- - Tuesday, September 13, 2011


State acts against firm in political scandal

LOS ANGELES — State regulators Tuesday ordered a company tied to hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing political funds to stop providing accounting services, after authorities discovered the firm is not licensed and has no certified accountants on staff.

Burbank, Calif.-based Durkee & Associates managed the books for scores of Democratic candidates and political committees, and its website advertised “expert” accounting for campaigns. But the state Board of Accountancy warned in a letter that the company could face fines unless it stops claiming to provide professional accounting work, because the company and its employees are not licensed to do so.

Kinde Durkee, who runs the firm, was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of fraud after federal prosecutors said she looted nearly $700,000 from a state Assembly campaign.

Other Democratic officials, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, suspect they are victims. Eric Bauman, who heads the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, said at least $200,000 is missing, and U.S. Rep. Susan A. Davis told her contributors in a letter released Monday that her campaign was looted of about $250,000.


Cantaloupe warning issued after Listeria outbreak

DENVER — Health officials have issued a warning for cantaloupes from a revered melon-producing area of Colorado amid a bacteria outbreak blamed for four deaths in the state and New Mexico, troubling farmers who depend on sales of the fruit.

The warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came after 15 cases of a strain of Listeria were reported from four states, including 11 from Colorado, two from Texas, and one each from Nebraska and Oklahoma. Suspected cases were being investigated in other states.


101-year-old woman evicted in foreclosure

DETROIT — A 101-year-old woman was evicted from the southwest Detroit home where she lived for nearly six decades after her 65-year-old son failed to pay the mortgage.

Texana Hollis was evicted Monday and her belongings were placed outside the home. Her son, Warren Hollis, said he didn’t pay the bill for several years and disregarded eviction notices.

“I kept it from her because I didn’t want to worry her,” Mr. Hollis told WXYZ-TV for a report that aired Monday night. “I was just so sure it wasn’t going to happen.”

Wayne County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the Hollises took out an adjustable-rate mortgage in 2002. A default and foreclosure notice was filed in November.

“They ended up owing $80,000 on the home,” Mr. Szymanski said. “Warren indicates he did not make the payments. He got the notices, but threw them away.”

County records show that property taxes were paid on the home through summer 2010. A winter tax bill of $55.95, including interest and fees, was unpaid, and a $778.44 summer tax bill was due this month.


Woman cuffed, taken off plane, strip-searched

DETROIT — A woman says she was taken off an airplane in handcuffs, strip-searched and interrogated by authorities in Michigan on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks “simply because” of her appearance.

Shoshana Hebshi told the Associated Press Tuesday she was one of three people escorted off a plane in handcuffs from a Denver-to-Detroit Frontier Airlines flight. The 35-year-old mother from a Toledo, Ohio, suburb says they didn’t know each other, but were in the same row.

Mrs. Hebshi says the men were Indian and describes herself as half-Arab and half-Jewish, with a dark complexion.

Two fighter jets escorted the plane after its crew reported suspicious activity.

The FBI says it questioned Mrs. Hebshi and released her after finding no reason to suspect her. Messages seeking comment were left for Frontier and airport police.


Lawsuit over Custer museum raids tossed

BILLINGS — A federal judge threw out a lawsuit claiming federal agents illegally raided Montana’s Custer Battlefield Museum during an investigation into the alleged sale of fraudulent artifacts and eagle feathers.

The judgment was filed in U.S. District Court in favor of two dozen federal agents who participated in the raids in 2005 and 2008.

Judge Richard Cebull dismissed as frivolous claims by museum director Christopher Kortlander that the raids were illegal and the agents had violated his constitutional rights.

The investigation closed in 2009 with no charges filed. Eagle feathers and parts seized in one of the raids by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have not been returned to Mr. Kortlander.


FBI makes arrest for airline bomb threat

CENTRAL ISLIP — A New York woman accused of falsely claiming a bomb was onboard an Arizona-to-New York flight has been released on $200,000 bond.

Federal authorities say Mary Purcell of Lake Ronkonkoma phoned a bomb threat to the Tucson airport on Saturday because she wanted to keep her mother and brother from flying to New York on a date near the Sept. 11 anniversary.

The threat led authorities at the airport to remove luggage from Flight 2475 and conduct a search. No bomb was found.

Miss Purcell made an initial appearance Tuesday in federal court. She did not enter a plea and no new court date was set.

Prosecutors noted Miss Purcell is on state parole for a 2009 forgery conviction.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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