- - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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.

That’s what Sandy Winn says was the reason her cow, Darcy, wandered from her pen Friday and ended up at takeout window of the fast-food restaurant a half-mile away in Brush.

Ms. Winn tells KUSA-TV that Darcy is a good cow until she’s bored - and then she goes looking for attention.

Ms. Winn says she didn’t know Darcy had escaped her pen until police called asking if the family owned a dairy cow. She says they told her it was “up at McDonalds,” so she fetched the cow and took her home.

Brush police clerk Vivian Llewellyn joked Tuesday that Darcy “didn’t get her burger.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Philly Orchestra, musicians’ pension fund agree to settle

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Orchestra says it has reached a settlement agreement with the national pension fund representing musicians for the financially struggling organization.

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association said it will pay $1.75 million to the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund. In exchange, the pension fund will drop its court challenges against the orchestra.

The agreement was approved Tuesday by the judge overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filed a year ago by the orchestra.

The orchestra is still working on a new contract with the Kimmel Center, its landlord.

CALIFORNIA

Grounded yacht involved in fatal outing salvaged

HALF MOON BAY — The wreckage of a yacht that lost five crew members during a race that turned fatal has been recovered from the rocky island west of San Francisco where it grounded.

A marine salvage company used a helicopter equipped with a crane to pluck the 15,000-pound Low Speed Chase from one of the Farallon Islands and fly it 28 miles to the Half Moon Bay airport Monday.

The 38-foot sailboat was swamped by a pair of waves while rounding the island during a race April 14, sending seven of its eight crew members into the chilly Pacific. One was found dead later that day and four remain missing at sea.

KTVU reports that a tractor-trailer was parked near the yacht at the airport, but that its owner has not revealed his plans.

TEXAS

Houston woman gives birth to sextuplets

HOUSTON — A Houston woman has given birth to sextuplets.

Lauren and David Perkins announced on their website that doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston delivered three boys and three girls Monday.

The children were born prematurely, at just more than 30 weeks, and the heaviest of them weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces. But the couple says the mother and babies are in stable condition. They did not release the children’s names.

The couple requested privacy and said they would release further details at a later date.

PENNSYLVANIA

Bears interrupt weather report at TV station

SCRANTON — A mama bear and three of her cubs were caught on camera at a northeastern Pennsylvania television station seconds before a live weather report was about to begin.

It happened during the 11 p.m. newscast Monday at WNEP-TV in Scranton. The station has a landscaped outdoor area it calls “the backyard” with trees and a water fountain for its weather segments.

Meteorologist Kurt Aaron said he heard something behind him and when he turned around, a black bear was 10 feet away. He said he ran inside and did his report from indoors while a camera continued to show the bear family exploring.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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