Overland Park

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The co-owner of an Overland Park hotel was sentenced Tuesday to 21 months in federal prison for employing undocumented workers, who were paid less than other employees, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

She also agreed to forfeit her interest in two hotels and funds derived from the crime, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Rhonda R. Bridge, 42, and her husband, Munir Ahmad Chaudary, 53, both of Overland Park, Kan., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for personal gain.

In their pleas, they admitted employing undocumented workers at two hotels they owned: A Clarion Hotel at 7000 W. 108th in Overland Park, and a Clarion Hotel at 11828 NW Plaza Circle in Kansas City, Mo. Chaudary and Bridge lowered their hotels’ operating costs and put themselves at a competitive advantage by not paying Social Security, Workers Compensation and unemployment insurance for the undocumented workers, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

According to court records, the investigation began in December 2011 when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Kansas Department of Revenue received information that the owners of the hotels were employing foreign nationals who not lawfully present in the United States.

In June 2012, an undercover agent posing as an undocumented worker got a job at the Overland Park Hotel. He was hired even though he told his employers he was not authorized to work in the United States.

In 2011 and 2012 the defendants filed false and fraudulent Quarterly Wage Reports and Unemployment Tax Returns with the Kansas Department of Labor in which they under-reported the number of employees at the Overland Park hotel, the amount of total wages paid and the amount of unemployment taxes due.

Bridge is the third person to be sentenced in the case. Judith Vanzant, a hotel manager, and Syed Naqvi, a Pakistani native who worked as a desk clerk, already were sentenced. Co-defendant Munir Ahmad Chaudary is awaiting sentencing.

Grissom commended Homeland Security Investigations, the Kansas Department of Revenue, the Overland Park Police Department, the U.S. Department of Labor and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson for their work on the case.

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Kansas City’s Jewish community has once again been touched by tragedy – this time in the heart of Israel. Two of the victims of today’s Jerusalem synagogue attack had close ties with local Jewish day school Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, based in Overland Park, Kan.

Rabbis Kalman Levine and Mosheh Twersky were among four religious men brutally gunned down in a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers. In addition, an Israeli Druze police officer died following the attack.

Rabbi Levine, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., was a member of the first graduating class in 1976 of Kansas City’s only Jewish day school, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy. Rabbi Twersky’s nephew, Meshulam Twersky, is currently a lower school teacher at HBHA.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of four members of the Jewish community in Jerusalem today,” said Howard M Haas, HBHA’s head of school, during an afternoon news conference.

“We extended our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of both these men, including the lifelong friends that Rabbi Levine made during his time at HBHA.”

Earlier in the day, HBHA teachers spoke with students about the Jerusalem attack that took the men’s lives. Rabbi Meshulam Twersky has been at HBHA for three years and is a beloved teacher.

“Each of his students wrote him letters of condolence,” Haas said. “In addition, HBHA staff and faculty came together to hold a memorial service for both Rabbis Levine and Twersky.”

Rabbi Daniel Rockoff, president of the Kansas City Rabbinical Association and an HBHA teacher and close colleague of Rabbi Meshulam Twersky, spoke on behalf of the local Jewish community.

“Earlier today I had the opportunity to talk with Rabbi Twersky about the death of his uncle. Rabbi Levine and his uncle were part of a close-knit community and knew each other well,” Rabbi Rockoff said. “Both of these men personified Jewish ideals and values and were deeply committed to their families. They will be deeply missed by their spouses, children and grandchildren.”
- Story from Jane Blumenthal Martin, HBHA

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On the same day that a preliminary hearing had been scheduled in Johnson County in a case where a a neo-Nazi allegedly shot and killed three persons outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, an announcement was made about a new group that will promote racial and religious acceptance in the community.

A faith walk, song contest and community gathering will take place in April 2015 to mark the first anniversary of the shooting deaths of three Kansas City area residents outside of two Jewish institutions by an alleged Neo Nazi. The announcement was made Wednesday by Mindy Corporan whose son, Reat Griffin Underwood, and father, Dr. William Corporon, were killed outside of the Jewish Community Campus in Overland Park. Terri LaManno was gunned down outside of Village Shalom, an older adult living community.

A springtime event is meant to bring together diverse groups of faith and culture to work together to create understanding and counter hate. The event is being put together by The Reat Griffin Underwood Memorial Foundation/Faith Always Wins initiative, the LaManno Family, and the newly formed Racial and Religious Acceptance and Cultural Equality Foundation.

A steering committee comprised of a cross-section of the community is working on the details for the major event. While still in the planning stages, this event will include a Faith Walk beginning from the Jewish Community Campus and concluding at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. A Celebration of Life will take place at COR that will include performances of the three top songs selected as part of RRACE’s Songwriting Contest. Teens ages 14-21 are invited to submit original songs that address themes of racial, religious and/or cultural equality.

During the week prior to the community event, the public is asked to perform good deeds as part of Seven Days of Kindness. Those experiences can be shared through Facebook on Popeye and Reat’s “Something Good” Page. Other organizations involved as community partners include COR, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom.

The alleged shooter’s case was delayed Wednesday for a mental evaluation.

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