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ProPublica Big Story 2023

Date received:
March 26, 2023

A scammer who tricks Instagram into banning influencers has never been identified. We think we found him.

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The Big Story
SUN. MAR 19, 2023

A Scammer Who Tricks Instagram into Banning Influencers Has Never Been Identified. We Think We Found Him.
OBN, a mysterious fraudster, says he made hundreds of thousands of dollars by exploiting Instagram’s security gaps. He’s eluded Meta and law enforcement, but we followed his trail to Las Vegas.
by Craig Silverman and Bianca Fortis

How Cigna Saves Millions by Having Its Doctors Reject Claims Without Reading Them
Internal documents and former company executives reveal how Cigna doctors reject patients’ claims without opening their files. “We literally click and submit,” one former company doctor said.
by Patrick Rucker, Maya Miller and David Armstrong

Juveniles Locked Up for Life Will Get a Second Chance in New Mexico. But the State Must Locate Them First.
A new law will grant parole hearings for prisoners given life or long sentences as children. But our reporting showed that New Mexico officials weren’t aware of at least 21 “juvenile lifers” in the state’s custody.
by Eli Hager

A Chicago Suburb Stopped Ticketing Students. But It Won’t Stop Pursuing a 3-Year-Old Case Over Missing AirPods.
The city’s prosecution of a former student comes as the state considers a ban on ticketing students at school. The case is headed to a jury trial.
by Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica, and Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune

Mississippi Has Invested Millions of Dollars to Save Its Oysters. They’re Disappearing Anyway.
A string of disasters have decimated oyster populations, with far-reaching impacts on the health of the Mississippi Sound. The state’s yearslong efforts to restore the reefs have fallen short.
by Anita Lee, Sun Herald, photography by Hannah Ruhoff, Sun Herald

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan Issues Sweeping Information Requests to Universities Researching Disinformation
In the letters, Jordan asserted that the schools may have contributed to the Biden administration’s “censorship regime by advising on so-called misinformation.”
by Andrea Bernstein

DeSantis Privately Called for Google to Be “Broken Up”
In previously unreported videos from a closed-door Teneo Network conference, Florida’s Republican governor takes his anti-big tech rhetoric beyond what he has said publicly.
by Andy Kroll, ProPublica, and Nick Surgey, Documented

Senators Had Questions for the Maker of a Rent-Setting Algorithm. The Answers Were “Alarming.”
After a ProPublica investigation, RealPage answered questions from lawmakers about its product. In response, the senators sent a letter to the Justice Department.
by Heather Vogell

“He Has a Battle Rifle”: Uvalde Police Waited to Enter Classroom, Fearing Firepower From Gunman’s AR-15
In previously unreleased interviews, police told investigators they were cowed by the Uvalde shooter’s military-style rifle. This drove their decision to wait for a Border Patrol SWAT team to engage him, which took more than an hour.
by Zach Despart, The Texas Tribune

Nepal Wants a Sacred Necklace Returned. But a Major Museum Still Keeps It on Display.
Questions about the origins and ownership of some Asian artifacts in a key collection at the Art Institute of Chicago have cast doubt on the museum’s commitment to keeping its galleries free of stolen antiquities.
by Elyssa Cherney, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Steve Mills, ProPublica

This Georgia County Spent $1 Million to Avoid Paying for One Employee’s Gender-Affirming Care
Officials in Houston County, Georgia, said gender-affirming surgery for sheriff’s deputy Anna Lange was too costly. They spent more than $1 million on private lawyers in a fight to keep transition-related care from being covered by their health plan.
by Aliyya Swaby and Lucas Waldron

Wealthy Executives Make Millions Trading Competitors’ Stock With Remarkable Timing
Never-before-seen IRS records show that CEOs are sometimes making multimillion-dollar bets on the stocks of direct competitors and partners — and doing so with exquisite timing.
by Robert Faturechi and Ellis Simani