California man pretended to be African leader's son, feds say

A San Francisco man was in federal custody Friday on charges that he defrauded a Northern California real estate agent and his girlfriend out of $1.6 million by pretending to be the son of Congo’s president. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco said Blessed Marvelous Herve persuaded the couple to forward him the money over four years with promises of repayment, lucrative commissions, and multi-million bonuses and a collection of impressive-looking documents that included a certificate of recognition from a U.S. senator. Instead, they received excuses and demands for more funds, according to an affidavit prepared by the FBI agent who investigated the case. The affidavit states that Herve told the Marin County real estate agent that his father wanted to buy luxury homes in the San Francisco Bay area, but that first he needed help recovering millions of dollars seized by the U.S. government, advances so he could rent limousines to tour potential properties, and additional financial assistance paying IRS debts and costs associated with other legal troubles. It said that after the agent had given Herve about $635,000 and “was financially broke,” his girlfriend stepped in and provided another $970,000. Continue Reading

Iranian scientist returns after release from US

An Iranian scientist held by the U.S. since late 2011 has returned to Iran. The scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi said U.S. authorities had treated him “generally well.” The microchip expert at Tehran’s high profile Sharif University, Atarodi was in U.S. custody since December 2011 over allegations he bought high-tech equipment in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Atarodi arrived home via Oman, a Gulf state which has served as a mediator between Washington and Tehran before. In 2012, the U.S. released Iranian national Shahrzad Mir Gholikhan after she spent five years in U.S. detention The U.S. has a history of occasional arrest and release of Iranian citizens on similar charges. Continue Reading

4 kids, adult killed in Georgia fire, officials say

One adult and four young children have been killed in an early morning fire in a Georgia city about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta. A spokesman for the state insurance commissioner says a call about the fire came in at 1:17 a.m. Saturday. Glenn Allen says Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has ruled the fire accidental. He says the origin was an electrical panel in the home’s den area. Allen says 27-year-old Alonna T. McCrary, 5-year-old daughter Eriel McCrary and 2-year-old daughter Nikia White were killed in the fire. Continue Reading

Leader of Cuban opposition group visits exiles

One of the founders of a Cuban opposition group awarded Europe’s top human rights prize is meeting with exiles in Miami. Berta Soler will visit the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami on Saturday. Soler is a co-founder of the Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers formed in 2003 after the arrests of 75 government opponents. The Cuban government has detained the women from time to time and sent pro-government crowds to shout at them. But their demonstrations proved successful. Continue Reading

Illinoisans with Flood Damage May Get Loans

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois residents suffering damage from recent flooding may be able to get low-interest loans for repairs.  

State Treasurer Dan Rutherfod is reminding residents of his office’s Disaster Recovery program. It helps lower interest rates for qualified borrowers with weather-related damage. Flood victims who expect insurance to cover their costs also can use the Disaster Recovery program as a bridge loan for a year until their reimbursement arrives. Continue Reading

Fort Doge Inmate Dies of Heart Disease

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Corrections says a 57-year-old inmate has died after serving more than 24 years in prison.  

 

The department announced Friday that Larry Thomas Siemer died Wednesday at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he was being treated for complications from coronary artery disease. He had been assigned to the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility. Siemer was convicted of first degree kidnapping in Polk County and began serving his sentence in December 1988. KCCI-TV reports Siemer was convicted of charges that he forced his girlfriend’s 7-year-old son to life in a dark furnace room for months. Continue Reading

Fix for Flight Delays a Band-Aid: President Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says the fix for widespread flight delays is a “Band-Aid” solution to budget cuts.  

With Obama’s cooperation, Congress ended furloughs of air traffic controllers that have caused major flight delays. In his weekly Internet and radio address, Obama says the quick fix is not a lasting solution. He’s chiding Republicans in particular for reversing cuts that affected frequent travelers, including members of Congress, but doing nothing about cuts affecting government workers, preschoolers and the unemployed. Obama says Republicans claimed victory over the cuts, but have since decided they are a bad idea. Continue Reading

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Death Toll Rises to at Least 340 in Bangladesh Bldg. Collapse

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Rescue workers today brought another 19 survivors out of the rubble of a collapsed building in Bangladesh where at least 340 people died. They vow to keep working despite fading hopes.  

Meanwhile, police have detained five people in connection with the collapse of the shoddily-constructed building that housed garment factories. Among those taken into custody is the wife of the building owner, who is on the run, in an attempt to force him to surrender. Violent public protests continued sporadically. Continue Reading

Remains ID'd as 13-year-old Hailey Dunn, Texas cheerleader missing since 2010

The remains of a 13-year-old Texas cheerleader Hailey Dunn have been found more than two years after she was reported missing. An unidentified person contacted authorities after finding the remains near Lake J.B. Thomas in Scurry County on March 16, more than two years after Dunn’s mother reported her daughter missing. The girl’s disappearance and the cause of her death remain under investigation, Scurry County Sheriff Trey Wilson said at a news conference Friday. The Scurry County District Attorney’s Office received written confirmation of the identity of the remains on Friday, he said. Texas Rangers informed the girl’s mother, Billie Jean Dunn, on Friday afternoon at her Austin home, said her attorney, John Young. Continue Reading

Iowa gov. grants commutation to Rasberry Williams

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has granted a commutation request for Rasberry Williams, offering a chance of parole for a man convicted of killing his neighbor outside a pool hall in 1974. Branstad on Friday commuted Williams’ sentence to life with the possibility of parole. The governor last month held an unusual public hearing on the case to hear from those who supported commutation. The victim’s family told Branstad they’ve forgiven the now 67-year-old Williams. The commutation now lets the Iowa Board of Parole consider Williams for work-release or parole. Branstad held the hearing to gather input from the community where Williams shot and killed 40-year-old Lester Givhan. Continue Reading