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Rounds proposes $25 billion for border wall

Sen. Mike Rounds is co-sponsoring legislation that would provide $25 billion to fully fund a wall and other border security measures along the U.S. border with Mexico, he announced Thursday.

The legislation introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and co-sponsored by Rounds, R-S.D., Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is called the WALL Act.

“The primary responsibility of the federal government is the defense of our nation, which includes strong border security,” Rounds said in a news release.

He said the wall is needed to "protect against illegal immigration and stop those who wish to do us harm, such as terrorists, gang members and drug dealers."

Rounds said the bill would be funded by increasing minimum fines for people who illegally cross the border, establishing a minimum penalty for overstaying visas, and closing loopholes that allow illegal immigrants to receive federal benefits.

Regarding the loopholes, Rounds said the bill would require a work-authorized Social Security number to claim refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Currently, Rounds said, only a child needs a Social Security number for a parent to benefit from the Child Tax Credit. Additionally, he said, some people are benefiting from the Earned Income Tax Credit because the Social Security Administration did not distinguish between work-eligible and non-work-eligible Social Security numbers before 2003.

Rounds said the bill would also require welfare applicants to formally verify citizenship. Currently, he said, applicants need only to “declare” citizenship and provide a Social Security number to receive some benefits.

On a Thursday conference call with reporters, Rounds was asked if the bill's increased fines and closed benefit loopholes would be sufficient to produce $25 billion. Rounds said the bill would produce the money over a 10-year period.

"We’ve outlined a number of different items that have been vetted by the Congressional Budget Office, who have indicated that these are legitimate, and that they would raise the money over the time period estimated," Rounds said.

Money for a border wall has been part of ongoing talks between Congress and President Donald Trump about funding to keep the federal government running. A bill approved by Congress on Thursday, which Trump was expected to sign, will keep the government running until Dec. 21. Another agreement will be necessary to avert a shutdown on that date, and Trump’s desire for at least $5 billion for wall funding is said to be a central issue in the negotiations.

Rounds said the WALL Act is not an attempt to avert a shutdown, but is instead a standalone bill that aims to fund a wall with something other than money taken from the Department of Defense.

"We’re saying, if we’re going to do a wall, let’s find some pay-fors for it," Rounds said during his conference call.

Although his news release about the bill focused on building a wall, Rounds said on the conference call that he supports a border security system that would include a wall or fence along parts of the border, natural geographic boundaries along other parts of the border, electronic security measures, and sufficient manpower.

In response to reporters' questions about President Trump's oft-repeated campaign pledge to fund a wall with money from Mexico, Rounds deferred to Trump.

"I'll let him answer that," Rounds said.

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A birthday for the history books
World War II veteran's 18th birthday one for the history books

On the day Harold Ross turned 18, the world changed forever. It was Dec. 7, 1941, the same day that Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese and the United States was drawn into World War II.

Retired Army Major Ross, who turns 95 today, is now one of an estimated 496,000 World War II veterans who are still living, according to the National WWII Museum.

Ross, who was born and raised in Mobridge, was a senior in high school on Dec. 7, 1941. It was Sunday, and his mother had made a cake for his birthday. Ross remembers a phone call from his brother, who said Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

“I said, ‘Pearl Harbor? Where the heck is that?” Ross recalled. “We didn’t know much about Pearl Harbor living in the Midwest.”

Japanese planes had launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor External, located at what was then Hawaii Territory. The attack killed 2,408 Americans and wounded at least 1,178, destroyed the U.S.S. Arizona and capsized the U.S.S. Oklahoma. A total of 12 ships sank or were beached in the attack and nine other vessels were damaged. More than 160 aircraft were destroyed and more than 150 others were damaged, according to information from the Library of Congress and the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

On Dec. 8, 1941, Congress declared war on Japan. Ross said his school principal gathered students in the school auditorium to update them on what had happened and to listen to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the radio.

“President Roosevelt came on and gave us about a half-hour speech,” he said.

The United States was officially ushered into World War II, which started in Europe in 1939 and continued until 1945. It was the largest armed conflict in human history. Ranging over six continents and all the world's oceans, World War II caused an estimated 50 million military and civilian deaths, according to information from George Washington University.

At school the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, Ross and his classmates talked about which branch of the military each was planning to enlist in. “If you’re warm, they drafted you” was the expectation.

Ross graduated from high school in 1942 and then moved to Washington state, where he got a job at a shipyard on Bainbridge Island. He was an electrician’s helper working to prepare ships for battle. Then, Ross was alerted by a judge and he knew that he was about to be drafted.

“I got the call, ‘you better get home. You’ve got three weeks before your number comes up. They’re going to recruit you into the Army.’ I enlisted in the Navy because I had a brother in the Army and a brother in the Navy and my brother in the Army said, ‘Don’t come in the Army,’” Ross said, chuckling.

Ross and his brothers, Floyd and Walter, all survived World War II.

He enlisted in the Navy in December 1942. After boot camp in Chicago, Ross was sent to Northwestern University for four months of radio operator training.

“I was in the top 20 in the class. They came and asked for volunteers for long-distance hazardous duty,” said Ross, who signed up and was sent to China, an ally of the United States. His job was to receive messages from the Chinese Army and monitor ship traffic for enemy invasions.

Though he didn’t serve in combat, Ross remembers some harrowing experiences.

“Most of my service in World War II was pretty mundane. The most interesting part was when I got shot at on a riverboat in China and somebody opened up with a machine gun,” he said. “I was sitting on the back of the boat, and they weren’t very good shots.”

Travel posed some of the biggest hazards. He was on a troop ship from India that ended up in Okinawa, where the 2,500 troops aboard were caught in a typhoon. Flying in mountains was nerve-wracking, too.

“Probably the worst part of service was having to go from India to China. We had to fly through the Himalayas but the aircraft couldn’t fly high. It was not equipped for more than 14,000 feet. We had to fly through the cracks,” Ross said.

He spent his final few months of the war at Camp 7 in Dongfeng, China, when the radio operator received a message he would never forget in May 1945.

“I didn’t decode it until I got back from lunch. It said, ‘Today is victoreasy day’ and I said, ‘What’s that?’” Ross said. “The war was over. We had a big celebration.” 

He was discharged from the Navy in October 1945. After brief careers as a lineman in Mobridge and as a personnel clerk at Fort Meade, Ross enlisted in the Army in 1948 to get an education in electronics.

“I flipped a coin and said, ‘I’ll go in the Army,” Ross said.

He remained in the military until his retirement in June 1965. He also married and has four children.

Ross was a student in radio and radar repair school at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, then became an instructor. After the Korean War started in 1950, Ross remained at Fort Monmouth for most of that war.

“I was a company commander in the special weapons and guided missiles company. We stored and maintained special weapons — the kind you don’t want to use unless you have to,” Ross said.

Ross then went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he was assigned to a new radar line-of-sight radio communications system. Then he asked to be sent to France to fill a position as a radar officer. He spent three years there, also serving as a commander of troops in Saumur, France. In 1955, Ross and his family returned to the United States and he was assigned to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and attended nuclear training school for two years. There, he learned how to repair and maintain the electronic components of missiles.

His expertise next took him to Waterloo, New York, where he worked in weapons storage and maintenance for three years before he was sent to Korea in 1960.

“After the war, we were building a communication zone with different depots for supplies to support officers,” Ross said.

Ross finished his military career at Fort Lewis, Washington, which had a nuclear weapons training center, then transferred to nearby McChord Air Force Base to maintain missiles.

“I spent my last tour as nuclear weapons staff officer for the 7th Region of Air Defense Command,” Ross said.

Ross retired with commendations including the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal-Germany, the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.

Ross had a second, 17-year career as an insurance salesman. He moved to Rapid City, where he was an avid golfer and where he met and married Ellie, his wife of almost 28 years.

As he follows national and international news, Ross believes another world war is probable.

“Another world war could happen because of the crazies in the world. It may or may not happen because of the deterrent type of weaponry we have today. (Missiles and cyber warfare) are so sophisticated and accurate, it wouldn’t be a very long war,” Ross said.

“That’s the only deterrent I know to keep people from fighting. The development of nuclear weapons has caused peace,” Ross said. “It could go either way if a madman turns on the wrong switch.”

32 historical photos of the attack on Pearl Harbor

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Marsy's Law shields name of deputy who shot suspect

The name of the Pennington County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a fleeing suspect Nov. 30 near New Underwood will not be released to the public, the Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

"The deputy is invoking his protections under Marsy's Law," said the office's spokeswoman, Helene Duhamel. "The new constitutional amendment affords him protections as it does any victim of crime."

Previously, Marsy's Law was used to withhold a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper's name after the trooper was allegedly attacked before shooting and wounding a suspect during a September incident in Union County.

Marsy's Law was approved by South Dakota voters in 2016 and amended by voters in June. It was proposed by California billionaire Henry Nicholas as part of his nationwide effort to pass victims' rights legislation in honor of his murdered sister. 

Nicholas contributed $2.09 million in campaign funds to support passage of Marsy's Law by South Dakota voters in 2016 and another $450,000 in support of amendments to the law passed in June.

Last month, six more states adopted Marsy's Law with encouragement from $72 million of total campaign spending by Nicholas, following five states that had previously implemented the law. Meanwhile, Nicholas was arrested in August on suspicion of drug trafficking after police allegedly discovered him with heroin, cocaine, meth and ecstasy at a Las Vegas casino-resort.

Duhamel said that because the suspect in the Nov. 30 chase — 19-year-old Matthew John Lorenzen — allegedly fired shots at pursuing authorities, the deputy is a victim as defined under Marsy's Law.

The law, which is in South Dakota's Constitution, defines a victim as "a person against whom a crime or delinquent act is committed." Among the many rights granted to victims in the law is a right to privacy and "The right, upon request, to prevent the disclosure to the public ... of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim's family."

As is standard procedure in the case of any shooting by a South Dakota police officer, the Pennington County deputy's actions are under investigation by the state's Division of Criminal Investigation. Per the policy of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office, the deputy has been placed on administrative leave.


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Two plead not guilty to stealing thousands of dollars in Box Elder video lottery scam

Two members of an alleged video lottery scam pleaded not guilty Thursday to altering tickets to steal thousands of dollars from a Box Elder convenience store for more than four months. 

Theodore Wright, 64, of Box Elder, allegedly altered video lottery tickets so it looked like they were worth more and cashed them in to Veronica Little and Susie Huebner, who worked at the store in Box Elder and pocketed some of the money for themselves, according to police reports. The scam began June 26 and continued until Nov. 1, the indictment says. 

The three are charged with aiding and abetting aggregated grand theft for stealing between $5,000 and $100,000 from Yesway, the indictment says. Yesway recently bought the convenience store from Fresh Start. 

Wright is charged with 21 counts of aiding and abetting counterfeit South Dakota lottery tickets; Little, 41, of Rapid City, is charged with 11 counts; and Huebner, 55, of Rapid City, is charged with 10 counts. 

On Thursday, Wright and Little entered not guilty pleas during their arraignments at state court in Rapid City. Huebner does not have an arraignment date yet. 

If Wright is found guilty and deemed a habitual offender for past grand theft and drug possession convictions, he could be sentenced to up to 25 years for the grant theft charge. Each of his counterfeiting charges would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Little could serve up to 15 years in prison for the grand theft charge if she is found guilty and labeled a habitual offender for a past drug possession conviction. Each counterfeiting charge would have a maximum five-year sentence. 

Wright and Little, who are out on bond, are set to return for a status hearing at 10 a.m. on Jan. 7. 

Duane Peyrot, one of the Box Elder officers who investigated the case, said that he added up all of the altered lottery tickets and determined the trio stole more than $112,000. He said they may have taken more money, but there are no receipts from before June 26, when Yesway took over the business. 

Peyrot, who recently joined the Box Elder force after working as a police officer in Wyoming, said that while he's seen lottery theft cases before, this one is "unique." 

"I haven't seen one where there was an insider involved," he said of Little and Huebner's alleged roles in the scheme. 

The employees were reported to police on Oct. 28 after a co-worker found a cash-out ticket — the receipt to collect money from video lottery machines — with a sticker peeling off, police reports say.

"The whole case blew up" once that employee discovered the altered ticket, Peyrot said. It should be "obvious" to any employee whose job it is to recognize altered or counterfeit lottery tickets that these were fake, he said. 

Employees then found other tickets with stickers on them that changed their value from cents to hundreds of dollars, the police reports say. They also found videos of Little and Huebner pocketing cash and of Wright handing them tickets. 

When Little was contacted by police, she said that when Wright handed her a ticket one day, she noticed it was altered, according to police reports. Wright then winked and gave her a $500 tip for the four or five altered tickets she cashed. Huebner reportedly told police that Little introduced her to Wright.

An altered lottery ticket was found on a scanner at Wright's house, the reports say. The ticket was worth 20 cents but had been changed to read $520.15. Police also found fake $100 and $20 bills, glass pipes with residue and a substance that looked like marijuana. 

A co-owner of the convenience store told police that they're not sure how the auditor the store uses didn't catch the theft, the reports say. 

"That's the million-dollar question," Peyrot said. "That’s a lot of money in a couple of months."

Wade LaRoche, spokesman for the South Dakota Lottery, said he couldn't comment on this specific case. But he said the lottery shares best practices with business owners about how to validate tickets and track income. 

It's rare to be charged with counterfeiting lottery tickets in Pennington County, according to data provided by the court's clerk.

Since 2016, two others have been charged with this kind of crime. Both cases remain open. 

READ MORE: See who has felony arrest warrants in Pennington County

Outstanding felony arrest warrants in Pennington County