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POSTED April 16, 2012 7:44 p.m.

7 INDICTED IN TOY FIRM'S ALLEGED DRUG MONEY SCHEME: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Five people were arrested Monday in a money laundering scheme that allegedly funneled millions of dollars in Colombian and Mexican drug money through an American toy company, federal officials said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the two owners of Industry-based Woody Toys and three company employees were arrested on charges of evading federal reporting requirements for financial transactions. Two Mexican toy dealers were arrested earlier this month in the case on similar charges, the agency said in a statement.

Woody's co-owner Jia Hui Zhou and toy dealer Luis Ernesto Flores Rivera are also charged with conspiring to launder money in a scheme that officials said channeled at least $6 million to the California toy company between 2005 and 2011.

15 ARRESTS IN INTERNATIONAL ONLINE DRUG PROBE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A sophisticated online drug marketplace that sold everything from marijuana to mescaline to some 3,000 people around the world has been cracked with the arrests of 15 people in several countries, U.S. authorities announced Monday.

An indictment unsealed in federal court in Los Angeles claims eight men ran "The Farmer's Market," which allowed suppliers of drugs — including LSD, Ecstasy and ketamine — to anonymously sell their wares online. They hooked up with buyers in 34 countries and accepted various forms of payment, including cash, Western Union and PayPal transactions, the indictment claims.

From 2007 to 2009 alone, the marketplace processed more than 5,000 orders for drugs valued at more than $1 million, federal officials contended. It began operations as far back as March 2006, authorities said.

EX-NASA WORKER: FIRING WAS OVER INTELLIGENT DESIGN: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former computer specialist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was laid off because he was combative and didn't keep his skills sharp — not because he advocated for his belief in intelligent design while at work, an attorney said Monday in a case that plays on the tensions over the controversial origins-of-life concept.

David Coppedge, who worked on NASA's Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, sued JPL for wrongful termination in a case that has generated intense interest among proponents of intelligent design — the idea that life is too complex to have evolved through evolution alone.

Closing arguments ended Monday after a five-week trial. The case will be decided by Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige after both sides agreed to forgo a jury.

The judge must also review written arguments from both sides before making a ruling, a process that could take several weeks.

Coppedge, a self-described evangelical Christian, claims he was demoted then let go for engaging his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handing out DVDs on the topic while at work. Coppedge lost his team leader title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.

HOBBY GOLD MINERS SUE CALIF. OVER NEW REGULATIONS: YREKA  (AP) — Hobby gold miners are suing the California Department of Fish and Game over new regulations that bar suction dredges from some rivers to protect salmon.

The New 49ers mining club and the holders of some federal mining claims on Klamath River tributaries filed a lawsuit last week in Siskiyou County Superior Court.

At issue is the state's ban on suction dredges, powerful underwater vacuums that suck up rocks, gravel and sand from riverbeds to filter out gold.

The lawsuit seeks $500,000 for each of 24 mining claims because, they argue, the barring of suction dredges takes away from their economic value.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of another challenge from the Karuk tribe, conservation groups and salmon fishermen, arguing the regulations don't go far enough to protect salmon.

MAN WHO MADE FALSE CONFESSION WANTS NAME CLEARED: SAN DIEGO (AP) — A man who falsely confessed to killing his 12-year-old sister in 1998 wants a judge to formally clear his name.

City News Service says Michael Crowe will ask a San Diego County judge to declare him innocent at a hearing next week.

Crowe was 14 when he was charged with fatally stabbing his sister, Stephanie, at their Escondido home. Two 15-year-old friends also were charged.

Crowe and one friend confessed after hours of interrogation that a judge later termed psychologically abusive and coercive.

Charges were dropped a year after the killing when DNA tests found Stephanie's blood on the sweatshirt of a mentally ill homeless man who'd been in the neighborhood.

Richard Tuite was convicted of voluntary manslaughter but the conviction was overturned for trial error. It's under review.

HOLLYWOOD WARMS TO CHINA'S NEW OPENNESS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — There's a new breach in China's great cultural wall and Hollywood is cautiously moving in.

Disney's announcement Monday that it will make "Iron Man 3" in partnership with a Chinese company is the latest sign that movie studios are warming to China's new openness.

For decades, China has capped the number of foreign films it allows into the country. Until recently, the limit was 20, but in February Chinese officials announced that they are increasing the quota to 34.

China said it will also allow foreign studios to garner a greater share of box office revenue. Foreign companies can now expect to earn 25 percent of their movies' ticket sales in China, up from between 13.5 and 17.5 percent.

 

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