A1 A1
Candidates for 7th Congressional District find themselves joined by Senate campaigns during events in Gwinnett

As the final days tick away until Election Day, the candidates for the highly contested 7th Congressional District race are finding some high profile partners on the campaign trail in Gwinnett County: the candidates for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Within a three-day span, both of the candidates for the open congressional district race — Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux and Republican Rich McCormick — appeared at campaign events in the Duluth area with the campaigns from their respective parties for at least one of the Senate seats.

Bourdeaux appeared a rally with Senate candidates Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock at Shorty Howell Park on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, McCormick appeared with Bonnie Perdue, wife of Sen. David Perdue, and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a campaign event for Perdue at Arena Tavern on Monday afternoon.

“You can see most of the (congressional) districts are already decided: You can see that you have some very ultra conservative and ultra liberal district, and you have a couple of districts that are up for grabs,” McCormick said, referring to the 6th and 7th Congressional Districts, after the Perdue event.

In some ways, the fact that the campaigns for the two major parties Senate candidates for Perdue’s seat — as well as Warnock, who is running for Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat — appeared in Gwinnett with their 7th Congressional District counterparts in recent days could be seen as a sign of how important the county will be in the Nov. 3 election.

“Gwinnett County is certainly one of the more diverse counties in our state, it represents the new and emerging America and I think it will have a central role in flipping the state blue,” Warnock, who is running for Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat, said after the Democrats rally.

In addition to the Senate and congressional candidates, the Democrats rally at Shorty Howell Park also featured Gwinnett commission chairman candidate Nicole Love Hendrickson and Sheriff candidate Keybo Taylor on Saturday.

Both of the Senate races, as well as the 7th Congressional District race, are expected to be close, however, and that means the candidates have to work to turn out every vote possible.

POLL: If the general election was held today, who would get your vote for U.S. President?

Bourdeaux, for example, lost to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in the 7th District race in 2018 by just 433 votes, and it has become one of the most closely watched congressional races in the nation.

On Saturday, Bourdeaux called on Democrats to stay the course and to fight for every vote heading into next week’s election.

“Change is here,” she said. “Now, we are turning our attention to Nov. 3, the most consequential election in our lifetime, and we are seeing historic turnout.”

Meanwhile, polls have shown the race for Perdue’s seat being a very close between Ossoff and Perdue. Libertarian Shane Hazel is also running for the seat, raising questions in recent weeks about whether his candidacy could push that Senate race into a runoff.

Bonnie Perdue evoked Gwinnett’s support for her husband six years ago as she called on the county’s Republicans to support him again this year.

“I know we can count on you to stand with us, to work hard, to get every vote that we can because we’re going to need every vote that we can get,” she said. “David is fighting for us, and I so appreciate you fighting for him.”

David Perdue himself was not at his campaign’s event with his wife and Sanders in Duluth on Monday because he was in Washington D.C., participating in the Senate’s vote to confirm the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elsewhere, the special election for Loeffler’s seat is expected to be a race among the 21 people in that race to see who can get enough votes to make it to a runoff that will be held in January.

While none of the Republican candidates for the Senate seat held by Loeffler attended the Perdue campaign’s rally on Monday, the two major Republicans in that field — Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins — have made stops in Gwinnett in recent months.

Collins addressed the Gwinnett GOP in August. Meanwhile, Loeffler, who like Perdue was in Washington on Monday for the Barrett vote, appeared with Gov. Brian Kemp at an event in Peachtree Corners last month and is scheduled to return to Gwinnett on Wednesday for a lunchtime campaign stop at Bare Bones Steakhouse in Buford.

But, in the race to pick up as many voters as possible, guest speakers like Sanders are stumping for candidates from their respective parties.

Sanders heaped praise on McCormick, who addressed the crowd at the Perdue event before she got up to the headline speech.

“I think it’s a little crazy if you’re not voting for this man to be your next congressman,” she said. “He’s been a Marine, he’s been a doctor. That’s a pretty good list. I don’t know if he wanted to add congressman to the list, but I for one am glad people like him are willing to put their names on the ballot and put it all on the line and fight for us.

“If we don’t have people like that, then our country will fall into the liberal mob’s hands and that is something we absolutely do not want.”

But, ultimately in the final days of congressional race, its coming down to Bourdeaux and McCormick making their final pitches rally to their respective parties faithful.

The 7th Congressional District is the only one of the congressional districts at the core of metro Atlanta that is not currently held by a Democrat — technically, the 10th Congressional District includes eastern Gwinnett, but the bulk of the district is eastern Georgia, outside the metro core.

“We need change between we need to renew our democracy,” Bourdeaux said on Saturday. “We need leaders who respect the rule of law and who are going to advocate for basic things like voting rights.”

And, McCormick told local Republicans on Monday, that the GOP should be seen as the party for minorities and immigrants. He accused Democrats of being socialists and said Republicans should should fight to ensure minorities and immigrants embrace philosophy of the GOP instead of Democrats.

“We have to adapt,” McCormick said. “We need to begin to accept the fact that we need those people who are in the worst conditions in America, that have been lied to for decades, and decades, and decades.”

Local travel nurses fill critical need amid 'third wave' of coronavirus infections

Elena Mway, 38, became a registered nurse seven years ago understanding she would have to wear many hats throughout her career, including that of a patient advocate, educator, care manager and more.

So when hospitals across the country were faced with a shortage of nurses to treat COVID-19 patients, Mway and her colleagues were among the first to sign on to travel across the country to help.

Mway, who has lived in Lilburn for 12 years, works with Premier Healthcare Professionals, a healthcare staffing firm based in Cumming that has deployed more than 450 nurses to the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

The “frontliners” leave home for weeks or months at a time and are stationed at hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities that desperately need them across Georgia and other hot spots with high rates of infection, such as New York.

Premier’s rapid response teams remain on standby, ready for deployment to any city facing a COVID-19 crisis — situations exacerbated by a deficit of nurses that’s long troubled the global healthcare industry.

“I have always wanted to serve and help people, hence my eight years of military service, and now I am serving as a nurse,” Mway said. “I wanted a career that is giving, challenging and where I can make a difference in people’s lives. Nursing is one of the most respected and trusted professions, and we are the backbone of the healthcare industry.”

In the Army reserves, Mway worked as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Operations Specialist, but is now a bedside nurse, often working more than 12-hour shifts. During the pandemic, she has even used her own cellphone to make FaceTime calls to families so they know their loved ones are well taken care of.

“As a bedside nurse I do everything from giving medications, charting, monitoring vital signs, making sure patients are prepped for scheduled procedures, communicating with doctors, educating patients and their family members, providing emotional support, etc.,” she said. “Nursing is challenging. It will make you or break you!”

“Having to juggle between 10 different things that need to be done now, while four different patients are calling at the same time with their needs and wants, having to work in a short-staffed nursing unit, losing a patient and trying to hold back tears while comforting their loved ones, and so many things I can’t put to words.”

But Mway said she loves every minute of being a travel nurse. She was first deployed to Northside Hospital Atlanta, where she stayed for three months. She recently returned home from another assignment in Texas, where she spent two months treating COVID-19 patients.

“Everyday is a new challenge, but I always tell myself ‘no matter how bad my day is, it does not even compare to how hard it is to be a patient in the hospital,’” Mway said. “We are here to make their hospital stay better and help them and their family go through the disease process as comfortable and smooth as possible.”

According to Yahoo! Finance, major parts of the country are now grappling with surges in new COVID-19 counts ahead of the flu season.

It reported that the U.S. saw its highest number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations last week since Sept. 2, while the number of new infections on Oct.15 topped 60,000, for the first time since early August.

Medical professionals are calling the surge in infections a “third wave,” which may lead to an increase or continued need for travel nurses.

Mway began working with Premier three years ago after a co-worker recommended the agency to her. Like Mway, Royce Evans, an Atlanta-based registered nurse and grandmother of two, also heard about Premier through word-of-mouth.

Earlier this year, Evans watched as an entire floor of her hospital was temporarily closed when 13 fellow nurses tested positive for COVID-19. But she didn’t bat an eye.

She reported to work and cared for two patients with confirmed novel coronavirus infections and likely others. Another day at the office, basically.

“Working at the hospital, unlike the rest of the world, we’re exposed to situations like this all of the time,” Evans said. “To me personally, I did the same thing I do with a patient with any other highly infectious disease. I’m used to it.”

Mway said she would like to tell all her front-line co-workers to “hang in there.”

“We are all in this together,” she said. “We can do this. Know that you are not alone. Please take care of yourself first — your physical and mental health are the most important. The world is a better place because of you!”

Premier was ranked No. 2 in the “Top 10 Travel Nurse Staffing Companies in 2020” by online travel nurse resource Highway Hypodermics. In the past 18 months alone, the rapidly expanding business has acquired several other healthcare staffing companies and bolstered its reputation for top pay for all nurses.

“We take pride in compensating our providers with rates that are higher than industry standard and ensure that they are taken care of at every assignment,” CEO Chris Eales said. “Ninety percent of our nurses come from referrals, and most of our office staff have been with us for over a decade, serving the community with high-quality work and dedication.”

Mway said she would like to think she has made a positive impact in her patients’ and coworkers’ lives, especially in these challenging times during a pandemic.

“Now more than ever, our patients need us the most,” she said. “We are the only ones who can comfort and hold their hands… .”

For more information on Premier, visit https://travelphp.com/.

FBI, U.S. Attorney's office looking for missing financial adviser from Gwinnett County accused of committing mail fraud

Officials from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia are looking for a Berkeley Lake man who is believed to have allegedly defrauded customers of his financial adviser businesses out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and who disappeared one day before he was supposed to turn over business documents to federal officials last month.

There is a warrant for the arrest of Christopher W. Burns, 37, for mail fraud and he is also under investigation by the IRS, according to the FBI. The financial advisor was supposed to hand over documents related to his businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, but left his house one day earlier, on Sept. 24, and has not been seen since then.

His vehicle was found abandoned in Dunwoody with copies of three cashiers checks totaling more than $78,000 in the car.

“The FBI is also asking anyone who has done business with Burns, and feels that they may be victims, to report it to the FBI,” officials at the federal agency said on Monday.

Burns allegedly operated trough several businesses including Investus Advisers LLC, Investus Financial LLC, Dynamic Money and Peer Connect LLC. A warrant affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Stephen R. Ryskoski states Burns allegedly offered “his friends, family and clients” a chance to make investments in a “peer-to-peer” lending program.

The program was supposed to provide “attractive returns in short periods of time via promissory notes” issued to the investors.

“In reality, the collateral promised by Burns either did not exist at all or was worth substantially less than Burns represented. Moreover, Burns is aware that he is under SEC investigation,” Ryskoski said in the affidavit. “Burns was scheduled to produce documents to the SEC on September 25, 2020. Notably, he failed complete his production of the documents to the SEC and his whereabouts have been unknown since the evening of September 24, 2020.”

The loans were to be made to businesses that needed financing, and there was supposed to be “little to no risk.” The promissory notes showed the amount of the investor’s loan, the promised rate of return, the dates on which interest was to be paid and the maturity date for the loans.

“Many promissory notes also identified specific collateral that secured the loan to reduce the level of risk associated with the investment and to induce investors to participate in the lending program,” the affidavit states.

The affidavit references one north Georgia couple who agreed to invest $365,000 in the program after Burns contacted them and told them he had an opening after another investor left the program. The couple was allegedly told their investment was to be “collateralized dollar for dollar by investment securities put up by the business borrowing funds through the lending program.”

The couple paid their investment to Investus Financial through two checks issued by Capital One on Sept. 1.

The couple told investigators that they were told they would receive two investment payments, one on Sept. 25 and another on Sunday at a rate of 8% per annum. The couple was also supposed to earn another investment payment on Sunday that would be worth 5% of the entire principal amount.

Sunday was also supposed to be the maturity date on the promissory note.

“The promissory note identified ‘the pledged collateral held in custody by Charles Schwab under restricted account numbers [xxxx]-9011 and [xxxx]-9046,’ “ the warrant affidavit states. “According to records from Charles Schwab, account number xxxx-9011 never existed, and on August 31, 2020, the date the promissory note was signed, account number xxxx-9046 had a balance of $308.58.”

The couple did not receive a payment on Sept. 25 and tried to reach Burns more than 20 times since then.

At about the time that payment was due to the couple, Burns’ wife filed a missing person’s report with Gwinnett County Police. She told police that he told her he was going to visit his parents in North Carolina, but they told investigators they had not been expecting him and had not seen him.

As for the cashier’s checks, Burns’ wife told investigators they had been used to pay off debts the couple had related to a divorce agreement.

“On September 24, 2020, Burns also transferred ownership of their approximately 5,900-square-foot home from himself to M.B pursuant to a divorce agreement,” the affidavit states. “The home is currently listed for sale for $1.1 million. Multiple other investors have reported that payments due on their promissory notes have not been paid as promised, and that Burns has stopped returning phone calls and emails inquiring about their balances.”

Anyone who has believed they were defrauded by Burns, or has information about his whereabouts, should call the FBI Atlanta field office at 770-216-3000 or visit tips.fbi.gov.

This bat-like creature is one of the characters visitors to Netherworld Haunted House will encounter in its Halloween Nightmares haunt this year.