- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

CALIFORNIA

189 lawsuits aim at mortgage sham

LOS ANGELES | State and federal prosecutors filed 189 lawsuits Wednesday against loan modification consultants accused of bilking homeowners desperate to reduce their mortgage payments so they can keep their homes.

The legal actions announced by Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz and California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. were part of a nationwide sweep of purported sham consultants conducted by the federal agency and 23 states.

Mr. Brown said the lawsuits the attorney general’s office filed in Orange and Los Angeles counties include allegations against five companies and their subsidiaries and staff members. In all, 21 individuals and 14 companies were named.

The lawsuits seek millions of dollars in civil penalties, restitution for victims and a permanent injunction to keep the companies and the defendants from offering mortgage-relief services, Mr. Brown said.

COLORADO

Iraq service cited in slayings by soldiers

FORT CARSON | Soldiers from a Colorado unit accused in nearly a dozen slayings since returning home - including a couple gunned down as they put up a garage sale sign - could be showing a hostility fueled by intense combat in Iraq, where the troops suffered heavy losses and told of witnessing war crimes, the military said Wednesday.

The Army launched an investigation after soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, nicknamed the Lethal Warriors, were accused in a spate of five killings around Colorado Springs, home to Fort Carson, in 2007 and 2008.

Six other slayings involving unit soldiers occurred in Colorado and other states since 2005.

The report called for more study on the links between combat and aggressive behavior. It suggested the Army find a way to identify soldiers who have been exposed to fierce combat.

FLORIDA

Space shuttle blasts off after month delay

CAPE CANAVERAL | Space Shuttle Endeavour and seven astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station after more than a month’s delay.

The shuttle blasted off early Wednesday evening, hauling up a veranda for Japan’s space station lab. It was NASA’s sixth attempt to launch Endeavour, and was a welcome sight for shuttle workers who had to overcome gas leaks last month and, more recently, thunderstorms.

In an unexpected bonus, the launch fell on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the liftoff for man’s first moon landing.

Shuttle commander Mark Polansky and his crew are to reach the space station Friday. Five spacewalks are planned to hook up the new porch for the Japanese lab and perform other station work. The flight is to last 16 days.

GEORGIA

Rig full of medicine stolen at truck stop

TEMPLE | Authorities are investigating the reported theft of a tractor-trailer carrying about $8.8 million in pharmaceutical drugs from a truck stop in Georgia.

Temple Police Chief Ed Whitt said the stolen 2007 Peterbilt 18-wheeler was valued at $100,000. He said the medication it was hauling included blood thinners and cold and nasal medicine. The theft happened Friday night at the Pilot truck stop off Interstate 20.

Authorities said they don’t know whether the thieves were aware of the cargo when they targeted the rig.

MICHIGAN

Minister wins appeal citing free speech

DETROIT | A Michigan appeals court overturned a ruling Wednesday that had sent a minister to prison for six months after warning a judge that he could be tortured by God.

The Rev. Edward Pinkney was convicted in 2007 of paying people $5 to vote in a recall election in the southwestern Michigan city of Benton Harbor and was sentenced to probation.

Months later, Mr. Pinkney wrote a commentary in a Chicago-based populist newspaper that said Judge Alfred Butzbaugh could be punished by God with curses, fever and “extreme burning” unless he repented, a reference to an Old Testament passage. The black minister also described Judge Butzbaugh, a white judge who presided over his case, as dumb, racist and corrupt.

In June 2008, another Berrien County judge sent Mr. Pinkney to prison for three to 10 years for violating probation with his words. Mr. Pinkney appealed saying his free-speech rights were trampled.

In a 3-0 ruling, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed.

NEW YORK

Hedge swindler gets 2 years for skip-out

WHITE PLAINS | Hedge-fund swindler Samuel Israel III was sentenced Wednesday to two more years in prison for trying to skip out on his 20-year sentence for fraud.

Federal Judge Kenneth Karas said Israel was “thumbing his nose at the system” when he faked his suicide and jumped bail last year rather than do time for taking hundreds of millions from investors in his Stamford, Conn.-based Bayou hedge funds.

Israel surrendered after 22 days on the lam.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Sanford clears desk for trip with wife

COLUMBIA | Gov. Mark Sanford has cleared his schedule this week to take a personal trip with his wife, three weeks after announcing his extramarital affair with an Argentine woman, his office announced Wednesday.

Mr. Sanford is taking off the rest of the week for a trip out of state with first lady Jenny Sanford, spokesman Joel Sawyer said.

“This trip is personal in nature, and we’re not going to offer any further comment,” said Mr. Sawyer, who said the couple will be gone through the weekend. “The governor remains committed to repairing the damage he’s done to his marriage, and so it shouldn’t be any surprise that spending personal time with his wife is a part of that process.”

The couple’s four sons will not be with them on the trip, Mr. Sawyer said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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