- - Sunday, March 4, 2012

NEWARK — Federal officials in New Jersey have announced charges against 29 people in what they said is a massive international counterfeit goods operation.

New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, Paul J. Fishman, said parallel international investigations resulted in arrests in New Jersey, Texas, New York and the Philippines.

Mr. Fishman said defendants in the alleged rings attempted to smuggle $325 million in counterfeit goods from China through the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in Elizabeth.

In addition to trafficking in counterfeit sneakers, boots, handbags and other items, authorities say the two overlapping criminal enterprises also trafficked in counterfeit cigarettes and crystal methamphetamine.

Mr. Fishman said the groups took counterfeit goods manufactured in China and shipped them to the U.S. for sale to wholesale and retail outlets.

NEW MEXICO

Police find missing child’s body in hole

CARLSBAD — Police in southern New Mexico say they are working to recover a child’s body from a deep hole near where a 4-year-old boy went missing.

Carlsbad police spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Moyers says police are fairly sure the body is that of Samuel Jones, who was reported missing Saturday night from his home next door.

Lt. Moyers says a detective found a 14-inch-wide hole that is likely an old well in a neighbor’s backyard about 7 a.m. Sunday. Firefighters determined no one could survive in the hole.

Lt. Moyers says foul play isn’t suspected but police are treating the case as a homicide as a precaution.

A heavy search and rescue team is being brought in from Roswell to help recover the body.

Samuel was last seen Saturday afternoon playing in his backyard.

FLORIDA

Same-sex custody battle could alter law

TALLAHASSEE — A custody battle between two lesbians could redefine the notion of who is a mother and perhaps force Florida lawmakers to reconsider a 19-year-old state law.

One partner donated an egg that was fertilized and implanted in the other partner, who gave birth. The Brevard County couple separated two years later.

Their fight over the now 8-year-old girl is before the Florida Supreme Court. A trial judge ruled for the birth mother and said the egg donor has no parental rights. An appellate court sided with the biological mother and said both have rights. The state Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the case.

At issue is a state law meant to regulate sperm and egg donation and constitutional questions about gay people’s right to raise children.

ALASKA

Brothers among hopefuls as Iditarod gets started

WILLOW — Sixty-six mushers began their quest to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race with the competition’s official start Sunday in Willow.

The mushers and their dog teams will spend about the next eight days trekking across nearly a thousand miles of Alaska wilderness on sleds, all trying to be the first musher to reach the old gold rush town of Nome.

The grandsons of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race’s co-founder Joe Redington were the first and last mushers on the trail.

Ray Redington Jr., 36, picked the first spot during the musher’s draw, hoping that his 11th Iditarod will improve on last year’s seventh-place finish. This year’s competition is “tough, very tough,” he said, with the racing teams becoming more professional. “They’re getting better. So am I,” he said Sunday.

His younger brother, 29-year-old Ryan Redington, is competing in his eighth race but had to wait to get on the trail after picking the last spot.

There are six former champions in the race, including last year’s winner, 49-year-old John Baker of Kotzebue.

MASSACHUSETTS

Ex-student sues college over roommate’s sex

BOSTON | A Roman Catholic college in Massachusetts is disputing claims by a former student who said the school refused her request for a new dorm room after she complained that her roommate was having sex just feet away from her as she tried to sleep.

Lindsay Blankmeyer said in a lawsuit that she suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder before she enrolled at Stonehill College, but was driven into a suicidal depression after school officials wouldn’t give her reasonable housing alternatives. Ms. Blankmeyer said her roommate also had online sex in front of her.

Stonehill said Ms. Blankmeyer never told staff that her concerns involved her roommate’s sexual activity. The college said it tried to resolve the dispute through mediation and offered Ms. Blankmeyer “multiple options” for housing, including a private dorm room.

CALIFORNIA

Convicted killer given unemployment while in jail

LOS ANGELES — Authorities say a convicted killer who gained notoriety for having a murder scene tattooed on his chest received unemployment benefits while he was in jail.

Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker said Saturday that Anthony Garcia, nicknamed “Chopper,” received more than $30,000 in fraudulent unemployment aid while in Los Angeles County jail from 2008 to 2010.

Capt. Parker said Garcia’s father and two girlfriends would get the checks before cashing them and depositing the money in the inmate accounts of Garcia and fellow gang members.

Garcia’s father 47-year-old Juan Garcia, and girlfriends 45-year-old Sandra Jaimez and 25-year-old Cynthia Limas, were arrested Thursday on charges including grand theft.

Capt. Parker said authorities have not decided whether to charge Garcia.

He was convicted of the 2004 killing of a gang rival in Pico Rivera. The evidence against him included a tattoo on his chest of the crime scene.

COLORADO

Presbyterian church moves toward leaving national group

COLORADO SPRINGS — The 4,000-member First Presbyterian Church in Colorado has taken another step toward leaving the denomination over its increasing acceptance of contemporary morals on homosexuality.

KRDO-TV reported that 80 percent of the Colorado Springs congregation voted Sunday voted in favor of proceeding with efforts to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Senior Pastor Jim Singleton cited disagreements with the denomination’s direction, including a decision last year to allow the ordination of sexually active gays as clergy. Church leaders are expected to vote this summer on whether to allow ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings.

The First Presbyterian Church is one of the largest in the country to belong to the PC-USA. The Gazette reported it may seek to join the conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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