Suspect in real estate scheme arraigned in federal court

A Connecticut man accused of a scheme that led an elderly Kennebunk man to invest in an alleged real estate venture was arraigned in federal court Thursday.

Peter DiRosa of Manchester, Conn., has been charged with one count of wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty to the charge in U.S. District Court.

DiRosa is accused of persuading the victim to invest $600,000 in retirement funds into an alleged Hungarian resort called the Castle at Polgardi. The man was told in May 2008 his money would be returned after six months, along with interest and $400,000 in profit, but he only received $60,000, according to the indictment.

DiRosa wired $600,000 from a Kennebunk bank account to an account in Hungary, according to the document. The indictment also alleges that DiRosa misappropriated project funds.

DiRosa and another man, Thomas Renison of Glastonbury, Conn., had been arrested earlier this year on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The case against Renison has since been dismissed.

Martin’s Point Health Care holds event to celebrate designation

Martin’s Point Health Care, the Portland-based health care network, held an event on the city’s waterfront Thursday to celebrate its 5-star ratings on two Generations Advantage Medicare Advantage plans.

The rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services means the plans offer the highest level of value and quality of care. Martin’s Point is the only Medicare Advantage plan in Maine to receive the 5-star designation and one of only nine organizations nationwide.

About 130 community partners, doctors and providers, employees and others attended the celebration at the Ocean Gateway terminal. Martin’s Point is a nonprofit that provides primary care services, health plans, and wellness services in northern New England.

Downeaster will be pilot program for new Amtrak ticketing system

The Downeaster will serve as the pilot program for Amtrak’s eTicketing system, which is due to launch nationwide next year.

Amtrak’s eTicket eliminates the need for traditional paper tickets. Instead, a receipt is emailed to passengers, who can print it themselves at their convenience. Passengers also will be able to make changes to reservations online before they begin their travel.

Traditional tickets remain available at ticket offices and Amtrak kiosks. And traditional tickets are required for group tickets, multi-ride tickets and travel beyond the Downeaster route.

The Downeaster travels between Portland and Boston. Existing stops are Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Wells in Maine; Dover, Durham and Exeter in New Hampshire; and Haverhill and Woburn in Massachusetts.


Employer of men who died on job will pay $16,800 in federal fines

The employer of two men who were killed by sewer gases on a job site in Kennebunkport in September has agreed to pay $16,800 in federal safety fines.

Tim Stevens, owner of Stevens Electric & Pump Service in Monmouth, met Wednesday with officials at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s office in Augusta. He agreed to pay the fines and OSHA agreed to add language to its safety citations acknowledging that the employer had provided safety equipment that the employees did not use, said William Coffin, area director for OSHA’s Augusta area office.

Winfield Studley, 58, of Windsor and Richard Kemp, 70, of Monmouth died from inhalation of hydrogen sulfide, a sewer gas, while working on a pump inside a sewer tank at the Lodge at Turbats Creek, a motel in Kennebunkport.

OSHA cited the employer for four safety violations, including failure to ventilate the area where the men were working and failing to test the air quality before and during the work. OSHA also said the workers were not using harnesses designed to help them escape the tank in such an emergency.

Stevens had said he planned to challenge the citations because the company had provided all the needed safety training and equipment for monitoring the air quality and protecting the workers. He said he did not know why the workers, his friends, decided not to use the equipment. Stevens could not be reached Thursday.

Maine’s city, town governments show revenues down by 6 percent

A survey of city and town governments across Maine shows their operating revenues are slipping.

The Maine Municipal Association says local governments in the state received a 6 percent reduction in operating revenue from all sources last year. That’s caused municipalities to cut back on services including general administration, code enforcement, libraries, parks and human services.

The association’s annual survey is conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 220 municipalities, accounting for 45 percent of all towns and cities in Maine, participated in this year’s survey.

It found that in 2010, all of the municipalities statewide, including those not surveyed, collected an estimated $3.5 billion in federal, state and local revenues. That means revenues were down by 6 percent from the previous year.

Author will discuss health care during events in Maine next week

T.R. Reid, author of “The Healing of America,” will speak at a series of public events in Maine next week about health care and health reform.

Reid will discuss his book and observations about health care in the United States and around the world. He also will speak about improving the quality of health care, a topic that will be featured in his new TV special scheduled to air nationally this winter on the Public Broadcasting System.

Book clubs around the state have been reading and discussing Reid’s book in advance of the visit. Organizers expect more than 1,000 Mainers to hear one of Reid’s presentations in Portland and other cities.

Reid is being brought to Maine by the Maine Health Management Coalition Foundation and the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Care Leadership. The Maine Health Access Foundation and other health care organizations have helped to underwrite the visit.

Reid’s visit will include public talks at the University of Maine at Augusta at 7 p.m. Monday in Jewett Hall and at Portland Library’s Rines Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Portland presentation will be broadcast live to a number of libraries around the state. For a list of participating locations, visit www.getbettermaine.org/bookclub.

Maine inmate who took hostages dies while in New Jersey prison

A Maine man who held two people hostage while in Maine State Prison has died in a New Jersey prison.

Michael Chasse was found unresponsive in his cell Thursday. He was serving a 12-year sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and a number of other crimes. He also had been convicted of two counts of kidnapping for the June 30, 2008, hostage standoff in which he used a homemade knife to hold another prisoner and the prison librarian hostage. He was sentenced in December to 40 years for that conviction.

Chasse, originally from Lewiston, was transferred to the New Jersey State Prison Jan. 3 shortly after his sentencing because of the hostage situation in Maine.

A statement from the Maine Department of Corrections gave no indication of the cause of death. The department statement said New Jersey authorities will conduct any investigation into the death.


Walmart’s plans to expand store win approval from Planning Board

Walmart’s plans to expand its store on Route 1 won final approval Tuesday from the Planning Board.

The retailer will increase the store’s size from 92,000 to 124,000 square feet, adding a grocery section, garden center and pharmacy.

Before construction starts sometime next year, the 10-screen Regal Cinemas next door will be demolished.


Maine woman wins competition for screenplay at R.I. film festival

A Maine woman has won the Rhode Island International Film Festival screenplay competition with a story about a childless older couple and their adopted Newfoundland dog.

The screenplay “Raising Rufus: A Maine Love Story” by Carla Maria Verdino-Sullwold of Brunswick was selected as the winner in the main competition category. The Flickers film festival calls it a tender, tragic story about a couple in a troubled marriage of 40 years who adopt a dog named Rufus and set out on a series of adventures that help them heal.

Winners were also chosen from among the 364 entries in several other categories, including New England Focus, Horror, and Gay and Lesbian. Officials said the number of screenplays entered was the largest in the competition’s history.