American Scene: Feds announce $40M settlement with construction firm

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NEW YORK — A federal prosecutor has announced criminal charges and a $40.5 million settlement related to an investigation of a construction company involved in New York City projects including the New York Mets’ stadium and the 9/11 Memorial.

Court papers in Brooklyn show Lend Lease U.S. Construction, a division of an international construction company, was accused of defrauding federal, state and local government contracting agencies by falsely billing them from 1999 to 2009. The government also criminally charged one company executive.

A phone message left at a company office in New York wasn’t immediately returned.

The company was formerly named Bovis Lend Lease. It changed its name after a fatal fire during its demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building in lower Manhattan.

NORTH DAKOTA

Man convicted in decapitation of university researcher

COOPERSTOWN — A North Dakota man was convicted Tuesday of shooting and beheading a university researcher in what prosecutors claimed was an attempt to start a white supremacist group.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours Tuesday before finding Daniel Wacht, 31, of Cooperstown, guilty in the death of 54-year-old Kurt Johnson. Wacht shook his head from side to side as the verdict was read. He faces up to life in prison without parole.

Johnson, who worked for North Dakota State University, was last seen alive getting into Wacht’s van outside a bar in Cooperstown on New Year’s Eve 2010. His severed head was found in a crawl space in Wacht’s basement a week later. His body has never been found.

Defense attorney Steven Mottinger said he would consider some pretrial issues for appeal but would not be specific.

“It was a tough case,” Mr. Mottinger said. “We did what we could with the evidence we had to work with.”

Marina Spahr, the Griggs County attorney and lead prosecutor, left the courtroom without commenting. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Byers, who assisted in the case, said a guilty verdict on what would have been Johnson’s 56th birthday was “better than the alternative.”

COLORADO

Dairy cow slips out for some takeout

BRUSH — What did the dairy cow order when she got to the drive-thru window at McDonalds? Nothing - she just wanted a little attention.

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