.'-- The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 21, 1998
Death toll in Texas flood climbs
VICTORIA, Texas (AP) - Perched
on the roof of his home while the
* Guadalupe River swirled menacingly
'around him, Larry Crisp stepped with-
out hesitation into a nylon rope basket
dangling from a helicopter.
"I was thinking, 'There sure is a lot
of water," he said. "They put the basket
,down, I just got in."
Crisp was among scores of trapped
residents rescued by helicopters and
boats yesterday as rain-swollen water-
ways spilled across Southeastern Texas,
carrying off homes, cattle and lives in
he coffee-brown floodwaters.
The bodies of a 6-year-old boy and a
37-year-old man who were swept away
by the floodwaters were found in the
San Antonio area yesterday. That
brought to 17 the death toll since week-
end storms swamped 60 Texas counties,
or nearly one-fourth of the state. Two
children remain missing.
Up to 5,000 cattle, many without
brands to identify them, were roaming
free because of washed-away pens and
fences near San Antonio.
But much of the misery was flowing
downstream yesterday. Nearly 2 feet of
rain around San Antonio sent torrents of
water toward farm towns and cities
along the Guadalupe and other rivers.
In Cuero, 90 miles southeast, three-
quarters of the town of 7,000 was under
water after the Guadalupe crested at
49.78 feet, more than double its 20-foot
flood stage. At least 2,000 people were
"We're just taking it a minute at a
time," city Secretary Nancy Gips said.
"Until the water recedes, we can't do
much of anything except make sure
everyone's safe and dry."
At the state prison near Cuero, offi-
cials had some of the 1,300 inmates
pumping water from the first floor and
said the prisoners would probably be
moved up to the second floor.
More than 20 miles downstream in
Victoria, a town of 60,000 people,
locals called it the worst flooding since
1936. National Guardsmen flying over
the Guadalupe said the river was nearly
four miles wide at some points. It usu-
ally is 150 feet across.
"I've seen some trailers floating, a
couple of motor homes floating, said
Pete Durbin, a chief warrant officer
aboard one of the choppers. "It's ugly."
As bad as things are, some flood vic-
tims refused to be rescued, even as they
sought refuge on their rooftops.
"They just waved us off," Durbin
said. "I think I'd be gone."
Hundreds of Victoria residents made
plans to spend the night away from
home after being evacuated on short
Kenneth Langston worried his moth-
er and 90-year-old bedridden grand-
mother were still trapped in their flood-
ed home without power or a phone.
But firefighters using boats believed
they had most people out of the worst-
hit neighborhood, where at least 500
homes were damaged.
A house is submerged under a torrent of water yesterday In Texas. Nearly one
quarter of the state was affected by the floods, which killed 17 people.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Elderly
Americans should be careful about giv-
ing out their Social Security numbers,
officials warned yesterday after arrest-
ing a man who sent out letters offering
an extra check to senior citizens who
send back money or their bank account
and Social Security numbers.
"People should be really cautious
about who they give their personal
information to, especially their Social
Security number" said Social Security
Administration spokesperson Cathy
Special agents from the Social
Security inspector general's office
arrested Anthony David Williams, 32,
in Phoenix Monday night. Williams is
accused of misrepresenting himself as
a government employee to defraud
retirees and disabled Americans receiv-
ing Social Security benefits. He is
charged with mail fraud.
Calls to Phoenix phone numbers
associated with Williams' businesses
and to his lawyer on yesterday were not
Williams allegedly mailed out letters
on a likeness of Social Security Sta-
tionery, often following up with phn4
calls, according to an affidavit filed in
U.S. District Court in Phoenix.
"According to our records you are
entitled to receive an additional check
from Social Security each month," dne
version of the letter said. "These xra
income benefits could give you up to
an additional $514 per month."
Recipients were asked to send a "fil-
ing fee" of varying amounts up to $23r
or to fill out a form including their-
Social Security and bank account num-
bers so the fee could be "automatically
The mailings were signed by
"Donald Jenkins" of the "Winning
Advantage Program, SSI-SSA" - an
alias used by Williams, who is British
but applied last year to become a per-
manent U.S. legal resident.
Social Security recipients usually do
get letters from the government when
their benefits go up. Other legitimata
mailings that people get from Social
Security include a new statement of
taxes paid and future benefits due,
which every American worker over age
25 will receive by the end of next year.
"But we never ask for money for a
processing fee," Noe said.
The federal government also does
not normally ask for someone's Social
Security number - they already kno*
it. Indeed, Social Security prints that
number as an identifier on mailings
about a person's benefits.
Social Security numbers are the
most widely used ID in the private sec-
tor as well - requested on the forms
people fill out for everything from col-
lege registrations to bank slips:. But
consumers should remember that busi-
nesses can't require a person to dis-
close the number, Noe said - although
you may be refused a loan or cred
card if you won't.
Social Security officials said they're
not sure how many senior citizens
Williams contacted. But federal agents
reported seeing him, driving a silver,
1998 Lincoln Town Car, pick up
responses from Oklahoma, Florida and
Texas at a commercial post-office box.
The agency also has received .com-
plaints from Michigan, Nevada an
Lana Elzy of Floyds Knobs,,Ind.,
contacted her local Social Security
office after her 90-year-old aunt
received an overnight mail package
asking for her Social Security number,
information about her bank account
and her ionature on a blank form