- - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CALIFORNIA

14 indicted on sham marriage charges

SACRAMENTO — A federal grand jury in Sacramento has indicted 14 people on charges of arranging sham marriages to immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Eastern European nations to help them stay in the United States, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Tuesday.

The indictment was unsealed after the man charged with being the ringleader, Sergey Potepalov, 55, was arrested Monday at his home in Citrus Heights.

He and the others had “made a business out of marriage fraud” since 2002, arranging at least nine marriages to circumvent immigration laws, Mr. Wagner said. They attempted at least 39 marriages, although not all were included in the indictment, said Dan Lane, assistant special agent in charge of the Department of Homeland Security investigations office in Sacramento.

Foreign nationals paid up to $10,000 to Mr. Potepalov and an associate, Keith O’Neil, 44, of Sacramento, to arrange for the marriages, and U.S. citizens who agreed to the marriages were paid up to several thousand dollars, Mr. Wagner said.

GEORGIA

Mom gets probation in son’s jaywalking death

MARIETTA — A Georgia woman received a year of probation Tuesday in the jaywalking death of her 4-year-old son, but the judge also made the unusual move of offering her a chance to clear her name at a new trial. The mother of two surviving children says she’s satisfied with the outcome of the hearing.

Raquel Nelson was convicted by a jury this month of vehicular homicide for crossing a busy street outside the crosswalk with her children in April 2010. She could have received as many as three years in prison, which would have been a much longer sentence than the one for the hit-and-run driver who struck the boy. There has been outcry over Miss Nelson’s charges and conviction.

MICHIGAN

Dozens wade to shore after tour boat is damaged

EMPIRE — Authorities say dozens of people waded to shore and two were rescued by helicopter from a tour boat that was damaged by a wave in Lake Michigan.

The Coast Guard says the operator of the tour boat Pictured Rocks called for help shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday after a wave reportedly went over the boat’s bow, smashing a window and causing electronics to malfunction. The boat had 61 people aboard.

No major injuries were reported. The Coast Guard says waves in the area were 2- to 4-feet high at the time.

The boat’s operator told the Coast Guard he grounded the boat near the shore in Empire, in northern lower Michigan, to prevent further damage and keep more water from coming aboard.

NEW YORK

Review: No evidence of cancer-9/11 link

NEW YORK — A federal review says scientific evidence thus far doesn’t support adding cancer to a list of diseases linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

The review, required under federal law, is the first one of what will be a periodic investigation of scientific evidence on cancer and the exposure to contaminants at the World Trade Center site.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released the report Tuesday, noting that “very little” has been published on the subject since the 2001 attacks.

The federal law was created to compensate those sickened after 9/11. Cancer-stricken ground zero workers do not qualify for aid under the multibillion-dollar act.

The next review will be released in 2012.

PENNSYLVANIA

Feds: Shop owner smuggled ton of banned ivory

PHILADELPHIA — A man who owns a Philadelphia art store has been charged in New York City with smuggling one ton of banned African elephant ivory into the United States.

Federal prosecutors say Victor Gordon, 68, surrendered Tuesday in Brooklyn and was released on $1 million bond.

Authorities say Mr. Gordon got his ivory from West and Central Africa and smuggled it through New York. They say Mr. Gordon paid someone to buy and carve the ivory and then had them stain it to appear old.

Conservationists consider the illegal ivory trade a major threat to the African elephant population.

TENNESSEE

Gay couple asked to reverse shirt at Dollywood

NASHVILLE — A lesbian couple is asking for changes at Dollywood after an employee asked one of the women to turn her T-shirt reading “marriage is so gay” inside-out to avoid offending others on a recent visit to the Tennessee theme park complex.

Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton told the Knoxville News Sentinel they want the park to be more inclusive of gay, bisexual and transgender families after Miss Odom was asked to reverse her shirt when they visited Dollywood Splash Country next to the Pigeon Forge amusement park.

Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said Tuesday that Dollywood is open to all families, but its dress code policy is to ask people with clothing or tattoos that could be considered offensive to change clothes or cover up.

UTAH

Mystery inmate refuses to reveal name

SALT LAKE CITY — A mystery man thought to be in his 70s has been locked up in a Utah jail for more than three weeks and has baffled investigators because he refuses to reveal his identity or provide any details about his life.

The graying, disheveled man with blue eyes and a scruffy face was booked into the Utah County jail as “John Doe” after being arrested for trespassing in the Provo Police Department parking garage.

Since then, investigators have been publicizing his mug shot and reaching out to the media and public to figure out who he is. About 100 tips have led nowhere.

Lt. Dennis Harris of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said the man was arrested July 1 in the underground police parking garage. He said an officer spotted the man peering into city vehicles. The man was asked to leave several times but refused and was arrested.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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