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Brothers sentenced to death for killings

Martinez, Calif. Two brothers were sentenced to death Friday for killing the daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop and four others as part of a quasi-religious extortion plot five years ago.

Judge Mary Ann O’Malley sentenced Glenn Taylor Helzer, 34, and Justin Helzer, 33, in separate hearings, following the recommendations of the two juries that had earlier voted for the death penalty for both brothers.

The brothers and their roommate, Dawn Godman, killed five people, including 22-year-old Selina Bishop, during a plot to extort $100,000. Glenn Helzer, a former stockbroker, wanted to use the money to start a self-help group he believed would thwart Satan by spreading peace and love.

Bishop’s mother, Jennifer Villarin, 45, and Villarin’s companion, James Gamble, 54, were shot to death because Glenn Helzer feared they would report the extortion.

Also killed were Ivan Stineman, 85, and his wife, Annette, 78, the targets of the extortion plot.

Man gets prison term for role in exam fraud

Baltimore A man who was paid more than $282,000 to take graduate school admission tests for others has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said Friday.

Zhigang Cao, 38, of New York City, was accused of operating a sham tutoring service between 1999 and 2003. Cao and at least five others allegedly charged people about $3,000 to take standardized tests and guaranteed certain scores.

Court papers say the group used fake and altered identification to take more than 590 exams, among them the Graduate Management Admissions Test, the Graduate Record Exam and the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

Authorities identified Cao through photos taken before about 45 tests.

Cao, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release for the scheme to defraud Baltimore-based Thomson Prometric Educational Testing Service and schools throughout the country.

Net-based Ponzi scheme operator gets 10 years

Sacramento, Calif. The self-acknowledged mastermind behind an international scheme that bilked 15,000 investors of nearly $60 million was sentenced Friday to 10 years in federal prison.

In 1999, Alyn Richard Waage created Tri-West Investment Club, which prosecutors say was an Internet-based Ponzi scheme that used money from new investors to pay older investors from around the world who were guaranteed a high return at no risk.

Waage, 58, formerly of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and San Jose, Costa Rica, pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Prosecutors said much of the money was used to buy property in Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as a yacht, helicopter and numerous cars.

The scheme collapsed in 2001 when Costa Rican authorities, cooperating with U.S. investigators, froze the assets and arrested Waage and Michael Webb, an Internet Web designer. They were extradited to the United States in 2002.

Stolen pickup was so hot it was radioactive

Fall River, Mass. Police arrested a man who was driving a stolen vehicle that was “hot” in more ways than one – the pickup owned by Cardinal Health Nuclear Pharmacy Services contained radioactive material.

The pickup was reportedly stolen Tuesday while it was parked in Seekonk. It was later spotted by two police officers about 10 miles away in Fall River.

Fall River Sgt. Roger LaFleur said he and the other officer followed the truck cautiously because of its reportedly radioactive contents and slick road conditions. They took the driver into custody after the pickup stopped.

A city hazardous materials team that inspected the truck determined the five containers carrying suspected radioactive material had not been opened. The truck and containers were then returned to its owners.

The 40-year-old driver was charged with receiving a stolen vehicle.