Here are this week's top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica's ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to MuckReads@ProPublica.org. The best submissions are selected by ProPublica's editors and reporters and then featured on our site and @ProPublica.
Investors Place Big Bets on Buy Here Pay Here Used-Car Dealers, Los Angeles Times
In a three-part investigation, the Los Angeles Times examines how some used-car dealers make hefty profits by issuing high-interest loans to low-income people. Wall Street firms then bundle the loans into securities, much as they did with subprime mortgages in the years before the financial crisis.
Contributed by @markzbarabak
Across the Border, Beyond the Law, Chicago Tribune
Government data and records show that the U.S. criminal justice system regularly allows suspects to evade justice by fleeing the country. It’s hardly an impossible task to find them — Chicago Tribune reporters tracked down eight fugitives during one 18-day trip to Mexico.
Contributed by @ColonelTribune
Boy Scouts Failed to Report Abuser, Los Angeles Times and CBC News
One scout leader was allowed to repeatedly molest at least 15 children over the course of nearly two decades, in both Canada and the United States. Internal records suggest that scouting officials in both countries helped to cover his tracks.
Contributed by @jasonfelch
State Firm’s Cash to Herman Cain May Breach Federal Campaign, Tax Laws, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has identified questionable transactions in Herman Cain’s campaign records. In the early days of Cain’s presidential campaign, a private nonprofit corporation run by two of his top campaign aides paid for “tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas.” The Cain campaign is hiring an investigator to look into these claims.
Contributed by @kleinmatic
Thousands of Kids Taken From Parents In U.S. Deportation System, Colorlines
After illegal immigrants are detained and deported, their U.S. citizen children often end up in foster care rather than being reunited with their families. Colorlines documents cases in which deportation led to prolonged struggles for custody or the termination of parental rights.
Contributed by @ProPubPR
Power Play: Utility Companies Pull Plug on Competition, New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Since the 1920s, a Massachusetts law has banned cities and towns from creating new, locally run electrical companies. Big utility companies have been lobbying the state legislature to keep this ban on the books, even though local utilities that were created before the ban got power up and running much faster than the big companies after Hurricane Irene.
Contributed by @NECIRBU
Slumlords Stiff Banks — and Rake In Sec. 8 Bucks, New Haven Independent
Even as buildings in New Haven, Conn., fall into disrepair and face foreclosure, the landlords who own those properties continue to collect rent subsidy checks from the city’s housing authority.
Contributed by @mickleemurph
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