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FLORIDA

Religious prep school a victim in $135M fraud

MIAMI | A prominent businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud in a $135 million real estate scheme that fleeced hundreds of investors, including the Roman Catholic prep school he once attended.

Gaston Cantens, 73, faces up to five years behind bars after pleading guilty to a single count of wire and mail fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams set sentencing for April 4.

Cantens also lured investors from Miami’s close-knit Cuban-American community, many of them elderly and some Roman Catholic priests.

Federal prosecutors said Cantens operated his company, Royal West Properties Inc., like a Ponzi scheme in which he paid older investors with money raised from newer ones. The company sold real estate investments in southwest Florida since 1993 but fell on hard times beginning in 2002 and was forced into bankruptcy in 2009, according to court documents.

WASHINGTON

Airlines to retire meal tray prayer cards

SEATTLE | After 30 years of giving passengers spiritual words to reflect on while they eat their meals, Alaska Airlines is retiring the prayer cards from meal trays.

Airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the decision was made after hearing from customers who preferred not to mix religion with transportation.

She said the cards began as a marketing ploy to differentiate the regional airline from its competitors. The cards offer a rotating message of different psalms from the Old Testament.

For a long time, Alaska Airlines got more positive comments than negatives ones. But lately, opinion has shifted.

Miss Egan said the decision was made out of respect for all of their customers.

The airline sent email to its frequent flyers on Wednesday explaining the change, which will take effect Feb. 1.

NEW YORK

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