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FBI raid on Osceola-area firm said related to fraud investigation; Barron native will challenge Rep. Kind; 10 more state stories

OSCEOLA -- A high-tech medical testing lab in northwest Wisconsin has been searched by the FBI, apparently to investigate possible Medicare billing fraud.

Neuro Science of Osceola said Thursday the search appeared to be related to previous misconduct by a former employee, involving Medicare billing procedures.

Neuro Science said it sued the former worker for theft and fraud, and the court case is still underway. The company said it's cooperating fully with investigators.

Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson said his deputies helped with traffic control while the FBI executed its search warrant.

Wisconsin FBI spokesman Leonard Peace would only confirm that a warrant was executed. He would give no other details.

A tipster told the New Richmond News that more than a dozen squad cars were staged near Zion Lutheran Church in East Farmington about 7:40 a.m., Wednesday, and personnel seen there included at least one individual wearing a jacket with "FBI" in the back.

Later information indicated officers headed to Neuro Science's offices, about two miles to the northwest at 373 280th St. Employees were reportedly sent home for the day.

Web information describes Neuro Science as a provider of "personalized health care solutions. We provide sophisticated neurologic, immune and hormone laboratory testing, as well as proprietary nutraceuticals that target identified imbalances. We bring everything together for the practitioner with our 'assess & address' approach."

Polk land records indicate that the 40-acre town of Farmington property and an adjacent parcel is owned by Gottfried and Mieke Kellerman. Improvements there are valued at $1.2 million. The $22,727 2013 tax bill on the property was paid in full on Dec. 14, 2013.

Former Sen. Johnson aide, Army veteran, challenging Rep. Kind

A second Republican is challenging U.S. House Democrat Ron Kind this fall in western Wisconsin.

Chris Anderson of La Crosse served in Afghanistan with the Army, and he's a former aide to Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Anderson, a 28-year-old Barron native, said he would focus on reducing the national debt if he's elected. He criticizes Kind for supporting President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Former Mauston alderman Ken Van Doren announced his Republican candidacy for Kind's seat earlier.

If both Republicans get on the ballot, they'll square off in a mid-August primary for the right to face Kind in November.

Vote on controversial chemo bill appears unlikely

MADISON -- It appears that Wisconsin lawmakers will not get a chance to vote on a controversial bill to make health insurers cover expensive chemotherapy pills.

Cancer patients have heavily criticized Senate GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who called a quick public hearing on the measure this week so his house could not vote on it. He then canceled the hearing. Fitzgerald later said his fellow majority Republicans would discuss the bill next week, and see if they can agree on something. However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hinted that his chamber would not take up the measure next Thursday, the final day the Assembly is scheduled to meet in the current session.

Vos said he has not voted for mandates in the past like the one to make insurers cover oral chemo pills. Without Assembly action, the bill effectively dies no matter what the Senate does.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Fitzgerald's brother Jeff is lobbying against the bill on behalf of health insurers.

Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton said he doubts the family connection has anything to do with the holdup, knowing Fitzgerald the way he does, but Erpenbach still says the perception is not good. The bill has support from a majority of senators, including some of the top Republicans. However, Fitzgerald says it does not have a majority in his own caucus.

New law will allow middle-schoolers to earn high school credits

WEST BEND --Gov. Scott Walker was to be at a West Bend middle school this morning to sign a bill which could let some of those kids get high school credits while in seventh and eighth grade.

Two West Bend Republicans proposed the measure -- Sen. Glenn Grothman and Representative Pat Strachota. It would give middle school youngsters a chance to get a leg up in earning high school credits, by completing the same classes which are normally taught to ninth- through 12th graders.

The students would have to show their potential competence in completing those higher-level classes.

Heat wave's over for now

SULLIVAN -- Winter's grip will apparently hang on for at least a while. What seemed like a nearly week-long heat wave in Wisconsin is ending this weekend. Beginning Saturday, parts of the north might not see 30 degrees again until at least Tuesday. By Sunday, it may be -10 in some areas.

Single-digit lows are predicted for Monday morning, before a slight warming trend builds again.

This past week, the Badger State saw its first 50 degree readings of the year on Monday, ending what seemed like weeks of constant sub-zero wind-chills. It got cold again Wednesday, but temperatures rebounded Friday to around 40 -- still below normal for this time of year in parts of the state.

There's was a chance of rain and snow in northern Wisconsin Friday and statewide Saturday. Forecasters are suggesting a large storm forming over the Pacific could bring heavy snow to the Midwest by mid-week next.

Champions for openness lauded by WFIC's 'Opee' awards

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has announced its eighth annual "Opee" awards. They recognize those who've enhanced openness in government over the last year, and expose those who've hurt the cause. The awards come in advance of next week's "Sunshine Week." It promotes the importance of government openness to a free society.

Oconto Police Chief Dan Ault gets the Political Openness Award for going against a trend to withhold things like drivers' names from traffic accident reports.

Becky Kostopolus and Marilyn Bartelt won the Citizen Openness Award for digging up information on how the Appleton School District dealt with teachers who made inappropriate comments about her son.

Ellen Gabler and Allen James Vestal of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel won the Media Openness Award for finding delays in a genetic test for newborns.

David Wahlberg of the Wisconsin State Journal won the Open Records Scoop of the Year for exposing the state's lax treatment in disciplining doctors who harm or kill patients.

Property owner David Salkin was named the Whistleblower of the Year, for giving information about the ATF's botched storefront weapons' operation in Milwaukee.

Finally, State Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend won the No Friend of Openness Award for sponsoring bills to purge information from the state's online court records, and stop making campaigns disclose the employers of their major donors. The awards will be presented at a banquet next month.

Boyceville man killed by accidental rifle discharge

BOYCEVILLE -- A 19-year-old western Wisconsin man died after he accidentally shot himself while cleaning a rifle.

It happened Wednesday night at the victim's home at Boyceville in Dunn County. Sheriff's deputies said there's no evidence that the shooting was intentional, and foul play was not involved.

The victim's name was not immediately released.

Dunn County deputies said the shooting would have been avoided had the victim followed basic firearm safety rules -- like treating every gun as if it's loaded, keeping fingers off the trigger guard until it's time to shoot, and pointing the muzzle in a safe direction.

Sentencing awaits 'bright and talented' man on bizarre abuse charges

MADISON -- A Madison man will be sentenced this afternoon for drugging eight women, and then molesting them and shooting nude videos after they passed out.

Brian Stowe, 30, pleaded guilty last fall to 27 state felony charges of sexually assaulting intoxicated victims, and taking nude photos of them. Thirty-five similar counts were dropped in a plea deal. Stowe has already been sentenced to 15 years on a federal conviction of drugging and molesting a 17-year-old girl after she fell asleep in late 2012.

Police widened an investigation of Stowe after the girl came forward. Investigators found numerous photos and videos of his victims on his computer.

None said they knew that Stowe photographed them while they were unconscious.

During his federal court sentencing, Judge Barbara Crabb called Stowe a bright and talented man, and she could not fathom how he could act as a "predator." Stowe has a master's degree in business.

Merrill woman facing conspiracy in alleged plot to kill fiance

MERRILL -- A Merrill woman has pleaded innocent to offering a former lover $1,000 plus sex if he would kill her fiancee.

Jessica Strom, 33, was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing Thursday. She was immediately arraigned on a Marathon County charge of conspiracy to commit homicide.

A judge also refused to reduce Strom's $250,000 bond that's keeping her in jail. Prosecutors said Strom met twice with a former technical college student and asked him to kill her fiancee, who's an attorney in both Wausau and Merrill.

Officials said the man went to police after the first meeting, and officers recorded the second encounter.

Prosecutors said Strom, a mother of two, was trying to get out of a "bad relationship."

During the hearing, Strom's lawyer pointed out that she had a previous intimate relationship with the informant and he asked a detective if Strom was really serious about her alleged offer.

The prosecutor contended that she was serious.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Minneapolis-based firm buys Spooner, Hayward, Ashland newspapers

A newspaper group in northwest Wisconsin has a new owner.

The Adams Publishing Group of Minneapolis has purchased the Superior, Ohio, and Chesapeake publishing groups. Terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition includes 34 print publications, digital media, and commercial printing facilities.

APG Media of Wisconsin LLC consists of six paid newspapers and one controlled-distribution publication including the Ashland Daily Press, Sawyer County Record, Sawyer TMC (Four Seasons and Evergreen), Spooner Advocate, Phillips Bee, Park Falls Herald and the County Journal.

APG Media of Minnesota LLC consists of five paid newspapers and three controlled-distribution publications including the Mesabi Daily News, Hibbing Daily Tribune, Grand Rapids Herald Review, Walker Pilot Independent, Chisholm Tribune Press, Virginia Manney's Shopper, Hibbing Manney's Shopper and Grand Rapids Manney's Shopper.

The other publications in the deal are in Minnesota, Ohio, and Maryland.

Mequon native-screenwriter unveils for new Hendrix film

Life is good these days for Mequon native John Ridley Junior. After he won the best screenplay Oscar for "Twelve Years a Slave," Ridley unveiled a movie about the late and enigmatic rock star Jimi Hendrix this week.

He wrote and directed the film "Jimi -- All is by My Side," which had its U.S. premiere at the South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin Texas.

Ridley called the film a long-time passion of his to tell the inside story of Hendrix, so his fans could get to know him better.

Observers said the film displayed a lot of passion, even though Ridley could not gain access to Hendrix's music -- which means viewers will not get hear his classic guitar pieces like "Purple Haze" and "All Along the Watchtower."

Andre Benjamin plays Hendrix in the movie, to be released in June by Open Road Films.

Also, Ridley has been working in Austin on a potential TV pilot called "American Crime" which stars Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton.

Wright's 'Taliesin' opening early for tours

SPRING GREEN -- Inside tours of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin will start earlier this year.

The famous house near Spring Green normally offers full tours from May through October, and more limited weekend landscape tours and shuttle rides in April and November. Those limited tours are being replaced this year with full two-hour house tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The basement and main levels of Taliesin are heated this year for restoration workers and that's made an early opening more feasible.

Frank Lloyd Wright used the 600-acre southern Wisconsin property as a lab for his design work since 1911. He kept changing and expanding the site until he died in 1959.

For more details on the private estate or to take a virtual tour, visit