punish torture. On the same day as this week’s Supreme Court announcement, another court in Washington, D.C., acquitted 24 anti-torture activists who were arrested at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21, 2010, the day by which President Barack Obama originally pledged Guantanamo would be closed. Their banner read “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Several were arrested inside the Capitol Rotunda while conducting a funeral service for three Guantanamo prisoners who may have been tortured to death. The U.S. government claims they committed suicide.

Maher Arar has completed his Ph.D. in Canada and founded an online news magazine, prism-magazine.com. He has been focusing on the case of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who was arrested in Afghanistan as a child and has grown to adulthood in the Guantanamo prison. Arar, married with two children, told me, “The struggle for justice and struggle against oppression has become a way of life for me, and I can never go back to just a simple nine-to-five engineer anymore.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

Raid Yields Stolen Garden Equipment

June 26, 2010
By Steve Lyttle
slyttle@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Saturday, Jun. 26, 2010

Law enforcement officers from two counties descended on a house in north Charlotte on Friday night, and police say they recovered thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen lawn and garden equipment.

The items had been stolen earlier in the week from a business in northern Iredell County, police say.

The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police teamed to make the raid, which took place at a house on Whittington Street, off Statesville Avenue north of Atando Avenue.

Iredell County authorities say burglars took a large number of items from Union Grove Power Equipment earlier this week. They say a Crime Stoppers tip helped them with the investigation, and they say the probe focused on Charlotte.

Investigators say a man entered the store Tuesday, and employees said he appeared to be looking at the location of surveillance cameras. Early Wednesday, those surveillance cameras showed two men breaking into the store and taking a number of items.

Authorities confirm Friday’s police action netted up to $15,000 worth of lawn mowers, weed eaters, blowers, chainsaws and other items, which they assume were taken from the Union Grove store. They also report finding guns and drugs at the house.

They did not find suspects, however, as the house was not occupied at the time of the raid.

Police say the investigation is continuing, but they did not say if they have specific suspects they are seeking.

Robbery suspect killed at Monroe convenience store

June 26, 2010
By Joe Marusak
jmarusak@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Saturday, Jun. 26, 2010

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MONROE Police say a suspected robber was shot and killed after exchanging gunfire with two clerks at Sunny Food Mart on Walkup Avenue late Thursday.

Robert Christopher Young, 23, of Monroe was pronounced dead after being transported to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, police said.

Police were dispatched to a holdup alarm at the convenience store at 10:17 p.m. and another 911 call reported shots being fired.

The Observer’s news partner, WCNC-TV, reported that Sopea Pich and his brother were working inside the family-owned convenience store off U.S. 74 in Monroe when the robbery happened just before midnight.

Pich said the robber entered the store, pulled out a gun and demanded money.

Pich said the store has been robbed in the past and that he and his brother both had guns for protection.

“He was yelling, ‘Give me the money. Give me the money.’ I didn’t really have time to think. I shot him,” Pich said.

Police said they found Young in front of a home on nearby McIntyre Street.

The clerks weren’t injured, police said.

Nearly $30 Million Stolen From Homebuyer Credit: Report

June 24, 2010
cnnmoney
Aaron Smith, staff writer, On Wednesday June 23, 2010, 2:03 pm EDT

More than 1,200 prison inmates, including 241 serving life sentences, defrauded the government of $9.1 million in tax credits reserved for first-time homebuyers, according to a Treasury Department report released Wednesday.

Treasury’s inspector general also found that thousands of people filed multiple claims or made claims outside the allotted time period. In all, more than $28 million was improperly doled out.

The Internal Revenue Service program at issue is meant to stimulate the housing market by giving tax credits of as much as $8,000 to qualifying first-time home buyers.

“Additional controls are necessary to address erroneous claims for the credit,” the report stated. “Further, fraudulent and questionable claims processed prior to implementation of controls will need follow-up action by the IRS.”

According to the report, 4,608 state and federal inmates filed for these tax credits, and that fraudulent refunds were doled out to 1,295 of them.

The inspector general’s report said the most “egregious” fraudsters were 715 prison lifers, including 174 who filed with the help of paid preparers. From this group, 241 lifers were awarded $1.7 million.

The problem was particularly bad in Florida: 61% of the lifers who got credits were incarcerated in the Sunshine State.

“It is possible for an inmate to buy a house while in prison,” said Jo Ellyn Rackleff, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections. “We have inmates in Florida prisons who still have businesses outside. Many of the inmates have families with children who live outside.”

She said that one of the reasons why Florida inmates feature prominently in the Treasury report is because the Florida prison system is transparent in providing inmate information to the IRS.

“We provide [the IRS] with data quarterly,” she said. “If we receive an IRS check in the Post Office of an institution, the IRS will receive a call that we received a check, to make sure it’s all legitimate.”

The homebuyer tax credit program was very specific about the time period in which homebuyers were allowed to participate, though this rule seems to be the most widely violated. The credit was for home purchases that happened after April 8, 2008, with a cut-off date that was eventually extended to May 1, 2010.

The report found that the IRS awarded $17.6 million to 2,555 filers who had bought their homes before the credit program kicked in.

The inspector general also identified 206 filers who claimed the credit for multiple addresses; these fraudulent filers were awarded a total of $1.4 million.

The report also found that improper filers included 34 employees of the IRS. This is in addition to 53 IRS employees that the inspector general identified last year as improper filers.

The report included a response from the IRS, which highlighted the huge scope of the program, with $12.6 billion in claims awarded to 1.8 million participants. The IRS said it had ramped up efforts to crack down on criminal activity and would continue to review claims and “recapture” pay-outs determined to be fraudulent.

The IRS said it “has devoted substantial resources to working with state and federal prison systems to collect and maintain information on the prison population.”

But the agency added, “The prison population changes frequently and it is simply not feasible for the IRS to maintain 100% accurate records based on information that is reported to us voluntarily by the various prison authorities.” The agency suggested that Congress require prisons to report inmates’ status to the IRS.

In an e-mail to CNNMoney.com, IRS spokesman Anthony Burke said the agency had “successfully blocked or denied nearly 400,000 questionable homebuyer claims and opened more than 150 criminal investigations. These aggressive efforts have saved taxpayers more than $1 billion.”

As for the IRS employees, the agency said that it was working to identify those at fault.

Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Mundaca said that, despite its problems, the homebuyer tax credit helped to spur more than 2.5 million new home purchases and helped to stabilize the housing market.

“These fraudulent claims, which are being pursued to the fullest extent of the law, represent less than half a percent of the credits paid out under this program,” he said, in an e-mail to CNNMoney.com. “As with all new and expanded programs, we are constantly working to improve implementation, and the IRS has already begun to take additional steps to prevent fraud in this program.”