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Business in brief: Airport reaches condemnation deal

FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2010

The Spokane Airport Board has approved a draft settlement with Spokane Airways, but attorneys said final terms will not be ready until the proposal is submitted next week to the Spokane City Council and Spokane County commissioners.

RMA Inc., the parent of Spokane Airways, sued the airport in March 2007 for improperly condemning six of its buildings, which blocked the new control tower’s line of sight to the main runway.

The company prevailed in the litigation through Spokane County Superior Court, the Washington State Court of Appeals, and with five Washington Supreme Court justices, who declined to review the lower court rulings.

In January, RMA filed a claim for up to $14 million against the airport, and the city and county, the airport’s owners.

The two sides in April agreed to submit the dispute to Seattle-based mediator Tom Harris, whom attorneys for both sides credited for the settlement.

Bert Caldwell

Crackdown targets

mortgage scheme

LAS VEGAS – Some 500 people have been arrested in a nationwide crackdown on mortgage fraud, and federal officials pointed to Las Vegas as one of the centers of the scams that pumped up home prices until the housing market bubble finally burst.

“I heard this many times,” said Scott Hunter, a Las Vegas FBI agent who has interviewed hundreds of so-called “straw buyers” lured into buying homes by unscrupulous real estate agents, brokers and loan officers. “They said, ‘Don’t let your good credit go to waste. You can purchase these properties. This is how you acquire wealth.’”

Nevada’s U.S. attorney, Daniel Bogden, counted 123 defendants charged, convicted or sentenced in the Silver State since March 1 as part of a national crackdown dubbed Operation Stolen Dreams. Bogden put losses in Nevada alone at almost $250 million.

The Justice Department linked nearly 500 arrests nationwide to the crackdown. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the push the largest collective enforcement effort aimed at confronting mortgage fraud.

Holder said 1,215 criminal defendants had been netted in cases that uncovered more than $2.3 billion in losses.

Associated Press


From wire reports

Kroger Co.’s net income fell 14 percent in its first quarter on increased costs but the results still beat expectations. Revenue rose 9 percent, or 3 percent excluding gas sales. The company saw a strong boost in sales despite increased competition from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other grocers.

Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages backed off from yearly lows this week, but still remain historically cheap. Mortgage finance company Freddie Mac says the average rate rose to 4.75 percent, up from 4.72 percent last week. The rate hit 4.71 percent in December, the lowest since Freddie Mac began keeping records in 1971. The average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 4.2 percent, up from its all-time low of 4.17 percent set last week.

Caterpillar Inc. plans to invest almost $700 million over the next four years to start producing mining shovels and expand production of its trucks at plants in Illinois and India. The world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment said Thursday that it plans to build a new mining shovel production line at its Aurora, Ill., plant and expand truck production in Decatur, Ill., and Chennai, India.

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