- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ARIZONA

Chinese migrants nabbed at border

TUCSON | U.S. Border Patrol agents say several groups of illegal immigrants from China have been arrested in southern Arizona in recent days.

Border Patrol agent Colleen Agle says it’s part of a trend that has seen increasing numbers of Chinese migrants trying to sneak into the U.S. from Mexico. She said Monday that human smugglers are taking advantage of an increase in Chinese tourism in South and Central America and enticing Chinese to be smuggled into the U.S.

Two Chinese were found among a large group of migrants who entered the county Friday from Mexico. Three more were found Saturday, a group that included four Chinese was captured Sunday, and four more were arrested early Monday.

The numbers are still tiny in relation to the number of Mexican migrants caught.

CALIFORNIA

Breakaway church gives up property

LA CRESCENTA | A conservative Los Angeles-area church that broke away from the Episcopal Church three years ago over theological differences and the consecration of a gay bishop is giving up its property.

St. Luke’s Anglican Church in La Crescenta was being returned Monday to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. A judge ordered the move, and the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

In his sermon Sunday, the Rev. Rob Holman said fighting for principles is more important than a building.

The congregation has rented a chapel in Glendale and joined the new Anglican Church in North America, founded last year by breakaway Episcopal parishes.

CONNECTICUT

Police say ransom story was a lie

GREENWICH | A Connecticut family made up claims that it rescued three immigrant relatives from a kidnapper by showing up with baseball bats at a ransom exchange meeting, according to police reports.

The reports say the family had arranged transportation to Connecticut for their relatives after they entered the country illegally, and a melee broke out when a driver asked for an additional fee of $60 per person to bring them to the family’s home.

Greenwich Officer Martin O’Reilly wrote in a report that a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent told him that “the entire kidnapping story was completely fabricated.” The report was obtained by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers through a public records request.

Police say they detained nearly 20 people after the Aug. 2 fight in a Greenwich shopping center parking lot.

The three illegal immigrants were identified as Antonio Gonzales, Nicolas Gonzales-Ceron and Ramon Hermelindo. Their family members in Willimantic, about 90 miles from Greenwich, told police the immigrants were their cousins who had been kidnapped from Texas.

Police say the relatives claimed the kidnappers demanded $2,500 for each of their cousins, and the family had arranged to meet with the captors to pay the ransom.

Paula Grenier, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Monday that there was no kidnapping, but the incident included what she called “elements of human smuggling.”

ILLINOIS

All shook up over Elvis’ hair

CHICAGO | The King may be dead, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to run your fingers through his hair.

Elvis Presley’s hair, at least a clump of hair that Presley may have lost to an Army barber when he went into military service in 1958, is going on the auction block Sunday at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

The hair is part of a collection of more than 200 items that belonged to or are associated with Presley. There are clothes he wore, scarves he threw to screaming fans - who, judging by the yellow sweat stains, never washed them - and Christmas cards he sent. And there are lots of records, some he kept in his own jukebox, and other sorts of memorabilia ranging from Elvis dolls to Elvis wristwatches to Elvis Pez dispensers.

All the items belonged to the now-deceased Gary Pepper - not only president of a Presley fan club, but also a close friend. Pepper died in 1980 and left his collection to his nurse, and that is who is putting the items up for auction, said Mary Williams, of the auction house.

Miss Williams said she doesn’t know what to expect, but the best estimate is that the hair is worth $8,000 to $12,000.

NEW YORK

Man faces charges after flight to Cuba

NEW YORK | Luis Armando Pena Soltren, 66, a fugitive who avoided prosecution for more than four decades after hijacking a 1968 Pan American flight to Cuba, voluntarily returned to the United States and surrendered, officials said Monday.

Mr. Soltren was to appear in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to face kidnapping and aircraft-piracy charges stemming from his involvement in the hijacking of a Pan American flight that left John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Puerto Rico on Nov. 24, 1968.

A U.S. citizen who has lived in Cuba for 41 years, Mr. Soltren surrendered to authorities at the same New York airport Sunday, knowing he would be arrested, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The statement said the Cuban government authorized Mr. Soltren’s departure. An FBI spokesman told the New York Times that Mr. Soltren wanted to return to see his wife and other family members who live in Puerto Rico or Florida.

“As the 1968 charges allege, he terrorized dozens of passengers when he and his cohorts wielded pistols and knives to hijack Pan American Flight 281,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

OKLAHOMA

Inmates allege rape at governor’s mansion

OKLAHOMA CITY | Prosecutors are investigating claims that the former chef and chief groundskeeper at the Oklahoma governor’s mansion raped female prison inmates assigned to maintain the mansion grounds. Neither man has been charged, but both have been fired from their jobs.

State Department of Corrections officials say at least three women who were inmates at the Hillside Community Corrections Center in Oklahoma City contend they were sexually assaulted while working at the mansion between March 2008 and January 2009.

Janet Roloff, an attorney for one of the women, said Monday that her client was held down by one man while the other raped her, but did not report the purported assault until she completed her sentence because she feared retribution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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