Local news

In brief: Forgery, ID theft lead to charges

An alleged counterfeit check and identity theft ring has led to a charge of leading organized crime against a 30-year-old Spokane man.

Kyle R. Aiken is one of 14 people facing charges in the case, in which investigators say Aiken created counterfeit checks using bank account and personal identification information stolen during car prowlings by co-conspirators in Spokane County. The checks were cashed at stores throughout the county in August and early September, according to court documents.

Investigators believe Aiken, who lives in the 4000 block of North Cannon Street, directed at least six people to engage in forgery, theft and identify theft, which led prosecutors to charge him with leading organized crime.

The charge can carry a sentence of about 10 years.

Also facing charges are Donnelle C. Velasquez, 41, and her juvenile son; Alicia M. Rumburg, 22; Samuel J. Aldrich, 28; Alexander R. Jarman, 19; Sarah E. Perrenaud, 24; Stephanie R. Kutulas, 32; Charles W.B. Walrath, 26; Ronda M. Mason, 28; Tyler C. Berens, 19; Chelsea R. Barnes, 23; Kirk P. Robinson, 21; and Kristina M. Centorbi, 23.

Suspect in theft misses court date

A man accused of draining a 106-year-old woman’s retirement savings was arrested in Spokane after missing a court appearance.

John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, failed to appear for an arraignment on a witness tampering charge last month in Spokane County Superior Court. He was arrested Wednesday on a $10,000 warrant and appeared in court Thursday, where Judge Jerome Leveque released him on his own recognizance.

Friedlund faces theft charges in Stevens County for allegedly stealing money from Frances T. Swan, whom he was caring for in Kettle Falls.

Deputies found Swan covered in filth and begging for food in May after Friedlund asked them to retrieve his medicine from the home before he was taken to jail in an animal cruelty investigation.

Prosecutors allege Friedlund spent Swan’s money on vehicles, a horse trailer and a man’s surgery in Texas. Friedlund is accused of calling that man, Steven M. Smith, in August and asking him to tell investigators that Swan authorized previous money transfers to Smith totaling about $225,000. Authorities believe the calls took place in Spokane County.

Kokanee making trip upstream

Thousands of kokanee salmon are running up Harvey Creek, a tributary of Sullivan Lake on the Colville National Forest.

The 3-year-old kokanee are leaving the lake to find spawning sites in the creek. The showy, scarlet fish are visible from the banks as they separate from their schools to find mates.

Forest Service officials encourage people to watch the annual migration, which continues through December, but ask observers to avoid harassing the fish or disturbing the streambed.

Kokanee eggs hatch in February and remain in the gravel until spring, when they are swept away into Sullivan Lake to start another cycle.

To see the kokanee run: From State Highway 31 south of Ione, take Sullivan Lake Road (County Road 9345) toward the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station and Sullivan Lake. The bridge is at the south end of the lake.

For a kokanee status report, call the Sullivan Lake Ranger District at (509) 446-7500.

State senator named to UI post

Idaho state Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, has been named the new special assistant to the president of the University of Idaho for state governmental relations – chief lobbyist – and will start his new job Dec. 1, UI President Duane Nellis announced Friday.

“The pool of applicants was truly impressive,” Nellis said. “However, Joe’s breadth and depth of experience in the legislature and business, as well as his commitment to education made him stand out from many other capable leaders.”

Stegner replaces Marty Peterson, who retired from the post after two decades; the seven-term senator said he was “honored” to be chosen for the job. “This is an exciting opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, and I’m very thankful for this chance to work for the continued excellence of the University of Idaho and Idaho’s higher education community.”

Stegner, 61, a retired grain dealer and a UI graduate, served as assistant majority leader in the Senate until this year, when he was ousted by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian; he currently chairs the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.

Boy may be dead, police say

SEATTLE – A police spokesman says a missing 2-year-old boy could be dead as the search in Washington state for Sky Metalwala stretches into its sixth day.

The boy’s mother says he disappeared Sunday when she ran out of gas then left him in the car when she went for aid. On Friday, Bellevue police said the vehicle ran just fine when they tested it.

Maj. Mike Johnson said there’s a real possibility that Sky is no longer alive, considering how long it has been since he was first reported missing.

Johnson said police continue to be frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the boy’s mother but said there’s not enough evidence to name Julia Biryukova as a suspect.

Lab worker uninjured in fire

IDAHO FALLS – An employee believed to have been burned in a fire caused by a sodium reaction at the Idaho National Laboratory has been released from a hospital, with physicians reporting they found no evidence the cleanup worker was injured.

The U.S. Department of Energy says 10 others were evaluated on scene Friday and released by medical staff. Officials couldn’t immediately comment on the size of the fire, but suggested it may have been caused by a sodium reaction.

Laboratory fire crews responded to the Materials and Fuel Complex, where officials say there’s no more evidence of a continued reaction or fire. Firefighters and operations personnel have re-entered the building.

The incident comes several days after 16 cleanup workers were exposed to radiation when a box containing plutonium powder was opened.


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