'Miss Cleo,' Fortune-Teller Of '90s TV Fame, Dies At 53

Cleo Harris, best known as Miss Cleo, the face and voice of the Psychic Friends Network television ads, in Feb. 2009 in Lake Worth, Fla., where she lived and hosted an Internet radio show.
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“Miss Cleo,” the television psychic indelibly fixed in the memories of ’90s TV-watchers, died Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla., of cancer. She was 53.

In late-night commercials in the late ’90s and early 2000s, she promised answers to all life’s most pressing questions. What should I be doing? Which person should I be with? Is my life on the right path? Who’s the father?

“The cards never lie,” she’d say, to questioning souls she called “darling” or “baby” or “honey.”

“Call me today,” she’d intone, with a broad smile and a Jamaican patois of dubious authenticity.

Miss Cleo, a.k.a. Youree Dell Harris, a.k.a Rae Dell Harris or Cleomili Perris Youree or Ree Perris, was a cult icon.

She was also the face of a fraud empire.

Before she was Miss Cleo, Harris was a Los Angeles-born playwright and actress.

As “Ree Perris,” she was working in Seattle in the mid-’90s, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer revealed in 2002. In one of the plays she wrote and produced, Harris played a Jamaican character — named Cleo.

She “left town with a trail of debts and broken promises,” the paper wrote, after failing to pay the cast and crew who worked on plays she put on.

Then she appeared on TV screens as the tarot-reading Miss Cleo, promising a no-cost first reading.

Cleo Harris, best known as Miss Cleo, the face and voice of the Psychic Friends Network television ads, in Feb. 2009 in Lake Worth, Fla., where she lived and hosted an Internet radio show. Lilly Echeverria/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Lilly Echeverria/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

If a free session with a psychic who can answer all your questions sounds too good to be true, it was. Because, well, it wasn’t free.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against The Psychic Readers Network, the company behind the “Miss Cleo” hotline, for telling viewers they would get a “free” reading and then charging them. The company also bullied people into paying charges they weren’t legally obligated to pay.

J. Howard Beales III, then the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, clearly enjoyed the press releases.

“You don’t need a crystal ball to know that the FTC will continue to stop unfair and deceptive trade practices,” he said when the complaint was announced.

“I’m no psychic, but I can foresee this: If you make deceptive claims, there is an FTC action in your future,” he said when it settled.

But the lawsuit was no joke. PRN agreed to forgive $500 million in outstanding charges, and paid $5 million in fines to the FTC.

While Miss Cleo was never alleged to be the mastermind of the enterprise, she was undeniably its embodiment. For years afterwards, people pinned the fraud on her, and even claimed she served prison time for it.

“I never went to jail,” she told Vice in 2014, to clear the record. “I didn’t own the company.”

And the hundreds of millions of dollars PRN raked in? Harris says she had “a bad contract,” and made a fraction of the money that her likeness brought in.

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She also told Vice that her patois was indeed put on — but it did have family roots. “When you grow up in America and you’re Caribbean, your parents beat it into you that the only way to succeed is by dropping the patois. My mother was very deliberate about that, and so was my father,” she said.

And, in case you hadn’t figured this one out, Miss Cleo wasn’t really psychic.

“I come from a family of Obeah—which is another word for voodoo,” she told Vice. But the hotline marketers thought “voodoo” sounded scary.

“So they told me, ‘No, no, no, we can’t use that word; we’re going to call you a psychic.’ I said, ‘But I’m not a psychic!’ … they would take me somewhere to do an interview, and as soon as I’d say, ‘I’m not a psychic, and I don’t own the company,’ the handlers would say, ‘No, no, no. Tell her to shut up.’ “

Oddly enough, while PRN was penalized for its fraudulent billing practices, there was never much outcry over the fact that “Miss Cleo” — like the many other employees who worked the phone lines at PRN, reading off scripts — couldn’t really predict the future.

In 2002, Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick waxed indignant about that oversight. Enraged that the FTC wasn’t penalizing false claims of clairvoyance, she learned that proving someone isn’t psychic is — as the assistant attorney general in Florida put it — “almost a legal impossibility.”

So if those “free psychic readings” had really been free, whether or not they were psychic, Miss Cleo and company would have been in the clear.

As it was, Harris became indelibly associated with the fraud. In a 2014 documentary called Hotline, she spoke emotionally about how it felt to be seen as a liar by countless strangers.

Long after the ignominy of the fraud, Miss Cleo remained an instantly recognizable figure.

She was parodied by Mad TV and Dave Chappelle. Multiple soundboards let anyone channel their inner Miss Cleo.

She returned at the end of 2014 to promote French Toast Crunch, in an apotheosis of ’90s nostalgia. That sparked a legal conflict of its own, as PRN claimed it had invested millions in building up the Miss Cleo brand, and that Harris was barred from using it anywhere else.

Meanwhile, Youree Dell Harris was living a quieter life. She voiced “Auntie Poulet” in 2002’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. She served as a “spiritual counselor” for her south Florida community and started a company to support independent entrepreneurs and artists.

In 2006, she came out in Advocate magazine. She said that she had never felt bad about being a lesbian, “but I knew society didn’t accept me.”

For instance, she says, her high school girlfriend was sent to college out of state after the girl’s father found out about their relationship. Harris was heartbroken.

While her parents and some family members knew she was gay, she never told other relatives, out of “fear of the wrath, of the exile.” In the ’80s, she lost some friends when she came out to them. “That was really intense,” she said. “I really believed they were my friends.”

After a short-lived marriage to a man, Harris had been in two long-term relationships with women. Her second partner was abusive to both Harris and her daughter, and when they broke up in the late ’90s, Harris didn’t try dating again for years.

In a second interview with the Advocate, she said it had been difficult returning to the world of dating. “I was thinking about launching a Web site,” she said: ” ‘Let’s find Miss Cleo a woman!’ “

She was worried about what it would mean to come out, but not too worried, she told the Advocate: “There is Miss Cleo, and now it’s going to be, ‘Miss Cleo is gay.’ I’m not sure how that is going to look, but as much bad stuff has been said about me up to now, what’s another slur?”

And there were always fans, too — it wasn’t just hate, she said.

“If I’m standing in line somewhere and I’m talking, someone will whip their head around and look at me. People give me mad love, sweetheart. They’ll say, ‘Do you see anything? Where do we find you? When are you coming back? We miss you.’ I get a lot of love.”

She died surrounded by family and close friends, her lawyer says, and was “a pillar of strength” throughout her illness.

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California wildfire displaces exotic animals, horses, cats and dogs, too

A virtual Noah’s Ark of wild beasts and livestock has been relocated to save them from a massive wildfire burning north of Los Angeles in a region that is home to exotic animal sanctuaries and horse ranches.

Officials and volunteers at the Wildlife Waystation in the northern Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar moved about three-quarters of the sprawling facility’s 400 animals on Saturday, including dozens of large animals such as tigers, lions, bears and cougars, founder Martine Colette said in a telephone interview.

The animals were coaxed into cages by voice command and meat for bait, and then loaded onto trucks, vans and trailers, Colette said.

The so-called Sand Fire has charred 59 square miles (153 sq km) since it broke out on Friday in a mostly rural area around the community of Acton on the northwestern fringes of the Angeles National Forest.

Wildlife Waystation said it expects to return the animals to the Sylmar facility on Wednesday, since firefighters have made progress containing the blaze.

The creatures great and small, which were taken to other wild animal sanctuaries in Southern California, have been stressed by the move, Colette said. “They absolutely hate it, and it will take them several days, maybe as long as a week, to settle down when they finally come home.”

Most of the animals evacuated from the facility are small, including birds and lizards, that could easily be harmed by smoke, she said.

The fire also forced ranch and farm owners in the region to evacuate their livestock by trailer to a number of facilities. More than 300 horses, 165 goats, 33 pigs and two Brahman bulls were displaced by the fire, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control.

About 10 miles (16 km) north of the Wildlife Waystation, officials at the Lange Foundation’s St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary in Canyon Country on Saturday evacuated more than 40 dogs, over 60 cats and 14 horses, a board member with the organization, Diane Nelson, said in a telephone interview.

Most of them were taken by car and van to one of the foundation’s centers in Los Angeles. The foundation saves animals from being euthanized at shelters.

Officials from two animal sanctuaries in the northern Los Angeles County region, the Gibbon Conservation Center that is home to arboreal apes, and the Shambala Preserve for big cats, said they were able to avoid moving their animals.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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Bill Clinton, Mothers Of The Movement Headline Night Two At The DNC

The Democratic National Convention stage is reflected on a glass window in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The Democratic National Convention stage is reflected on a glass window in Philadelphia on Tuesday. John Locher/AP hide caption

toggle caption John Locher/AP

The headliner of night two of the Democratic National Convention is former President Bill Clinton. Organizers say the focus of the night is Hillary Clinton’s “Lifetime of Fighting for Children and Families.”

Former President Jimmy Carter will speak via video. Members of the “Mothers of the Movement” group will also address the audience — their children, including Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, all died in high-profiles incidents, many involving police.

It will also be a star-studded night with appearances by actress Meryl Streep, singer Alicia Keys, actress America Ferrara and actor Tony Goldwyn.

Here are highlights of the scheduled evening program, as provided by the DNC:

7:00 p.m. ET – 10:00 p.m. ET

  • House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Women of the House
  • Video Message from foirmer President Jimmy Carter
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer
  • Democratic National Committee vice chair of voter registration (and soon to be interim chair of the DNC) Donna Brazile
  • Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Actor Tony Goldwyn
  • Mothers of the Movement: Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, Lucia Mcbath, mother of Jordan Davis, Lezley Mc Spadden, mother of Michael Brown, Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, mother of Hadiya Pendleton, and Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland.
  • Singer Andra Day
  • President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards
  • Actresses America Fererra and Lena Dunham
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer
  • Actress Debra Messing

10:00 p.m. ET – 11:00 p.m. ET

  • President Bill Clinton
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Alicia Keys

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Obama Opens Doors to More Central American Refugees

The Obama administration announced today that it is expanding a program that helps Central American refugees, including minors, to reunite with their families in the United States. The effort is designed to discourage people from leaving their homeland and flooding the southern U.S. border, say administration officials.

The program has three components.

First, it broadens the categories of people eligible to enter the U.S. to include siblings over the age of 21, parents of qualified children, and other “caregivers” when they accompany an unmarried minor child.

Second, with the assistance of a United Nations agency, the U.S. will screen applicants in their country of origin when they apply for refugee status.

Third, the government of Costa Rica has agreed to temporarily host up 200 migrants who are in the greatest need of protection. Administration officials called this a “Protective Transfer Arrangement.”

At its core, the new effort signals an acknowledgement by the Obama administration that its program to stem the tide of families and children leaving Central America hasn’t worked. The administration currently allows Central American minors to apply to join a parent who has legal status in the U.S.

“Our current efforts to date have been insufficient to address the number of people who may have legitimate refugee claims,” said Amy Pope, White House Deputy Homeland Security Adviser.

“There are insufficient pathways for those people to present their claims for adjudication,” said Pope, adding that the changes announced today will help insure “a safe and orderly processing” of asylum claims.

But administration officials said they don’t know how many people could be eligible for refugee status under the expanded program. Thus far, they said, approximately 9,500 minors have applied to leave Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. According to Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, 2,880 minors have been approved to reunite with their families in the U.S. and more than 600 already have arrived.

The number of Central American minors crossing the border surged in 2014, eased off in much of 2015, but resumed thereafter. According to the AP, since October 2015, more than 43,000 unaccompanied children have been caught crossing the border.

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Fewer Young People Buying Houses, But Why?

First-time home buyers participating at lower rates in the otherwise booming housing market, and experts offer differing opinions on whether, or when, younger buyers are likely to return.

Robert Carter/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Trevor Burbank is single, 27 years old, and has been house hunting in Nashville for the last year.

“My rent’s going up in August, so I have to figure out what I’m doing,” he says.

The last time Burbank looked for a place was five years ago. He decided to use his down payment to start a business instead.

“There was a house that I really liked that was going for $60,000, and I saw the house being sold in the past few months for just shy of $300,000,” Burbank says.

There’s a big debate in real estate over where home ownership rates are headed, and whether Millennials — people who came of age around 2000 — will get into the housing market the way generations before them did.

The percentage of people younger than age 35 who are homeowners went from 42 percent a decade ago to just a little more than a third now.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, says young people are squeezed from both sides. Rents are increasing even faster than home prices.

And, he says, city politicians aren’t making it easy for developers to build condominiums that would be good starter homes.

“We are creating this divide because of the ongoing housing shortage,” Yun says.

There are other factors everyone agrees are making it harder for today’s younger home buyers. They’re delaying marriage, mortgages are harder to get, and people are staying in school longer, taking larger loans.

Which has the biggest effect, though? Is home ownership on a permanent decline because of high costs, changing demographics or new attitudes about home ownership?

“That’s the million-dollar question,” says Jonathan Spader, senior researcher at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing.

He takes the view that ownership may stay the same, just delayed for the younger generation.

“We really haven’t seen a shift in interest in home ownership among younger households,” Spader says.

In surveys, a huge majority — 90 percent — of those younger than age 30 expect to eventually own, he says, but their earnings took a hit in the recession eight years ago and it’s taking them longer to save up a down payment.

Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, takes a different view: she thinks the younger generation is simply less interested in home ownership.

“This is a permanent shift,” Goodman says.

She cites a 2014 study by Fannie Mae of “prime” home buyers. It found that among young, college educated, upper-income, white families, home ownership fell 6 percent from 2000.

“And that sort of best captures the subtle change in attitudes towards home ownership, because this is a group for whom there’s no reason not to be homeowners,” Goodman says.

Of course more than 80 percent of them eventually buy, but, she says, “they’re doing it later, and a lower percentage of them are eventually doing it.”

And then there are the views of Ted Gayer, an economist at the Brookings Institution.

“I actually think home ownership rates are likely to increase,” he says.

Gayer says many young adults lived with their parents to weather the post-recession years, but as they age, more will start new households and that trend will increase.

“This Millennial generation is actually a rather large generation,” he says.

At 82 million people, he says, it outranks the Baby Boomers in size. And Gayer expects that means a bigger housing boom is around the corner.

As for Burbank, his startup isn’t generating much salary yet. Qualifying for a mortgage took some finagling.

He’s looking for a fixer-upper, but sellers are driving hard bargains on those, too.

“In some cases, there’s not even photos online,” Burbank says. “So you don’t get a tour, you don’t get photos.”

He’s losing out to investors buying sight unseen.

That’s a bridge too far for Burbank, so for now, he remains on the sidelines.

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Insurers May Share Blame For Increased Price Of Some Generic Drugs

When your health insurer reclassifies a prescription drug you take from “tier 1” to “tier 2,” it can sharply increase the portion of the drug’s cost that you’re expected to pay. Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

With recent reports that drugmakers have sharply raised the prices of some prescription drugs, a reader has written in to ask why a common generic drug is also suddenly costing him more. Another reader has questions about health plans with high-deductibles. Here are those readers’ questions, and what I’ve learned about the answers.

I take levothyroxine, the generic form of Synthroid, to treat a thyroid disorder. This generic has been on the list of drugs that cost $10 for a 90-day supply at my pharmacy for as long as I can remember. Starting in April, the drug was dropped from the list and the price rose 300 percent. The pharmacist tells me all the generic drug manufacturers are raising prices. How is it possible that this drug increased in price so quickly?

Generic drug price hikes have come under close scrutiny lately, as reports continue to surface of significant and seemingly inexplicable increases. Some drugs affected – including your thyroid medicine, as well as the common heart medicine digoxin – are widely used, and have had relatively modest prices for years.

What gives? Health care professionals like your pharmacist often blame drug manufacturers, claiming they raise prices simply because they can. There’s no question that happens, says Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere Health. But there are other reasons that generic drug prices may increase as well.

For example, insurers may have simply changed the design of their health plan’s drug benefit, Mendelson says. They may have moved the drug into a higher tier — one that requires consumers to pay a bigger chunk of the cost. Drug prices also sometimes increase because the cost of manufacturing or distributing the drug has increased.

But consumers don’t have to simply pay up. Drug costs often vary widely from pharmacy to pharmacy, so shopping around makes financial sense. In addition, some retailers offer rock-bottom prices on dozens of generic drugs to consumers who pay cash. If you’re ponying up $4 in cash instead of a $30 copay for each refill, the savings can quickly add up.

Do you know of any insurance carriers that are selling high-deductible marketplace plans where once the deductible is met, the plan pays 100 percent of the costs after that? In other words, the deductible and the out-of-pocket maximum would both be the same?

It’s not unusual to find plans that are structured the way you describe, particularly among bronze-level plans, says Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Blumberg and colleagues analyzed the availability of these plans on the federal marketplace, which runs the insurance exchanges for about two-thirds of U.S. states.

Such a plan might have a deductible of $6,850 for individual coverage, for example, which is also the maximum that someone with an individual plan can be required to spend out-of-pocket for covered care in 2016.

Some insurers have touted this type of plan for its simplicity, noting that there’s only one number to keep track of. Still, at the bronze level, a health plan that picks up all costs after the deductible is met is likely to have a deductible of several thousand dollars. Bronze plans are the least generous of the four levels of coverage on the exchange.

Still, even in a high-deductible plan, some care is covered before the deductible is met, including preventive services. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers don’t have to pay out of pocket for preventive care if it has been recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. In addition, some insurers offer plans that cover a certain number of primary care visits or generic drugs, for example, that are exempted from the deductible.

If you’re considering a plan where the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum are the same, Blumberg says, carefully check the particulars of what’s covered.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Health care reporter Michelle Andrews’ column appears as part of NPR’s partnership with Kaiser Health News. Andrews is on Twitter: @mandrews110.

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Mummified Egyptian Was Just As Sedentary And Carb-Hungry As Modern Men

A CT scan of the skull of a 2,200-year-old Egyptian mummy on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, shows osteoporosis and tooth decay, the museum said Tuesday.

A CT scan of the skull of a 2,200-year-old Egyptian mummy on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, shows osteoporosis and tooth decay, the museum said Tuesday. Ariel Schalit/AP hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Schalit/AP

The 2,200-year-old mummy of an Egyptian man who spent a lot of time sitting and eating carbs went on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday, and will be open to the public beginning Wednesday.

Alex, as he is called by the researchers who study him, was a 5-foot 6-inch Egyptian priest who spent most of his time sitting, according to his osteoporosis-weakened skeleton, which has shrunken to just over 5 feet over the more than two millennia he spent embalmed, according to The Times of Israel.

Enough of the man's bones, teeth and blood vessels survived to tell scientists something about how he lived 2,200 years ago.

Enough of the man’s bones, teeth and blood vessels survived to tell scientists something about how he lived 2,200 years ago. Ariel Schalit/AP hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Schalit/AP

The Times reports:

“A century before Anthony and Cleopatra, when the Ptolemies ruled the Nile, he [Alex] lived as a priest in the city of Panopolis, modern-day Akhmim, in Upper Egypt.

“During his lifetime Alex was known as Iret-hor-iru — The Protective Eye of Horus — but got his modern moniker after he was donated to Jerusalem’s Pontifical Biblical Institute by Jesuits in Alexandria.”

Alex died in the second century B.C. He was between 30 and 40 years old, according to radiocarbon dating of the linen in which his body was wrapped.

The remains of a man who lived more than two millennia ago show some of the bad effects of inactivity and poor diet.

The remains of a man who lived more than two millennia ago show some of the bad effects of inactivity and poor diet. Ariel Schalit/AP hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Schalit/AP

“Osteoporosis is a disease that is characteristic of the 20th century, when people don’t work so hard. We are glued to screens,” Galit Bennett, who curated the mummy exhibit, told the Associated Press. “We were very surprised that there were people who didn’t do physical work and that it affected their bodies like this man here.”

Bennett also told the wire service a CT scan of the mummy shows signs of tooth decay, cardiovascular disease and lack of exposure to the sun. The thorough Egyptian embalming techniques and dry climate in Jerusalem preserved not only the man’s bones, but remnants of blood vessels, skin, and teeth.

Alex is not alone in his afflictions. Nearly half of 44 mummies from a 2011 study of ancient Egyptian men and women preserved as mummies showed signs of clogged arteries. And it wasn’t just Egypt: a 2013 study of 137 mummies from around the world found about a third probably had cardiovascular disease.

As for why ancient people suffered from diseases we associate with modern lifestyles and diets, the authors of both studies choose not to speculate, but the 2013 paper notes in its conclusions, “Although commonly assumed to be a modern disease, the presence of atherosclerosis in pre-modern human beings raises the possibility of a more basic predisposition to the disease.”

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Elizabeth Cook On World Cafe

Elizabeth Cook outside the World Cafe performance studio at WXPN in Philadelphia.

Elizabeth Cook outside the World Cafe performance studio at WXPN in Philadelphia. Sydney Schaefer/WXPN hide caption

toggle caption Sydney Schaefer/WXPN

  • “Dyin'”
  • “Methadone Blues”
  • “Straight Jacket Love”

Grand Ole Opry member and East Nashville singer-songwriter Elizabeth Cook has dealt with many personal challenges, including deaths in her family and her own divorce, over the last few years. The upside is that those experiences provided the seeds for some new songs. Cook, who also hosts the satellite-radio show Apron Strings, has never shied away from writing about her family — whether it’s her father, who ran moonshine before becoming a welder, or her sister, who’s battled heroin addiction. She continues to sing about family on Exodus Of Venus, a darker album that rocks harder than she has in the past.

Hear Cook and her band perform live in the World Cafe studio at the audio link above, and watch a video of “Dyin'” below.

VuHaus

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Credit card records lead cops to New York bank burglars

Three suspected burglars who stole millions of dollars from two New York banks were caught after using a personal credit card to buy the tools of their trade, authorities said.

The trio were charged on Tuesday with using blowtorches to cut through the roofs of the banks in Brooklyn and Queens to access the vaults and steal cash and valuables in April and May of this year, local and federal law enforcement officials said.

They were captured thanks to surveillance footage and cellphone data, authorities said, as well as records showing they bought plywood from Home Depot and blowtorches from a local welder in order to carry out the crimes.

“These heists resembled scenes from the movie Heat – the work of a crew that was well organized, meticulous, and elusive to law enforcement,” New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement. “The picture slowly came into focus, resulting in today’s arrests and charges.”

The three Brooklyn men, named as Michael Mazzara, Charles Kerrigan and Anthony Mascuzzio, allegedly stole more than $5 million in cash and valuables, including jewelry and baseball cards. Each faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of bank burglary and conspiracy to commit bank burglary.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Marguerita Choy)

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From Afar, Trump Basks In DNC Chaos

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Charlotte, North Carolina this week.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. Sara D. Davis/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Donald Trump so far has stayed away from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia – but he’s made his presence known on the campaign trail this week. The turmoil at the DNC convention has been constant theme of Trump’s speeches as he and his running mate travel the country, campaigning and fundraising.

After boos erupted on the floor of the Democratic convention floor Monday at mentions of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s name, Trump celebrated in front of a crowd in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“Now you heard that was going to happen at the Republican convention – we had a great convention, by the way,” Trump said, calling the Democratic convention “disastrous.”

While the Republican convention in Cleveland last week was hardly an orderly, unifying affair, with a mini-rebellion on the convention floor, a divisive speech by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and charges of plagiarism by Trump’s wife, Melania, the out in the open anger within the Democratic Party between Sanders and Clinton supporters has given Trump reason to cheer.

Before endorsing Clinton after the Democratic primary ended, Sanders often described the political and economic system as “rigged,” and accused Democratic National Committee leaders of siding with Clinton. Trump has been echoing that theme for weeks, making appeals to disenchanted Sanders supporters.

In Winston-Salem, Trump said he believes he can win over those voters by talking about renegotiating trade deals. Trump also mocked Sanders for endorsing Clinton, and urging his supporters to get behind her at the convention.

The tension within Democratic ranks escalated this week after a Wikileaks release – just before the convention kicked off – of hacked emails showed Democratic National Committee officials deriding Sanders and seeking to undermine his campaign.

Trump seized on the leaked emails revelations as affirmation of his argument. “Bernie has given up. I didn’t think from him, he would do that,” Trump said. “But you know, he’s all in for Hillary now.”

Earlier in the day in Roanoke, Virginia – the home state of Clinton’s newly-chosen running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, Trump also criticized outgoing Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz – who is stepping down in the wake of the email scandal.

“She just got fired. They said, ‘Debbie, You’re fired. Get out, Debbie, out!'” Trump said, referencing his famous line from the NBC show “The Apprentice.”

As the crowd booed Wasserman Schultz’s name, Trump accused Clinton of disloyalty.

“These politicians. Hey look. So, there’s no loyalty there, right? There’s no loyalty. None whatsoever. It gets a little heat, and they fire her,” Trump said.

Wasserman Schultz quickly stepped down from her DNC job and was given an honorary position with the Clinton campaign.

Speaking to a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday morning, Trump and his vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, both criticized Democrats for not focusing on groups like ISIS during their convention’s opening night.

Pence introduced Trump by attacking speakers at the Democratic convention.

“Not one of them named ISIS by name,” Pence said. “This man will name our enemies without apology, and he will defeat them.”

That’s true, according to a fact check by Politico – which, by the way, Trump dismissed in Winston-Salem as one of “these fact-checkers that are all on the very far left, Politifact. You could say, ‘Two and two is four,’ and they’ll tell you you’re wrong. It’s the most amazing thing.”

Democratic convention leaders say speakers will address terrorism throughout the week. During a briefing in Philadelphia Tuesday, Clinton spokeswoman Jen Palmieri told reporters to expect more discussion of the issue.

“How America combats terrorism is another example of why you would not want to have someone as reckless as Trump in charge of defending our country,” Palmieri said. “Someone who wants to break down the alliances that are helping us fight terrorism.”

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