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2nd State News Brief
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6 ARRESTED IN $19M LA TAX FRAUD, STOLEN ID SCHEME: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal prosecutors say six people have been arrested in a suburban Los Angeles tax fraud scheme that allegedly used nearly 2,000 stolen IDs to reap more than $19 million in tax refunds.

U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek says an eight-month investigation led to Wednesday morning's arrests.

The defendants allegedly stole personal identifications, such as drivers' licenses and Social Security numbers, to submit fake income tax returns.

A 132-count indictment was filed Monday, alleging the suspects used 1,844 stolen identities to file nearly 3,000 fake returns.

The defendants allegedly took the checks they received from the federal government to check cashers who took a cut before handing over cash.

Two defendants are still being sought for the alleged crimes, 33-year-old Akop "Jack" Kantrdzyan of Sylmar and 31-year-old David Samsonyan of Winnetka.

10 LAB BEAGLES FINALLY REACH FREEDOM IN LA: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ten beagles have been released after years as laboratory experiments but their 1,500-mile van trip to freedom in Los Angeles was extended because Mother Nature had one last test.

Beagle Freedom Project President Shannon Keith says the driver ran into a near-blizzard. The driver slept in the van and used a lot of newspaper for the dogs, who have never been on leashes or out of cages.

They all arrived Wednesday.

During the worst, electrical wiring blown off a home got wrapped around the van's rooftop air-conditioner. The defroster and heater failed and the driver bought a handheld heater to defrost the windows.

The mature dogs will be placed in foster homes until they learn to live outside a cage, then put up for adoption.

SAN CARLOS BANS STORES FROM OFFERING PLASTIC BAGS: SAN CARLOS  (AP) — San Carlos is set to become the latest California city to ban plastic carryout bags.

The San Carlos City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt an ordinance that bans stores from offering plastic bags starting July 1. Customers will have to pay 10 cents for each paper bag, a charge that increases to 25 cents in 2015.

Officials say the ordinance will reduce the number of plastic bags that pollute waterways and clog storm drains.

The San Mateo Daily News reports that 10 San Mateo County cities have already banned plastic bags and another eight cities are considering such bans.

Mayor Matt Grocott voted against it, citing potential health risks to people who don't wash their reusable bags.

The Redwood City council will consider a plastic-bag ban in March.

FLU CLAIMS 3 MORE SAN DIEGO COUNTY RESIDENTS: SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County health officials say three more residents have died from the flu this season, bringing the total there to 43.

Two people in their 80s died last week and a third died earlier in February.

This season's toll is the highest since the 2009-2010 season, when 58 people died.

The season generally runs through fall and winter but health officials say Wednesday that it may have peaked.

Officials say more people were treated for flu-like symptoms at emergency rooms in the third week of February. However, the number of flu cases confirmed by lab tests fell for the fourth week in a row.

CALIF SCHOOLS MUST SET UP FEE COMPLAINT SYSTEMS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — California school districts must have procedures in place by Friday for students and parents to file complaints if they feel their schools are improperly charging fees for educational activities.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said Wednesday that the deadline was established in Assembly bill 1575 that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall.

The ACLU sued the state in 2010 after finding many school districts require students to pay fees to participate in certain activities and purchase textbooks and other academic materials. The ACLU says such fees violate the state Constitution that guarantees a free public education to all children.

The ACLU agreed to dismiss the lawsuit after the bill mandating districts set up accountability systems was signed.

ALLEGED SWORDSMAN ARRESTED AFTER EL CAJON STANDOFF: EL CAJON  (AP) — A man allegedly armed with two swords has been arrested after a six-hour standoff in San Diego County.

El Cajon police say they were called to an apartment shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday by a woman who said her husband had beaten her.

She was treated for facial injuries.

Police say a 38-year-old man was seen with a machete and several knives and that he threatened to stab officers and kill himself during a standoff.

A SWAT team and crisis negotiators were dispatched but couldn't get the man to surrender.

Police fired tear gas at around 5 a.m. Wednesday. They say the man left the apartment a half-hour later with two swords and was arrested after being shot with a sponge projectile.

He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.