Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "Texas" ...

  • We Sell Houses (and Sometimes Ruin Lives)

    Scott Wizig is a Houston-based real estate king with an appalling track record in Houston, Buffalo, and Baltimore. Houston Press first reported on Wizig in 2004, after he was run out of Buffalo. They decided to follow up on him in 2014 after a group of community non-profits in Baltimore sued him for sitting on dozens of vacant, blighted homes that were deemed health and safety hazards. The Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending appears to be the only Texas entity keeping an eye on Wizig, but even though he's repeatedly violated disclosure laws, the penalties are a pittance. Wizig also has exploited flaws in county record-keeping and eviction courts that have allowed him to foreclose on property he doesn't really own.
  • Primed To Fail

    For the past two years, WFAA has uncovered rampant mismanagement at Prime Prep Academy, the taxpayer-supported charter school founded by NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. In 2014, we found that the school’s former top manager – and Sanders’ former business partner – had allegedly sold hundreds of student laptops without permission, prompting a criminal investigation, and leading to the Texas Education Agency to revoke the troubled school’s charter.
  • Telemundo 39 Diploma Mills

    Diploma mills have become prominent in North Texas. These businesses open shop as alleged private schools in small offices and offer home-school programs. They promised people a high school diploma in exchange of a flat fee. They take advantage of a loophole in Texas Law that protects home-school students from being discriminated by colleges or universities. People running these diploma mills are making thousands of dollars selling bogus diplomas, and the students are finding out the hard way. Some of them realize that the diplomas are useless when applying for work or for financial aid. After their broadcast, the group of students showcased in the first part received a money order with a refund for their diploma fee.
  • Up in flames

    This yearlong investigation examined the amount of natural gas flaring in the Eagle Ford shale formation south of San Antonio, and its impact on air quality and the lives of area residents. We were the first publication to use state records to show how much gas was being flared, and how much it was polluting the air. The major findings: the oil field was burning enough gas to fuel all of San Antonio for a full year, and the pollution exceeded that of six large oil refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas. We also found that the state failed to enforce regulations on some of the largest polluters, and that some of the companies flaring the most gas had never applied for permits. The state cited the companies based on our findings.
  • Sex Offender Program

    The stories spotlighted a little-known state agency and civil commitment program that purported to be a treatment program for convicted sex offenders, revealing questionable and abusive practices and raising questions about its constitutionality. In addition to uncovering the details of questionable contracts, the stories revealed a systemic and ongoing failure by state officials to conduct the civil commitment program in accordance with state law, best practices, and its overall constitutionality. Unlike civil commitment programs in other states, Texas’ program effectively operated as an additional criminal punishment for some of society’s least sympathetic offenders, forcing them into a purported treatment and educational program no one has successfully completed in its 15-year history. The stories have sparked a nearly completed housecleaning of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management leadership and plans for a revamp of the entire program. The state district judge who oversees most of the court cases involving the civil commitment program also is the subject of an investigation by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. In addition to a series of investigations and a state audit underway, legislators have called for an overhaul of the program and may revisit the original authorizing law.
  • Killed in the Line of Training

    Neal Smith had excelled at his first day in an elite firefighter training exercise. But on Day 2, trapped in a small space and weighed down by 75 pounds of gear, he became disoriented in the fog and collapsed on the second floor of the building he was making his way through. A trainer screamed at him to get up, but he couldn't. His internal temperature was 108 degrees; his brain was swelling. When Mayday was called it was too late. Rushed to a nearby hospital, the experienced firefighter died there later that day. Most people assume that all firefighters are trained by their own fire departments. But departments in small town Texas actually have been sending their personnel to the East Texas Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association, a nonprofit trade group for volunteer firefighters. And unlike a governmental agency, there is no oversight of that group's methods or standards. As a subsequent investigation by the state fire marshal's office and by the National Institute of Safety and Health revealed the training camp was so poorly run that several other firefighters had dropped out (saying they didn't want to risk their lives), passed out or been taken to the hospital. Had safety procedures standard in most fire departments been in place – such as a simple tub of ice – Smith could have been saved at the training camp site.
  • Austin Emergency Response Failures

    This series of investigative stories uncovered an overwhelmed 9-1-1 center staff during the deadly “Halloween Flood” of 2013 in Austin, Texas and triggered proposed changes to Austin’s 9-1-1 system. Open records requests returned 9-1-1 calls and emails showing the impact earlier cost-cutting decisions had the morning of the flood. The records we uncovered show the City of Austin was underprepared to respond to this overnight emergency and any others of its scale. The series morphed into an examination of the City of Austin’s 9-1-1 center and how years of neglect led to a controversial and unreported plan to save overtime. After the City of Austin released its final flood report and KXAN questioned the small number of recommendations, police leaders announced a 9-1-1 system audit. After KXAN reported a leaked draft, police amended a budget list of critical needs requesting 36 new 9-1-1 positions.
  • Ebola Crisis: Unprepared in Dallas

    For months in the summer of 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had warned the country’s health-care community that an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Western Africa could make its way here. The feds assured the public that America’s modern medical resources and infrastructure could avert a crisis. We were told hospitals had prepared and trained their staffs, using CDC guidelines, to address a virus they had never seen. Yet in late September, when a Liberian man named Thomas Eric Duncan walked into a Dallas emergency room with fever, headache and abdominal pains, his doctor and nurses found him unremarkable – just another of the night’s many victims of mishap and contagion. He was sent away after a few hours with antibiotics. None of the caregivers realized the encounter would soon become part of U.S. medical history.
  • Donation Deception

    This KXAN investigation uncovered millions of dollars donated to Texas veterans charities mostly going in the pockets of fund-raisers. They poured financial reports those solicitors are required to submit to the Texas Secretary of State. Their investigation found professional fund-raisers have collected $130,399,567 for veteran organizations since 2001, the records show. But those fund-raisers kept 84% of the money donated. Meaning, most of the money people donate never reaches veterans needing help. They also went undercover to find VFW posts and bars using a potentially illegal method of fundraising in the form of computer video games where people can pay to play and win money, which the Texas Attorney General has ruled are illegal.
  • GoFundMe Fraud

    This KXAN Investigation led them across state lines to track down a suspect in a case of money missing from a crowd funding account supposedly set up to help a family who had lost a loved one. When law enforcement failed to do anything to find the suspect, KXAN went to work. After they found the now admitted thief, law enforcement finally arrested her and extradited her to Williamson County, Texas to face criminal charges.