City / County Digest


June 06, 2008

Shock Trauma team to help quake victims

Three doctors, a nurse and an engineer from Maryland Shock Trauma Center plan to travel to China today to help treat victims of the May 12 earthquake that devastated the central part of the country.

The team plans to help doctors at West China Hospital, a huge, modern facility in Chengdu - about 50 miles from the quake's epicenter - where more than 2,000 quake victims have been treated.

Dr. Thomas Scalea, Shock Trauma's physician in chief, said he and his colleagues offered to help soon after the earthquake struck.

"I wasn't really expecting the phone to ring, but then a few days ago they said 'please come' and we said 'yes,'" Scalea said.

The invitation came from Zhou Wenzhong, China's ambassador to the United States, he said.

Besides Scalea, the team will consist of Dr. Thomas Grissom, a specialist in critical care and anesthesiology; Dr. Geoffrey Sheinfeld, a specialist in critical care and kidney issues; Karen Karash, a neurotrauma and critical care nurse; and Peter Hu, an engineer who will handle telemedicine and translate.

"We expect to see many patients with head and spine injuries from being crushed by debris, as well as compromised kidney function and a host of other trauma-related medical problems," said Scalea, adding that he expects the team to spend most of its time treating patients in intensive care.

West China Hospital has 4,200 beds, making it about seven times larger than University of Maryland Medical Center, which includes Shock Trauma. Chengdu is a metropolis of 11 million people.

Jonathan Bor

Harford County

Bel Air

Two vehicle fires under investigation

The Maryland Fire Marshal's Office and the Bel Air Police Department are investigating the burning of two vehicles early yesterday, both in the same residential area of Bel Air, authorities said.

Firefighters responded at 5:25 a.m. to the 100 block of McCormick St., where a 2006 Chevy Malibu belonging to The Arc, Northern Chesapeake Region was burning. Damage was estimated at $4,000. The fire was started in the interior of the vehicle, said Mark Bilger, director of the State Fire Marshal's northeast regional office.

At 8:13 a.m., the owner of a 1998 Ford Escort discovered damage from an attempt to set her car on fire in the 100 block of North Hickory Ave. Bilger said the fire appeared to have been started on the outside and burned itself out overnight. Damage was estimated at $500.

Anyone with information on either incident is asked to call the fire marshal's northeast regional office at 410-836-4844.

Ellie Baublitz

Howard County


Man, 39, sentenced in fraud scheme

A 39-year-old Columbia man was sentenced yesterday to 21/4 years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to defraud retailers of more than $224,000 in merchandise, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Ronald Vorel pleaded guilty, admitting that from 2002 to 2004, he used credit cards to purchase items by phone and Internet orders, using fake names. Sometimes he pretended that the items had not arrived in the mail, in one instance prompting the person responsible for delivering merchandise to be reassigned to a new job. Other times, retailers sent Vorel duplicates of the merchandise, prosecutors said.

Vorel sometimes told retailers that the merchandise was defective, prosecutors said, and then did not return the products, returned cheaper products that had been purchased elsewhere or returned empty boxes.

Police seized two leather chairs worth $7,000 from Vorel's apartment. He had told the merchant that the chairs were never delivered to his home.

Prosecutors said that Vorel's actions led to a Washington state pet store's going out of business because of a $3,600 purchase of a pair of parrots. The store owner flew the parrots from Seattle to Baltimore for delivery, where a friend of Vorel's signed for the birds.

Vorel then denied that the birds had been delivered, and a dispute over the charge prompted the store to be marked by credit card companies as a high-risk merchant, prosecutors said.

In addition to the 27-month prison sentence for mail fraud, U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. sentenced Vorel to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $224,000 in restitution.

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