June 24, 2005 in Nation/World

Crews fight blazes in California, Arizona

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review
 

Carefree, Ariz. Firefighters used roads, ridges and other natural barriers to make a stand Thursday against a wildfire that threatened multimillion-dollar houses near Phoenix. In California, firefighters gained ground against a blaze that burned several homes in the Mojave Desert.

The windblown Arizona blaze burned at least 30,000 acres and forced the evacuation of about 250 homes. About 300 firefighters battled the blaze, with help from aircraft dropping flame retardant.

Crews set backfires to burn up brush in the flames’ path, while using roads and natural barriers to direct the fire away from homes. By Thursday afternoon, the fire was moving north away from the threatened community of Tonto Hills, a neighborhood made up of multimillion-dollar homes about 20 miles northeast of Phoenix.

In California, a wildfire that burned 3,000 acres of desert brush was 30 percent contained early Thursday. Firefighters hoped to have it surrounded by today.

The fire destroyed six homes and threatened as many as 700 Wednesday afternoon. The flames were moving into wilderness Thursday morning; about 200 homes were still considered to be in danger.

Man arrested in case of missing 18-year-old

Oranjestad, Aruba Aruban police arrested the father of a Dutch teen already in custody in connection with the disappearance of a young Alabama woman and said Thursday that he was considered a suspect in the 3-week-old case.

The teen’s mother, meanwhile, said that her son had changed his story, admitting to her that he was alone with 18-year-old Natalee Holloway on a beach the night she vanished – and that he left her there, not at a Holiday Inn as he earlier stated. But Joran van der Sloot, 17, insisted that he did not hurt her, Anita van der Sloot said.

Authorities charge 19 in alleged pot ring

San Francisco Federal authorities announced Thursday that a two-year investigation dubbed “Operation Urban Harvest” has dismantled a major marijuana trafficking enterprise allegedly involving three San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday charges 19 people with conspiracy to grow and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants over a four-year period.

The indictment also charges three with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Ecstasy and two with conspiracy to engage in money laundering. Most of the defendants are from San Francisco.

Also, an arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for another man wanted on the marijuana conspiracy charge.

Fifteen people, including two taken into custody on state charges not included in the indictment, were arrested in a sweep Wednesday. They made appearances in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday. Seven of those under indictment were being sought by authorities.

Asked by reporters at a news conference Thursday whether the arrests should serve as a signal to other dispensaries, U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said only: “I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals … but trafficking in marijuana, and large-scale trafficking particularly, is a violation of federal law.”

Police: Man lied about tribal status to use drug

Salt Lake City A self-proclaimed medicine man was arrested Thursday on federal charges he lied about being an American Indian to consume and distribute peyote during religious ceremonies.

James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney, 61, claims to be a member of the Oklevueha Band of Yamassee Seminole Indians. He openly uses and distributes the hallucinogen in religious ceremonies, which is allowed under federal law by members of recognized tribes.

However, federal prosecutors said Mooney’s tribal membership was fraudulently obtained. Court documents said the tribe revoked it and asked him to stop using their name in connection with his religious activities.

The Oklevueha Band is not a federally recognized tribe and does not use peyote in its religious ceremonies, according to court documents.


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