- - Monday, October 3, 2011

CALIFORNIA

55 indicted in income tax fraud scheme

SANTA ANA — The owners of two Southern California firms were among 55 people indicted by a federal grand jury in a $250 million income-tax fraud scheme claiming refunds were available through a secret government account, prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service said Monday.

The defendants also claimed the United States was bankrupt and the country actually was owned by England.

The IRS investigation dubbed Operation Stolen Treasures targeted Fontana-based Old Quest Foundation Inc. and Rancho Cucamonga-based De la Fuente and Ramirez and Associates for filing federal income-tax returns with bogus claims for refunds.

There are 32 federal indictments, most alleging conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Hundreds of false tax returns seeking refunds were filed with the IRS. Refund checks for $5 million went out in error, IRS Special Agent Felicia McCain said Monday.

Eighteen defendants were arrested Friday, and 10 defendants are fugitives or agreed to surrender Monday. Twenty-seven defendants will get a summons to appear for arraignment in coming weeks.

COLORADO

CIA contractor faces felony assault count

DENVER — Prosecutors have filed a felony assault charge against a CIA contractor accused of getting into a fight over a parking space in Colorado months after he was involved in a fatal shootout in Pakistan.

Raymond Davis, 37, was arrested Saturday after an altercation outside a bagel shop in Highlands Ranch, a community south of Denver where he lives.

Prosecutors announced Monday that Mr. Davis would be charged with second-degree assault, which carries a possible prison term of five to 16 years.

In January, Mr. Davis said he shot two Pakistani men who tried to rob him in Lahore. He was released in March under a deal in which the victims’ families agreed to accept $2.34 million in “blood money” under Islamic tradition.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man charged in terror plot pleads not guilty

WORCESTER — A Massachusetts man has pleaded not guilty to plotting to fly explosives-packed remote-controlled model planes into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

The bail hearing that was scheduled on Monday for Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, of Ashland was delayed for several weeks after his lawyer, Catherine Byrne, asked for more time to prepare.

Some friends and relatives who attended Mr. Ferdaus’ arraignment shouted, “We love you!” as he was led out of the federal courtroom.

Miss Byrne told reporters that the case against her client had been “orchestrated and facilitated by the government.”

Mr. Ferdaus was arrested Wednesday after undercover federal agents delivered materials he reportedly requested. They allege those included grenades, machine guns and what he thought was 25 pounds of explosives.

Charges include attempting to damage and destroy national defense premises and attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

MINNESOTA

Settlement reached in arrests of RNC journalists

MINNEAPOLIS — Journalist Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated program “Democracy Now!” and two of her producers will receive $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, their attorney said Monday.

Their attorney, Anjana Samant of the Center for Constitutional Rights, also said St. Paul and Minneapolis have agreed to develop a policy and training for police officers on how to avoid infringing on the First Amendment rights of journalists who cover big protests.

The settlement was reached Friday with the aid of U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan in St. Paul. The two cities agreed to pay a combined $90,000, while the federal government agreed to pay $10,000, Miss Samant said. The lawsuit named the federal government because a Secret Service agent confiscated the press credentials of Ms. Goodman and her producers, she said.

NEW JERSEY

Man sentenced in 1978 murder of 5 teens

NEWARK — A New Jersey man was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison after recently admitting his role in the 1978 murder of five teenagers in one of the state’s longest-running cold cases.

Under 1978 sentencing guidelines applied to the case, Philander Hampton is only required to serve 20 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole. Hampton has been jailed since his March 2010 arrest, making him eligible for release in a matter of months.

The 54-year-old Jersey City resident told police three years ago that he and a cousin, Lee Evans of nearby Irvington, lured the teens to an abandoned house in Newark with the promise of odd jobs, then locked them inside and set the house on fire.

The attack allegedly was prompted by stolen drugs.

As part of his plea agreement, Hampton has agreed to testify against Mr. Evans, whose trial is set to begin later this month.

NEW YORK

Scientist wins Nobel 3 days after cancer death

NEW YORK — Ralph Steinman, a pioneer in understanding how the cells of the body fight disease, tried to help his own immune system thwart his pancreatic cancer.

Mr. Steinman survived until Friday. Three days later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

The Nobel committee, unaware of his death, announced the award Monday in Stockholm. Mr. Steinman’s employer, Rockefeller University in New York, learned he had died only after the Nobel announcement.

Mr. Steinman’s wife, Claudia, said the family planned to disclose his death on Monday, only to discover an email to his cellphone from the Nobel committee.

OHIO

Pork removed from prison meals

COLUMBUS — Ohio is removing pork from its menus in all state prisons in response to a lawsuit brought by Muslim inmates challenging the prisons’ meal policy.

Corrections department spokesman Carlo LoParo said Monday the move was a way to accommodate religious preferences without jeopardizing prison security.

He told the Associated Press the agency began the phaseout last month after shipments stopped to the prisons’ warehouse.

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center is suing on behalf of two Muslim inmates who want meals prepared according to Islamic law, similar to kosher meals prepared for Jewish prisoners.

Executive Director David Singleton said the announcement does not affect the lawsuit because inmates are seeking meals prepared under specific religious rules.

OREGON

Man banned from parks for digging up fossil

PORTLAND — A Longview, Wash., man accused of digging up the skull of a hoglike animal that predated humans by 20 million years has been banned from national parklands for a year.

The Oregonian reported that David Wixon, 48, also must pay $4,500 in restitution for the misdemeanor crime of depredation of government property.

The fossil was from an oreodont, one of a number of stout, hoofed, plant-eating animals that are extinct.

Court records say an off-duty interpretive ranger saw Mr. Wixon using a rock hammer at a site at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in May 2007, leading to an investigation by federal agents. Authorities said they searched his house, and he returned the skull.

Prosecutors said the penalties were imposed Friday.

TEXAS

Chemical mixing sparks massive plant fire

WAXAHACHIE — A fire sparked as workers mixed chemicals at a plant south of Dallas shot massive plumes of black smoke and bright orange flames into the sky Monday, forcing schoolchildren and residents to evacuate or take cover indoors to avoid possible exposure to dangerous gases.

Flames engulfed a large complex at a Magnablend Inc. facility in Waxahachie. The fast-moving blaze overwhelmed a sprinkler system and consumed a firetruck, but no injuries were reported from the fire or resulting smoke.

Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins said it wasn’t clear what chemicals were involved in sparking the fire. Crews were expected to allow about 1,000 evacuated residents to return to their homes in the city 30 miles south of Dallas by evening.

From wire dispatches and staff reports