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This Hour: Latest Missouri news, sports, business and entertainment

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ESCAPED INMATE

Pettis County inmate escapes

SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) - Authorities have been searching for an inmate who escaped from the Pettis County jail.

The Sedalia Democrat reports that 29-year-old Brandon McGee, of Sedalia, escaped from the jail late Thursday by dismantling shower room equipment and escaping through the hole into a service corridor that led to an exit.

Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond says he escaped while staff were preparing for the nightly lockdown.

McGee was described as a white male, 5-feet-9-inches tall, 130 pounds with brown eyes, brown hair and a goatee.

He was being held on a charge of fraudulent use of a credit device.

VETERANS HEALTH-DISABILITY

Audit finds mismanaged claims at St. Louis VA

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A federal investigation finds a high rate of mismanaged disability claims at the St. Louis VA.

A U.S. Office of the Inspector General report released Thursday found that the St. Louis veterans' benefits office mishandled one-third of the disability claims it processes. Qualified veterans were paid too much as well as too little.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that an average benefits claim has been pending at the downtown St. Louis regional benefits office for 171 days. That's about two months above the Veterans Benefits Administration target.

The 815-employee office is one of more than 50 regional VA benefit offices where more than 12,000 compensation claims awaiting processing.

The St. Louis office regional office's acting director agrees with the federal investigators' recommendations on how to improve performance.

IRS EMPLOYEES-FRAUD

Ex-IRS employee pleads guilty in fraud conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A former employee of the Internal Revenue Service in Kansas City pleaded guilty to stealing taxpayers' identity information to receive fraudulent tax refunds.

Thirty-two-year-old Taylor Knight of Kansas City entered the plea Friday in federal court. She admitted that she used the information to receive fraudulent tax refunds and prepaid debit cards while working at the IRS.

Knight and her boyfriend were arrested in August 2011 when they tried to cash a $46,734 refund check at a convenience store, and offered store employees $6,000 to persuade them to cash the check. A suspicious store supervisor called police.

Knight faces up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution.

ATTORNEY-FRAUD

St. Charles lawyer pleads guilty to federal fraud

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A St. Charles lawyer has pleaded guilty to three federal felonies involving a real estate scheme.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jeffrey Witt was accused of falsifying documents to obtain a bank loan secured by a St. Louis County home which he didn't own. He was also charged with using an associate to impersonate the homeowner at the loan closing and cashing clients' settlement checks without their knowledge.

When confronted by the homeowner, Witt created a phony letter on fake bank letterhead, forging the signature of a bank officer while creating a fabricated deed that purported to invalidate the deed of trust he had used to secure the loan.

Witt was arrested on the charges by the FBI in March as he arrived in New York City from Turkey. Sentencing is scheduled for October.

POLICE ASSAULT

St. Louis County cop charged with subway assault

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) - A 13-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department is charged with felony assault after striking a MetroLink passenger on the hand with his expandable baton following an argument.

The county Prosecuting Attorney's Office on Friday charged 44-year-old Dawon Gore of Ferguson with second-degree assault. He was jailed on a $3,500, cash-only bond.

Gore is accused of using excessive force against an unnamed 24-year-old light-rail passenger in late April at the Hanley Road station in Clayton. He's been assigned to the department's MetroLink unit since May 2012.

A police press release says the investigation was forwarded to prosecutor Robert McCullough in early May with a recommendation to press charges.

FBI AGENT-ASSAULT

FBI agent to appear in court on misdemeanor charge

FULTON, Mo. (AP) - A Fulton man who is an FBI agent will appear in court next week on a misdemeanor assault charge alleging that he put a teenager in a choke hold and caused the boy to temporarily lose consciousness.

Thirty-seven-year-old Scott Armstrong was charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault after the March 1 incident. He pleaded not guilty on June 24.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday in Callaway County Court.

The Fulton Sun reports a probable cause statement says Armstrong admitted to placing his arm around the teen's neck and that the boy lost consciousness. The statement did not explain why Armstrong used the chokehold on the teenager.

Armstrong is a member of the Boone County Sheriff's Department Cyber Crimes Task Force.

FLIGHTS CANCELED-ISRAEL

St. Louis circus awaits return from Israel

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The temporary suspension of U.S. flights to Israel amid fighting in the Gaza Strip is delaying the return of a St. Louis youth acrobatic troupe.

KWMU-FM reports that nine children and three adults from Circus Harmony were scheduled to return Wednesday but now will remain in the Middle East for an additional six days.

The St. Louis Arches teamed with a similar group in the Galilee region of northern Israel to bring together Arab and Jewish children. The conflict centered in the disputed territory to the south has killed 828 Palestinians and 35 Israelis in 18 days of combat.

The Federal Aviation Administration briefly banned U.S. flights in and out of Israel out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.

HIT-AND-RUN-STUDENTS

WashU student charged with DWI, hit-and-run

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A 22-year-old student at Washington University in St. Louis has been charged with assault and drunken driving in a hit-and-run that injured two classmates.

Police say senior Julian Phan of Needham, Massachusetts, struck sophomores Richard Lee and Shana Zucker in a crosswalk as they returned from an off-campus formal on a Sunday night in late April. KTVI-TV reports that Lee suffered a broken leg and injured his liver, while Zucker had a concussion and broken finger.

Phan first hit a bus before striking the students. Witnesses say the former dean's list student was speeding.

Online court records don't yet list an attorney for Phan, who was jailed Thursday on a $20,000 bond.

KICKBACK LAWSUIT

Surgeon faces kickback suit over fiancee referrals

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - A Cape Girardeau neurosurgeon faces federal charges of improperly steering medical equipment referrals to a shell company he operated with his fiancee.

The Southeast Missourian reports that a complaint alleges Dr. Sonjay Fonn and Deborah Seeger violated a federal anti-kickback law which seeks to prevent conflicts of interest and overuse of medical services.

A medical group filed the initial lawsuit under the False Claims Act in January 2012. The case was sealed until this month, when it was unsealed and dismissed. Federal prosecutors then refiled the suit on behalf of the government. The charges include two counts against Fonn of submitting false Medicaid and Medicare claims.

Defense attorneys call the suit over Fonn's use of spinal implants baseless.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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