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Guilty Pleas Due In ZeekRewards Scam

The first guilty pleas are due this week in a massive North Carolina-based Ponzi scheme. Dawn Wright Olivares was the high-profile face of ZeekRewards, an online company that promised big returns on a small investment.  As the company's former chief operating officer, she promoted the investment at public events and in interviews, calling it a great way to make money. 

Now the 45-year-old is pleading guilty to securities fraud conspiracy and tax evasion stemming from the $850 million Ponzi scheme.  She’ll appear in federal court in Charlotte Wednesday, along with her stepson, 31-year-old Daniel Olivares, who's pleading guilty to securities fraud conspiracy.  Dawn Olivares and her stepson are the first to plead guilty to criminal charges in the massive scam.

U.S. District Court spokeswoman Lia Bantavani says prosecutors couldn't discuss details of the case because it's an ongoing investigation.  See more on the Western District Federal Court website.


A worker from a Charlotte-based company was killed Friday in an accident at a factory under construction in Shelby.  The worker, from United Mechanical, died when a 10-inch pipe fell and hit him in the head as he worked at the new KSM Castings auto parts plant.  The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating. The worker's identity had not been released late Saturday because his family hadn't been notified. The new plant is expected to open this year.


Early this pro football season, things didn’t look so good for the Carolina Panthers or coach Ron Rivera. But the Panthers rebounded and made the playoffs. On Saturday, Rivera was named Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. They accepted their awards last night during the NFL Honors award show in New York, on Super Bowl Eve.


Punxsutawny Phil has done his work, predicting six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow on Ground Hog Day this morning.  But that’s Pennsylvania. Our ground hogs in North Carolina have yet to weigh in … In Charlotte this afternoon, Queen Charlotte will appear for the annual Ground Hog Day festivities at the Charlotte Nature Museum, on Sterling Road. They’ll have puppet shows, stories from noon to 3pm, with the shadow checking ceremony at 1:30.  In Raleigh, Sir Walter Wally will offer his forecast outside the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at 1 o’clock. Museum officials say he’s been right about the end of winter 50 percent of the time since 1998.


A faulty heater at a west Charlotte church landed six people in the hospital Saturday afternoon with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. at Shiloh Institutional Baptist Church on Greenland Avenue. Fire officials told the Charlotte Observer that 15 people were meeting at the church when they began feeling sick. Someone called 911. Firefighters found high meter readings for carbon monoxide in the building.


A man who survived being hit by a train in Shelby is now facing charges, including trespassing.   The Gaston Gazette reports that a train hit the 50-year-Gastonia man on Thursday night. He was treated at a hospital for injuries and was released on Friday.  Police say Sanders and a woman were walking on the tracks owned by Norfolk Southern. The woman got out of the way, while the train clipped Sanders.   He's charged with trespassing on a railroad right of way and impeding the operation of a railroad.


A South Carolina lawmaker is calling for an investigation after learning that South Carolina State University has a deficit of more than $4 million and needs $13 million to pay bills and loans.  Republican Sen. Shane Massey wants to know how the school's finances got so distressed.  The State newspaper reports that budget leaders have asked university President Thomas Elzey to submit a financial plan within two weeks. A letter that Elzey sent to the State Budget and Control Board last week was made public Friday. In it, he says the estimated $13 million in outstanding bills and loans is almost double last year's total for the state's only historically black college. Some of those loans were used to help with previous deficits.