Odd News Roundup
November 20, 2013 05:20 PM | 457 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chinese man with fake US bank claim gets life

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese rice trader who shot to fame last year over a bogus claim that he had purchased a U.S. bank was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison on conviction of falsifying invoices to evade taxes.

An Intermediate Court in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou issued the verdict against Lin Chunping, saying he had evaded several millions of dollars in taxes through writing false invoices between September 2011 and May 2012.

Lin shot to fame in early 2012 when state media reported that he had taken over a Delaware-based bank for $60 million, and the unprecedented acquisition brought him praise and a political appointment to a municipal advising body.

Overseas acquisitions are a point of pride in China, showcasing its rising economic power. Lin's supposed purchase of an American bank was particularly appealing because it signaled both Chinese triumph and U.S. decline.

The story attracted so much attention that Chinese journalists familiar with U.S. banking regulations checked into the legitimacy of Lin's claims, and the bank turned out to be nonexistent. By June, Lin was arrested on suspicion of the tax fraud.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Grandma who ran New York family drug ring gets 15 years

By Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who enlisted generations of family members in a drug-dealing operation she ran for more than a decade was sentenced Tuesday to 15 1/2 years in prison.

Theresa Anderson, a grandmother in her 50s, pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

In U.S. District Court, she choked up as her attorney read a letter she wrote to Judge Richard Arcara in which she described being "consumed by addiction."

"I have been using drugs since I was 14 years old," the letter said. "My poor choices were a way for me to finance my own addiction."

Prosecutors said Anderson, of Buffalo, oversaw an around-the-clock operation in which crack cocaine was sold from several houses she bought on two streets to ensure a monopoly in the area.

She was arrested in February 2012 along with her common-law husband, son, three adult daughters, two of the daughters' boyfriends and a granddaughter. All have since pleaded guilty to drug charges.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul said, "This defendant not only destroyed her own family by leading them into a life of illegal narcotics trafficking, she also damaged the neighborhood where the drug trafficking took place."

The government has seized more than $50,000 and nine houses used by the organization, Hochul's office said.

In sentencing papers, defense attorney Robert Ross Fogg said Anderson was addicted to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, crack, methamphetamine and prescription drugs while running her business. He said drugs and drug contacts became more available each time she participated in drug counseling, and he blamed her addiction for a criminal record dating to 1975.

Anderson told the judge she's "not a bad person."

"I have a good heart," she wrote in her letter.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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India: Gold bars worth $1M found in plane lavatory

NEW DELHI (AP) — Cleaners found a stash of 24 gold bars worth more than $1.1 million hidden in an airplane lavatory after a flight from Bangkok arrived in eastern India, officials said Wednesday.

The Jet Airways plane had landed in Kolkata and was being cleaned before a scheduled flight to Patna when the cleaners found two bags with the gold stashed inside, Customs official Mona Priyadarshini said.

Priyadarshini said the gold bars weighed around 1 kilogram each. Customs officials confiscated the stash and are investigating.

India is one of the world's biggest consumers of gold. The government increased the gold import duty recently, which officials say has encouraged smuggling.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Man who sold fake Chihuly glass gets 5 months

By Gene Johnson, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — A man who sold fake Dale Chihuly glass art has been sentenced to five months in prison by a judge who said he would've preferred to send him to basic training in the Army.

Michael Little, of Renton, pleaded guilty to wire fraud after his arrest last spring. He admitted he sold more than $22,000 worth of counterfeit art to a collector who planned to donate the pieces to the art museum at Gonzaga University.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik says prison might do Little some good. He says Little sleeps until 10 a.m. every day, takes a two-hour afternoon nap and spends much of the rest of the time on his computer.

Lasnik told the defendant he "needs to get out of the house," and said he'd send him to basic training if he had the authority.

Chihuly is a famed American glass artist whose work has been displayed around the world.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Utah town forgets to hold election

By Paul Foy, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A tiny Utah town had to skip an election earlier this month because part-time officials forgot to advertise or prepare for it — and it wasn't the town's first election flub.

Wallsburg, population 275 in the Wasatch Mountains 40 miles from Salt Lake City, failed to schedule an election two years ago, and city officials had to be appointed then.

They were supposed to go up for election Nov. 5, but once again, Wallsburg forgot to get things going, according to Wasatch County officials. The Salt Lake Tribune first reported on the missed election.

"They didn't advertise" to draw candidates out of the woodwork and "they just went on without doing anything," County Clerk Brent Titcomb said Wednesday. "Close to the election day, they called to ask what they should do."

The leaders of Wallsburg were told by state elections officials to keep serving until an election can be held in two years.

"We will remember them in 2015," Titcomb said. "They will definitely have an election in 2015."

Wallsburg's mayor and four city council members had no hidden agenda in letting the election slide; they just forgot, he said.

Wallsburg is so small it doesn't have a website or paid staff, and nobody answered the phone at the town's empty office on Wednesday — which is used only for official meetings.

Titcomb said the town's mayor is Jay Hortin, who didn't return phone messages left Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The mayor was described by his father as an electrician who may have been unavailable because he was out working.

Of his son extending his mayoral duties, Frank Hortin said, "Somebody's got to do it."

Frank Hortin said he had no clue how town officials forgot to hold an election, adding, "We probably wouldn't have anybody around to get elected anyway."

The town empties out on weekdays because "there's no work around here," Frank Hortin said. "We have a couple of little shops, but people go out of town for work — I drove to Salt Lake for 20 years."

Wallsburg is a mile-high town in the Wasatch Mountains 4 miles from Deer Creek Reservoir. In winter, there's only one way to drive into the town — or out of it. It was incorporated in 1917, according to the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Costco apologizes for California bible flap

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — A Costco store in Southern California drew some unwanted attention this week after labeling some of its Bibles as fiction.

The Los Angeles Times reports Wednesday that Discovery Church pastor Caleb Kaltenbach recently came across the Bibles with "Fiction" written on the price tag while shopping for a gift at a Costco store in Simi Valley. He took a photo and posted it on social media with the comment: "Costco has Bibles for sale under the genre of FICTION Hmmmm..."

Costco has since apologized, saying in a statement a distributor mislabeled a small percentage of Bibles before they were sent to the store. The company said it is correcting the mistake for future distribution.

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Lawmaker ends shopping cart destruction campaign 

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii legislator says he's putting down the sledgehammer he carried to destroy stolen shopping carts used by homeless people to carry belongings in Waikiki.

Democratic State Rep. Tom Brower tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he has made his point and raised the profile of the issue.

He says the question is now whether something will be done to address the eyesores.

Brower earlier this week estimated he smashed up to 30 unmarked shopping carts and returned a half-dozen marked carts to stores.

His actions were strongly criticized by homeless advocates who said smashing carts was disrespectful, possibly illegal and likely to incite violent reaction.

Mental Health America of Hawaii director Marya Grambs says Brower likely ended his cart destruction after a flurry of local and national criticism.

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Sarah Palin's official mayoral SUV listed on eBay 

By Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Sarah Palin's hometown is auctioning an SUV she drove when she was mayor, years before she skyrocketed to fame.

The small town of Wasilla, Alaska, listed the 1999 Ford Expedition on eBay Monday with a minimum bid of $10,000. The listing's photo shows the tan SUV with a cardboard cutout of Palin in the driver's seat.

Public Works Director Archie Giddings says the hope is someone finds historic value in the vehicle because Palin drove it.

No bids had been submitted as of Wednesday afternoon. The listing expires Nov. 27 at midnight Alaska Standard Time.

Palin drove the vehicle during her second term as mayor, ending in October 2002.

She went on to become Alaska's governor until Republican presidential nominee John McCain picked Palin to be his running mate in 2008 and she resigned her state office.

Online: eBay listing: http://is.gd/UDZtrw

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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