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Ex Takes Stand in Pistorius Trial; Albertsons and Safeway Merging; Family Accused in Shoplifting Ring; Who Is The Founder Of Bitcoin?; Obama And Putin Talk Ukraine

Aired March 7, 2014 - 06:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama and President Putin found little common ground as they spoke for the third time about the crisis in Ukraine. Now, an American warship is headed to the Black Sea. This is for exercises that the U.S. says were planned already. The parliament in Crimea facing protest and backlash for scheduling a referendum to break away from Ukraine. But Russian officials are inviting the vote and saying there will never be a war between the two countries.

Two Marines, a captain and master sergeant, relieved of duty. This stems from an explosion last year that left four dead. The marines were removing unexploded from an artillery range at the time. Investigators say the explosion was likely caused by a dropped or kicked grenade. The marines disciplined were in charge of that exercises.

So, Dr. Frank Jobe, a legend in sports medicine, has passed away. He was the first to perform arm surgery that resurrected the careers of countless major league pitchers, including Tommy John. Tommy John's surgery, everyone has heard of this, the ground-breaking procedure now known by that name. Dr. Jobe died in California Thursday after an undisclosed illness. He was 88 years old. What a legacy in sports.

Now to Minnesota, and an amazing rescue with just seconds to spare. A quick-thinking school bus driver smelled smoke Thursday morning then saw it coming out of a heater. So, he decided to pull over and he evacuated four kids with disabilities inside that bus. Two of those kids were in wheelchairs.

Moments later, smoke and fire just consumed the bus. You can see. He tried to put it out. He couldn't even put the fire out with an extinguisher, had been blazing so much and so hard. All the kids were just after the scene picked by another bus and taken to school. That driver a hero -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: People did what they had to do. They made it much better than they could have been.

Thank you, John. Let's go now to South Africa, day five of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial underway right now. So, on the stand is one of the Olympian's ex-girlfriends testifying about their breakup and how he always carried his gun. What will it mean?

Let's check in with Robyn Curnow at the courthouse in Pretoria -- Robyn.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Well, it's actually the lunch break now. Of course, this is the final day of the first week of this trial. We haven't just heard a lot about that faithful Valentine's Day shooting, but also we've heard a lot about Oscar Pistorius.


CURNOW (voice-over): This morning, Oscar Pistorius' ex-girlfriend took the stand.

SAMANTHA TAYLOR, PISTORIUS' EX-GIRLFRIEND: The first time our relationship ended was when he cheated on me with --

CURNOW: Breaking down after claiming he cheated on her with Reeva Steenkamp, and testified that when they were together, he screamed at her and his screams could not have been mistaken for a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he screams and is really anxious he sounds like a woman?

TAYLOR: That is not true. He sounds like a man.

CURNOW: Earlier in the trial, more graphic testimony of Reeva's death from his neighbor, Dr. Johan Stipp. The physician was among the first to see the Olympian after he shot his model girlfriend.

DR. JOHAN STIPP, WITNESS: He was trying to open the airway and stop bleeding from her right thigh.

CURNOW: On the second day of Stipp's testimony, the defense arguing that the doctor heard Pistorius screaming after accidentally shooting Steenkamp. And what sounded like gunshots must have been him breaking down the door with a cricket bat and then screaming for help when he found her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go through it again.

STIPP: You can but that's what I heard.

CURNOW: Stipp insists he heard a woman scream and gun shots, not a sound of a cricket bat.

STIPP: I heard the boom boom boom, I didn't hear any screaming after that no.

CURNOW: On Thursday, the Blade Runner broke down, unable to bear the gruesome detail from Stipp's timeline of events. STIPP: I remember the first thing he said when I got there was that he said, "I shot her. I thought she was a burglar and I shot her."

CURNOW: With his head in his hands, wiping away tears.

STIPP: She had no pulse in the neck. She had no breathing movements.

CURNOW: The doctor told the court he recalled an emotional Pistorius playing for Steenkamp to leave.

STIPP: He prayed to God, please let her live, she must not die.


CURNOW: OK. Now, just to go back to that testimony by Samantha Taylor, Pistorius' ex-girlfriend, under cross examination, the defense said they had e-mails that proved not only was their relationship over when Pistorius started dating Steenkamp, but that Taylor had in fact cheated on Pistorius. So, lots more I think coming up in the next few weeks.

Back to you, Kate and Chris.


Robyn, thank you very much for that.

Let's take another break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, the merger of two supermarket giants, Albertsons and Safeway. What does it mean for your grocery bills?

Plus, a suburban Chicago family accused of stealing over some $7 million worth of merchandise over 10 years. How did they pull it off and how did the feds finally catch them? We'll tell you.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Two of the largest grocery store chains in the country are breaking bread. Albertsons and Safeway merging in an estimated $9 billion deal. So, what does this mean? Why is this happening? And most importantly, what does this mean for your grocery bill? Which only seems to get more and more expensive, right?

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here.

Tell us how so?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the company say, they think they're actually going to be able to lower it a little bit.

BOLDUAN: How are they going to pull that off?

ROMANS: Because when you have that much scale and that much size, you have more power to negotiate with your suppliers, right? They're also in a space that is seeing all this competition from Costco, from Walmart, from all the warehouse chains and from Amazon and online?

So they have to remake these companies and make them more attractive compete -- this is what they're going to do -- they say they're going to have a wider range of items, lower prices, better fresh products. We know customers want that, and they're going to start renovating stores.

This will make them just behind Kroger. Kroger will still be leading the biggest standalone regular supermarket. Right. But Walmart is really selling a lot of groceries, so is Costco. And there are a lot of upstarts online that sell groceries. So this is getting together to be more competitive.

BOLDUAN: Do they close stores?

ROMANS: They're not going to close any stores. They say they're not going to have to close any stores. It's going to make them a power house out West. Safeway is best out West. But the Albertsons-Safeway together will be run by the Safeway CEO.

You know, this is the biggest leverage buyout so far of the year, also shows sort of exciting movement in that space.

BOLDUAN: Maybe it will hopefully set a trend, lower grocery bills for everybody.

ROMANS: We like to say. And we will I can guarantee you, we'll be watching to see -- I mean, when you make -- when you're CEO of a company, you make that claim, you're going to lower prices, you can bet that all of us are going to be watching to make sure they really can lower price.

BOLDUAN: As well we should be.


BOLDUAN: Are they all going to be Albertsons, Safeway, do they keep their names?

ROMANS: The Safeway CEO is going to run the whole show. You know, there's others in this family brand. And Cerberus, you know, the investment firm that is putting this deal together, they've got a lot of other super market properties and brands around it. So, they're not new to this space.

But there's a lot of changes in -- you know, look, I mean, do you go to Costco? It's been a long time since I've been into a regular grocery store, except to run in and get something that I needed. That is the backdrop for so many Americans and what these companies have to face.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome. CUOMO: They're growing and those food boutiques are growing also because everybody is getting hooked --


CUOMO: -- on the organic and all that.

ROMANS: Yes. True. It's true.

CUOMO: It's another story, though, isn't it?

All right. Let's go from who wants to sell things, to people who wanted to steal them. This morning, a Chicago family is behind bars accused of running a decade-long shoplifting ring. They're charged with stealing $7 million worth of merchandise. Federal prosecutors say the family business involved hiding items inside a specially made dress and then selling the stolen goods online.

CNN's George Howell has the story.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who would have thought this husband, wife, and daughter trio could have allegedly gotten away with stealing so much merchandise over such a long time. They apparently lived a pretty good life in this affluent Chicago suburb. That's where police arrested them.

Fifty-eight-year-old Branko Bogdanov, 52-year-old Lela and 34-year-old Julia, they're alleged family business now busted after at least a decade of shoplifting, authorities say, stealing millions of dollars in merchandise, then selling it all for half the retail value on eBay through another individual who authorities say acted as a fence. That person now cooperating with authorities.

FRANK BENEDETTO, SECRET SERVICE: We determined that he paid $3.4 million to the defendants in this case over several years. For merchandise with a retail value, a little over $6 million.

HOWELL: Investigators followed the three on a four-day cross country shoplifting spree, starting in Oklahoma February 17th, then continuing on two days later to malls in Texas, rounding out in Louisiana before returning home to Illinois. Over the years, the trio has allegedly hit many other states throughout the country. Authorities learned about the family after executives at Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us tipped them off.

MICHAEL FALCONER, BRANKO BOGDANOV'S PUBLIC DEFENDER: They seemed to me to be pretty up beat and thinking this wasn't going to be a big deal.

HOWELL: Time after time, officials believe the family got away by a means of a rather creative approach, stuffing items into a bulky black dress that Lela wore, outfitted with various compartments to fit and conceal large items. Investigators say they stole everything from expensive American Girl dolls to Furby robotic toys, Lego blocks, baby monitors and baby carriers.

The family, reportedly from the former Yugoslavia, faces a federal charge of interstate transportation of stolen property -- all three currently remain in custody waiting for an interpreter.

George Howell, CNN, Chicago.


BOLDUAN: Wow. Quite an operation.

All right. Thank you so much, George.

Coming up next on NEW DAY: the mystery everyone is talking about. Is this the man behind Bitcoin? The online currency that's now worth billions and has everyone talking. This man's identity, the founder's identity has been secret, but now a reporter may have uncovered him. She joins us live.


BOLDUAN: Perfect music for this, I guess. Welcome back, everyone.

It has been one of the biggest mysteries raging across the internet and business world. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? The man who created Bitcoin is known as the father of Bitcoin, the online currency now worth billions. Take a look at this scene last night after "Newsweek" published an article claiming the man in these images is the Bitcoin founder.

Hoards of reporters chasing him, chasing the man who may just be Nakamoto in front of his Los Angeles home. So, is it him? The reporter who first found this man is joining us now live. Leah McGrath Goodman, a senior writer at "Newsweek" and the reporter who investigated this piece in "Newsweek." The face behind Bitcoin. Leah, thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: So, this was a two-month investigation that you did, right?

GOODMAN: Yes. It was two months of almost obsessive sifting through information.

BOLDUAN: Now, I want to get to how you found this man. But first, when you see the scenes, when you see the video outside of this man's home, it's caused quite a stir. Why do you think this is Satoshi Nakamoto?

GOODMAN: Obviously, it's not what I wanted to see, people mobbing this man. That was unfortunate, I think. But, the reason we think it's him is we went through, I don't know how many leads, and the process of this research isn't about proving who someone might be. It's about eliminating possibility. So, for every person you say, why might it not be them? And with this man, we can never find how it might not be him. We kept finding reasons why it could be him. And then, all the way down to the day I went to his home, all the dots connected and all the details fit the time frame, his background, his work expertise, the way he wrote, and all the descriptions of him about how people found him and his personality, his political leanings, his world view. And you know, it's really in the detail that it comes live. But that being said, you are looking for the reason to not think it's someone. So, when I interviewed him, it was, "are you not this man?"


GOODMAN: And he made it clear to me -- he acknowledged Bitcoin and said "I'm no longer involved in it. I'm no longer connected with it and other people are in charge of it now, but I don't want to talk about it."

BOLDUAN: So, all roads kind of led to this door to this conversation that you had with him.


BOLDUAN: Since then, after the piece was released, you've had these scenes outside his home and other reporters trying to speak with him. Both the "Associated Press" and "L.A. Times," they confronted him. And in part, when he's spoken to them he said that he was never involved, and he also said that that conversation that you had with him was misunderstood. Does his denial after the fact to these reporters, he said, "it's not me, I'm not that man," does that change anything for you?

GOODMAN: Well, of course, I'm interested in what he had to say to them. And I talked to a number of the people on site yesterday, including, I think, a couple of the key people. And what they told me was he -- the way he represented our conversation was so far different from what happened that that made me think he wasn't trying to be truthful at that point. I guess, if he had said something about maybe I just misunderstood, although, I'm certain he didn't.

BOLDUAN: You're certain your conversation happened the way it is. He did not misunderstand?

GOODMAN: But he took it to another level. He actually -- he said he thought I was talking about Cotron (ph) which a journalist showed him an article in which I said he had worked at Cortron, and he said, "oh, yes. That's what I meant." And I thought that that was very not true to the conversation he and I had. I think he knows that as well.

BOLDUAN: So, take me back just very briefly.


BOLDUAN: How did you -- you did an exhaustive search of databases and records, but what was it that it finally connected you with him? How did you find him?

GOODMAN: Well, I mean, his address is posted. So once, we saw the name that he's using now, it's easy enough to find where he is.

BOLDUAN: So, would you say he was hiding in plain sight?

GOODMAN: I was saying he's hiding in plain sight. Absolutely. Yes.

BOLDUAN: How did the model trains come into play in this? Because I read this in your article that he loves model trains and that is part of the way that you were able to spark a conversation with him.

GOODMAN: His family has made clear and other people who I have talked to have said that he's not that approachable. His youngest brother said you'll never get him to talk ever. You'll never even be able to find him.

BOLDUAN: Because he's so secretive --

GOODMAN: I mean, his e-mail isn't even his name. His e-mail is two words that have nothing to do with a human.


GOODMAN: So, I struck up a conversation with him about one of his hobbies and asked him about his background and how he got interested. And then I talked -- then I segued into Bitcoin, at which point he stopped speaking to me.

BOLDUAN: Why does this all matter? Everyone is fascinated with Bitcoin, of course. It's a digital currency. It's honestly very confusing when you try to understand it yourself, what it really is. It's worth billions. Why does it matter knowing who the founder of this is?

GOODMAN: I mean, to me, it matters a lot because Bitcoin has been so inspiring and so, of course, you wonder, especially as a journalist, but as any curious person, it's natural to want to know what informed the creation in the first place. And I felt like his story was so much more human and captivating than I think I even thought it could be.

So, to know a little bit more about why a one-world currency was so important to this man, I think he had some negative experiences at banks. He certainly was suspicious of authority. He had seen the government in the classified world government, and to me, that says a lot.

BOLDUAN: In your writing, you were confident of what you had found in your investigation.


BOLDUAN: But even in your writing, you don't seem entirely certain that all clues led to him, but not everything. What is your lingering doubt?

GOODMAN: I think I am open to more information. And so, as journalists keep talking to him, and they probably will, I think at this point, very open to hearing what they say and how what he says now is connective with what we found and also what he said to me. So, I'm always open to new information. You can never close all doors.

And it's possible he had other people help him. It's possible -- you know, we already know he had people helped him after the initial design of Bitcoin -- it's possible that he designed Bitcoin with others, I think.

BOLDUAN: It definitely started a conversation to say the very least. So interesting. Leah McGrath Goodman, thank you so much for coming in and you can read her piece in "Newsweek" -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thanks, Kate.

Coming up on NEW DAY, money, assets and business as weapons. How Washington is trying to freeze Russia out of Ukraine. Question is, will sanctions work?

And the half million dollar hangover. Here's the story you get to judge it for yourself. A gambler didn't know when to walk away because he was too drunk. That's what he's saying and now he's suing the casino saying they should have cut him off. He's going to join us live and make the case. We'll put it to the test. You'll be the judge.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 7th. Now seven o'clock in the east, and let's start out with the news blast, the most news you can get anywhere. Let's go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Ukrainian and I'm against the war (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crimea is Ukraine.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sexual assault a problem in the military, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop picking on great Americans who are creating great things to our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oscar Pistorius' ex-girlfriend took the stand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time our relationship ended was when he cheated on me.


CUOMO: All right. Let's start with this latest on the crisis in Ukraine. For the second straight day, a Russian naval ship is blocking the exit from the Ukrainian base, this, as Russia says war is not in the cards with their neighbor. So, now, we're going to have to figure out what happens in Crimea. The parliament there is scheduled to have a vote, a referendum, on whether to break from Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will attend today's opening ceremonies for the Paralympics which will include Ukrainian athletes. This comes after Putin spoke on the phone with President Obama for the third time about the crisis Thursday. Obama stressed diplomacy, but Putin says Ukrainians need help from Russia. The talk came hours after President Obama leveled sanctions against anyone who have helped escalate the crisis.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, the U.S. naval destroyer, "Truxtun" is heading for the Black Sea. The "Truxtun" with 300 personnel on board is expected to join ships from both Bulgaria and Romania for naval exercises. Now, U.S. military officials say the deployment is routine and it was scheduled well before the crisis in Ukraine.

CUOMO: There are a lot of different angles to this story. We're covering every one of them. Let's start with Michelle Kosinski at the White House -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, last night was the third phone call since the crisis started between President Obama and Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The U.S. is saying that both sides understand that there should be a diplomatic way forward. Russia even emphasizing the importance in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

A lot said, there are still these big differences in approach and assessment of what's even going on in that region. President Obama telling Putin to talk to Ukraine, let international monitors into Crimea, and pull troops back to their bases. The U.S., of course, has now led the world in imposing sanctions on Russia, something that the EU has threatened, but so far, has not done.

And Russia -- the foreign minister met with Secretary Kerry yesterday, another leaders. He is saying that he has not yet found common ground with the west, but that discussions would continue -- Kate.