- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CONNECTICUT

Government may get billions in divorce

BRIDGEPORT | The federal government might get to collect billions of dollars in court-ordered restitution under a new divorce decree between imprisoned former Cendant Corp. chairman Walter Forbes and his wife of 27 years.

Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Howard Owens issued a ruling Thursday that orders Forbes’ ex-wife, Caren, to transfer ownership of homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island back to him, plus half of the couple’s jewelry and art collections.

The ruling allows the federal government and Cendant to attach liens to recover almost $3.3 billion to which the court says they are entitled.

Forbes, 65, was sentenced in 2007 to nearly 12 1/2 years in prison for what is considered the largest accounting fraud of the 1990s. He was also ordered to pay restitution for his role in a fraud scheme that cost the travel and real estate company and its investors more than $3 billion.

Cendant’s brands included Ramada, Howard Johnson, Avis, Coldwell Banker and Century 21. It has since been renamed Avis Budget Group.

FLORIDA

Maximum sentence sought in tower plot

MIAMI | Federal prosecutors in Miami want the maximum prison sentences for five men convicted of plotting to destroy Chicago’s Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices.

Prosecutors said in court papers filed Monday a federal judge should reject pleas for leniency. Ringleader Narseal Batiste faces up to 70 years behind bars, with the other four men facing between 30 and 50 years.

Three days of sentencing hearings are set to begin Wednesday.

The men were convicted in May of supporting terrorism, conspiring to wage war on the U.S. and other charges. Two previous trials ended in mistrials, and two other men were acquitted. The men insisted they plotted no terrorist attacks.

GEORGIA

Costco nixes Coke over pricing dispute

ATLANTA | Costco customers may have to look elsewhere for Coca-Cola products now that the retailer has stopped carrying them because the pair are fighting over prices.

The public squabble between one of the nation’s largest wholesale club operators and the world’s largest soft drink maker is likely to fizzle quickly. But it reveals real tensions as retailers and product makers square off on prices.

As shoppers continue to grapple with the recession, retailers want to win their favor by giving them low prices. But that has been creating tension between product makers such as Coca-Cola Co., who are working hard to maintain profit margins while meeting retailer demands.

LOUISIANA

Funeral held for D.C. sniper

BATON ROUGE | Friends and relatives of executed D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad gathered in Louisiana for his funeral Tuesday.

Muhammad was put to death last week in Virginia for killing Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station in Manassas during an October 2002 shooting spree. It left 10 people dead and terrorized Maryland, Virginia and Washington, over a three-week period.

Several dozen people attended Tuesday’s funeral in Baton Rouge, Muhammad’s hometown.

NEW JERSEY

Teen barred from protest sues school

CAMDEN | A New Jersey high school student claims in a federal lawsuit that administrators violated her religious and free-speech rights by prohibiting her participation in a silent abortion protest.

The girl, identified in court papers as C.H., said she asked Bridgeton High School’s principal last month for permission to join in the Pro Life Day of Silent Solidarity on Oct. 20.

She planned to remain silent, except when called on in class. She also wanted to wear an armband with the word “life” on it and distribute pro-choice pamphlets.

School Superintendent H. Victor Gilson said the armband would have violated the school’s dress code, and the district doesn’t allow students to pass out literature on campus.

OKLAHOMA

Man in custody in star’s death

OKLAHOMA CITY | A former Marine turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday after being named a suspect in the shooting deaths of four people whose bodies were found in a burning home, including a prostitute featured on the HBO reality series “Cathouse,” police said.

David Allen Tyner, 28, surrendered at the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office on a warrant that included six murder complaints. Authorities said two of the victims - 22-year-olds Brooke Phillips and Milagrous Barrerra - were pregnant.

Mr. Tyner has not been formally charged with any crime.

Oklahoma City police Sgt. Gary Knight said police have not determined a motive in the killings, but said Tuesday investigators think there was more than one suspect.

UTAH

Woman pleads guilty in Smart case

SALT LAKE CITY | A woman charged in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a deal with federal prosecutors and asked Miss Smart to forgive her for all the pain she caused.

Wanda Eileen Barzee apologized in court, saying she was “humbled as I realize how much Elizabeth Smart has been victimized and the role that I played in it.”

Miss Smart, now 22 and preparing to serve a mission in Paris for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was not in court. But her father, Ed Smart, made a statement there.

“I just hope that Wanda realizes what she did and that it was absolutely wrong and absolutely horrible,” he said.

Barzee pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

Sentencing was set for May 19.

WASHINGTON

Guilty plea in fatal shootings

MOUNT VERNON | A man who killed six people, including a sheriff’s deputy, in a Washington state shooting rampage last year has pleaded guilty.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports that Isaac Zamora entered the pleas to 18 charges including murder, attempted murder and burglary on Tuesday after prosecutor Rich Weyrich announced he would not seek the death penalty.

Zamora pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts - for the deaths of Deputy Anne Jackson and Alger resident Chester Rose.

Lawyers on both sides are asking that Zamora be committed to Western State Hospital until he is deemed mentally fit to be transferred to state prison to serve a life sentence.

Judge Mike Rickert is scheduled to issue the sentence on Nov. 30.

WEST VIRGINIA

Five indicted for scamming agencies

CHARLESTON | A federal grand jury in West Virginia has linked five more people to an international scam that allegedly tricked government agencies in several states into paying at least $3.3 million to bogus companies with names that sounded like legitimate firms.

The charges unsealed Tuesday implicate Minnesota residents Michael M. Ochenge, 33; Robert M. Otiso, 36; Paramena J. Shikanda, 35; Albert E. Gunga, 30; and Collins A. Masese, 20.

All were born in Kenya and live in or near Minneapolis, prosecutors said. All but Mr. Masese were in custody Tuesday.

The felony counts allege Mr. Ochenge, Mr. Otiso and Mr. Shikanda helped devise a scheme that exploited the increasing reliance on the Internet by both the public and private sectors to conduct business.

They managed to scam $1.2 million from Massachusetts, $919,000 from West Virginia, $869,000 from Kansas and $301,000 from Ohio, the indictment says.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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