- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

MARYLAND

Huge fire saps air quality

Smoke from a massive wildfire in far eastern North Carolina that has drifted hundreds of miles west is having a much worse effect on air quality than originally forecast.

The state Division of Air Quality issued a Code Red notice Thursday and Friday for the Triangle area of Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham, as well as the Rocky Mount area.

A Code Red means the air quality is forecast to be generally unhealthy. An air quality division spokesman said the state’s monitors are “just off the charts.”

The North Carolina wildfire has burned more than 39,000 acres - upward of 60 square miles - in and around the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge since a lightning strike ignited the blaze June 1 on privately owned land.

MARYLAND

GREENBELT

8 charged in loan fraud

Eight people have been indicted in what authorities call a $35 million mortgage foreclosure rescue scheme to cheat lenders and homeowners facing foreclosure, a case authorities said is likely the state’s largest mortgage fraud case ever.

Federal prosecutors said owners of the Metropolitan Money Store targeted homeowners who risked losing their homes and then used straw buyers, fraudulently obtained loans and inflated real estate appraisals to strip equity from more than 100 homes in the Washington area. The homeowners seeking help ended up losing whatever money they had invested and their homes.

“They walked away with nothing. No house, no credit and no equity,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said.

The 25-count indictment unsealed Thursday names Lanham-based Metropolitan Money Store and its president, Joy Jackson, 40, who prosecutors say used some of the money to pay for a lavish wedding for herself and Kurt Fordham, one of the other seven indicted.

The charges include conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors also seek the return of $35 million in fraudulent loans that the group purportedly took out from lenders. Each count of the conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

ELKTON

Soccer league theft probed

Cecil County investigators have charged the treasurer of a youth sports league with embezzling more than $42,000.

Local resident Cheryl Hurtt, 42, is accused of taking the money by writing checks to herself from the Cecil Soccer League. She is charged with felony theft.

The thefts spanned nearly three years, ending in December, police said. League board members contacted the county sheriff’s office last month, telling authorities that Ms. Hurtt had become reluctant to pay bills or show financial records to board members.

Police confiscated e-mails she sent to board members offering to return the money, investigators said.

TOWSON

Video machine owner charged

Baltimore County prosecutors have filed charges against the owner of 110 video machines seized last month from 41 bars and other establishments.

The machines were used for illegal gambling, authorities said.

The president of Carbond Inc., Roy Carroll Bond, is charged with 110 counts of possessing slot machines.

Because of a court order, the county state’s attorney’s office had until Wednesday to either file charges or return the seized machines.

An attorney for Mr. Carbond, Steven Wyman, could not be reached for comment. He has, however, maintained that the machines are legal.

The machines were seized May 8 in raids throughout the county.

BALTIMORE

Baby dolphins face hurdles

The first year of life will be crucial for the two dolphin calves due this summer, officials from the National Aquarium said.

One-third of all dolphin calves in the wild and in captivity die within the first year.

Most of the responsibility for the calves’ survival rests with their mothers, Shiloh and Chesapeake, officials said. Together, the two dolphins have given birth to five calves, all of which have survived their first year. In fact, Shiloh is Chesapeake’s mother.

The dolphins are due to give birth in late July or early August after their 11- to 12-month gestation periods.

Dolphin shows will take a two or three-day hiatus when each calf is born.

The two mothers have helped nurse the aquarium’s newest dolphin calf, Foster, who was born in September.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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