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National news in brief: Truck driver indicted in smuggling deaths

Truck driver indicted in smuggling deaths

A federal grand jury in San Antonio indicted a truck driver for his alleged role in the smuggling deaths of 10 undocumented immigrants found in the trailer of a truck in a Walmart parking lot in July, officials said.

James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, was indicted on five felony counts, including smuggling migrants for financial gain resulting in death — a charge that could carry the death penalty. The sentences for other charges range from 10 to 20 years in federal prison, the Justice Department said in a release Wednesday.

Seven Mexicans and one Guatemalan were found dead in the trailer in San Antonio under stiflingly hot summer conditions, with as many as 200 people tightly packed and struggling to breathe through small holes. Two migrants later died in a hospital.

Two remain hospitalized, five were released to immigration authorities, and 22 are being held as material witnesses, the Justice Department said.

Some of the travelers had spent days held in a house near the border with Mexico. Some were told to pay hundreds of dollars to a group linked to Los Zetas, a deadly Mexican drug cartel, for safe passage across the Rio Grande in rafts, The Washington Post reported.

Bradley initially told authorities he was unaware of the trailer’s cargo and was surprised when he realized people had been trapped inside. He owned the truck found outside Walmart but not the trailer, according to public records.

He told federal agents that the trailer’s refrigeration system did not work and that the vent holes were probably clogged, according to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

— Alex Horton

Carl Paladino removed from school board

One-time Republican candidate for New York governor Carl Paladino, whose published insults of former president Barack Obama provoked a public uproar, was removed from Buffalo’s school board Thursday for improperly discussing teacher contract negotiations.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced her decision Thursday, a day after Paladino protesters disrupted the school board’s latest meeting with calls for his ouster.

The protests have been happening since December, when comments Paladino made about Obama — including his wish that he die of mad cow disease — were published in a local arts newspaper. But it was a later article in which Paladino revealed collective bargaining strategies discussed by the school board in executive sessions that led to his removal.

Paladino was the Republican nominee for New York governor in 2010 and co-chairman of President Trump’s campaign in the state last year. He did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment. The commissioner’s ruling disqualifies Paladino from appointment or election to any district office for one year. The wealthy developer was elected to the school board in 2013 and re-elected by a narrow margin in 2016.

— Associated Press

Lithuanian man faces fraud charge in U.S.

A Lithuanian man has been extradited to the United States to face charges that he duped Google and Facebook into sending him more than $100 million total.

Evaldas Rimasauskas pleaded not guilty Thursday in Manhattan federal court. He arrived Wednesday in New York.

The 48-year-old Vilnius, Lithuania, man was charged with wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.

The companies were identified in a Lithuanian court document, which said Google sent more than $23 million and Facebook sent nearly $100 million to bank accounts controlled by Rimasauskas.

Google, of Mountain View, Calif., said in a statement that it detected the fraud, alerted authorities and has recouped its money. Facebook, of Menlo Park, Calif., declined to comment.

If convicted, Rimasauskas could face more than 60 years in prison.

— Associated Press

Federal court delays Colindres deportation

A U.S. appeals court has delayed the deportation of an immigrant from Guatemala with no criminal record who lives in Connecticut with his wife and two young children.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the appeals court in New York granted a temporary stay of deportation for Joel Colindres on Thursday, the day he was supposed to leave the country on orders from immigration officials.

Colindres entered the country illegally in 2004. His wife is a U.S. citizen, and they live in New Fairfield with their two children.

Murphy says Colindres will be allowed to stay in the country while the appeals court considers new evidence in his case.

Murphy and Blumenthal have criticized President Trump’s tough policies on immigrants who are in the country illegally.

— Associated Press

Man falls to death at Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles said Thursday it was reviewing security measures after a suspected car thief drove onto the sprawling complex during a police chase and climbed to the top of a loading crane, dangling over edges and stripping naked before falling to his death.

The man plunged 160 feet to the ground and died about three hours after he first scaled the crane Wednesday night. It is not clear whether he slipped or jumped deliberately, Los Angeles fire officials said.

The coroner’s office on Thursday identified the man as James Llamas, 23. Officials did not immediately know where he lived.

Police in Los Angeles spotted the Subaru SUV reported stolen from a dealership in San Bernardino, and an hours-long chase ensued, the LAPD said.

Several television stations broadcast the chase live, showing the vehicle swerving at high speed through freeway traffic in Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Llamas drove through a security gate and into a container terminal at the vast Port of Los Angeles property, circling back and forth under giant loading cranes and next to a docked ship before jumping out of the still-moving SUV and racing up the stairs of the crane. He broke a window and climbed into the crane cab, then climbed out, and walked to the end of the crane over water as darkness fell.

— Associated Press

Three held after drone drops drugs into prison: Michigan prison officials said three people have been arrested after trying to use a drone to smuggle a cellphone and drugs into a prison. The state department of corrections said two guards at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia heard the drone in the prison yard shortly before 4 a.m. Thursday. Moments later, the drone dropped a package near a housing unit. As officers responded to the scene, the drone dropped a second package. Local law enforcement officers detained three people in a vehicle near the prison about 110 miles northwest of Detroit.

— Associated Press


Update: Driver may not have seen semi-trailer before crash that killed three children from Washington

Investigators continue to probe what caused a collision south of Hanna that killed three children who were travelling with their parents from Washington state.

An 11-month-old baby girl, an 11-year-old boy and a 16-year-old female were pronounced dead at the scene of an intersection at Highway 36 and Highway 570 Wednesday night.

Their parents, a 32-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man, were taken to hospital in Calgary where they remain in stable condition.

The 54-year-old male driver of the semi was also taken to hospital with minor injuries.

RCMP say the family was travelling in an SUV westbound on Highway 570 when they collided with a semi trailer ravelling southbound on Highway 36. 

The scene of a fatal collision near Hanna Wednesday night. Jackie Irwin / Hanna Herald

The collision took place just before 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The driver of the SUV slowed down on the approach to the intersection but didn’t stop, the employer of the semi truck driver told Postmedia.

The SUV driver was looking the other way and may not have noticed the semi truck before he reached the centre line, the employer said. The SUV driver then “booked it when he realized” but couldn’t make it across the intersection.

The semi truck tried to stop but ultimately struck the SUV on the rear passenger side. The SUV spun around and went into the ditch. 

Skid marks were visible on the pavement of Highway 36, which appear to have been left as the semi truck was trying to stop.

The scene of a fatal collision near Hanna Wednesday night. Jackie Irwin / Hanna Herald

Collision analysts and coroners remained at the scene of the crash late Wednesday night.

RCMP investigators are examining “any and all” factors that may have contributed to the collision, but say they won’t be commenting on what caused it until the investigation is complete.

Last January, two women were killed in a collision while crossing at the same intersection.[1] The women had been travelling eastbound on Highway 570 in a Hyundai Tucson when they were struck by a semi truck travelling northbound on Highway 36.

Hanna is approximately 220 kilometres east of Calgary.

With files from Jackie Irwin, Hanna Herald.