- - Thursday, May 3, 2012

GEORGIA

ATLANTA — A plot by three workers at Atlanta’s airport to smuggle a bag filled with heroin and methamphetamine into the U.S. was foiled when the baggage ended up on an unclaimed luggage carousel, prosecutors said Thursday.

The workers were charged conspiring to smuggle more than $500,000 worth of the drugs into the country on a Delta Air Lines flight in January from Mexico City after another employee discovered the drug-laden bag on the carousel. Prosecutors said the three sent frantic coded text messages to each other trying to find the bag before realizing it was too late.

Carlos Springer, 41, and Kelvin Rondon, 27, were both arrested this week on the charges. A third man, Luis Marroquin, remains a fugitive. It’s unclear if the men have an attorney, and calls to their phones went unanswered.

“We will continue to work with airline security teams and our law enforcement partners to prosecute those who attempt to use their airport credentials and access as a means to engage in illegal drug trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

Investigators zeroed in on the airline workers in January after a worker found an unclaimed piece of luggage stuffed with packages of methamphetamine and heroin from a flight that arrived in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from Mexico City. Federal agents soon suspected the bag was smuggled in by corrupt employees, partly based on the large handwritten orange sticker on the outside of the bag, according to court records.

MICHIGAN

Tulip Time Festival may be a ‘Stem Fest’

HOLLAND — The annual Tulip Time Festival in West Michigan is looking like it might be more of a “Stem Fest” thanks to unseasonably warm weather that brought out blooming flowers earlier than usual this year.

So organizers of the 83-year-old event in Holland are embracing the otherwise troublesome presence of so many flowerless stems in the city’s tulip beds. The Holland Sentinel reports they’ll start selling $10 “Stem Fest” shirts and $1 buttons Friday, the day before the festival opens.

The black T-shirts depict a wilting white tulip missing its petals.

The Grand Rapids Press reports a Holland business Harbor Wear is selling its own “Stem Fest” clothing.

The Holland parks department estimated Monday that about 40 percent of the 500,000 flowers planted by the city will be in bloom next week.

OHIO

Deputy orders inmates to dance, gets fired

COLUMBUS — A northeast Ohio sheriff has fired a deputy for ordering five jail inmates to dance to a song by Usher in exchange for privileges such as using a phone or microwave.

The Summit County sheriff identified the deputy as 35-year-old Dominic Martucci. An internal report shows he was fired this week for mistreating inmates, acting inappropriately and having a cellphone in the jail, apparently used to play the music.

The report says Mr. Martucci invited colleagues to watch April 11 as inmates danced. One inmate did the worm, while another said he mimicked a robot dance so he could use the phone to contact relatives after a family member’s death.

Investigators said Mr. Martucci admitted his mistake but said he was only trying to ease tension in the jail.

OKLAHOMA

Snake blamed for capital city’s power outage

OKLAHOMA CITY — Officials say a snake slithered into an Oklahoma City electric substation and knocked out power to about 10,000 customers overnight.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. said the power outage affected customers in northwest Oklahoma City at about 2 a.m. Thursday. A spokesman told Oklahoma City television station KWTV that workers found a snake in the transformer at the Lone Oak substation.

OG&E said power was restored to all customers by 3 a.m.

FLORIDA

Authorities arrest 1 more in hazing case

TALLAHASSEE — Authorities in Florida have taken into custody another of the 13 people connected to the hazing death of a Florida A&M University student.

Bryan Jones turned himself in Wednesday night in Hillsborough County. He was released after posting a $15,000 bond.

Meanwhile, a Leon County judge refused Thursday to let another suspect, Caleb Jackson, leave jail because he’s already on probation for battery. Jasmine Alexander, who said she’s the mother of a 3-year-old with Mr. Jackson and engaged to him, pleaded with the judge, saying Mr. Jackson is the only source of income for their family.

Rikki Wills, another defendant arrested in Leon County, was allowed to leave jail Wednesday night after posting $15,000 bond.

Eleven defendants are being charged with hazing resulting in death, a felony. Two others face misdemeanor charges.

MASSACHUSETTS

Tallest man in U.S. seeks shoes, normalcy

CANTON — The tallest man in the United States traveled from Minneapolis to Massachusetts on Thursday for a custom shoe-fitting with Reebok that he hopes will help him live a normal life.

Igor Vovkovinskiy said he’s had 16 surgeries in six years to fix problems created by shoes that didn’t fit. He’s 7 feet 8 1/3 inches tall with a shoe size somewhere between a 22 and 26.

Mr. Vovkovinskiy said his only shoes have no traction, making it “suicidal” to leave his home.

“I haven’t been able to go for a joyful walk for six years now,” he said. “I look forward to just going for a walk with my dog, just walking around the neighborhood.”

Mr. Vovkovinskiy was at Reebok headquarters in Canton on Thursday for a complex shoe-fitting that involved, among other things, custom pressure-mounting equipment, bio-foam, a device that takes precise measurements of length, a tape measure and a handful of technicians.

Reebok said it’s building the shoes at a cost of $12,000 to $20,000. It has helped Mr. Vovkovinskiy before and hopes to again, the company said.

The size of Mr. Vovkovinskiy’s shoes depends on measurements such as the length, width and distance from his soles to the top of his feet. Those measurements are particularly tricky with Mr. Vovkovinskiy since he has unusually shaped toes and feet because of his numerous surgeries.

ARKANSAS

2 Arkansas women fight to claim $1M lotto ticket

BEEBE — When she plucked a winning lottery ticket out of the trash, Sharon Jones’ luck changed instantly. The $1 million prize let the Arkansas woman pay off debts, give thousands of dollars to her children and buy a gleaming new pickup truck.

But now her jackpot is in jeopardy. A judge ruled this week that the money belongs to another woman, who said she threw the ticket away after a lottery machine incorrectly told her it was a loser. The Arkansas Lottery Commission is trying to stay out of the fray, insisting it did nothing wrong.

Ms. Jones claimed the $1 million prize in July, turning in a scratch-off ticket that the other woman, Sharon Duncan, had purchased moments earlier at a convenience store.

WASHINGTON

‘Barefoot Bandit’ out of solitary confinement

SEATTLE — The youthful thief who led a two-year crime spree in stolen boats, cars and planes is out of solitary confinement.

The Washington Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday that Colton Harris-Moore was transferred from Walla Walla State Penitentiary to Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.

A spokesman said the 21-year-old known as the “Barefoot Bandit” had been in intensive management with death row inmates as soon as he began his sentence because he was a high-profile prisoner. He was placed Wednesday with the general population at Stafford Creek.

His lawyer, John Henry Browne, said Harris-Moore is enrolling in a GED program and will have better access to counseling at Stafford Creek as he serves his seven-year sentence.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports