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State news briefs
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NEARLY 80 CHARGED FOR UNLICENSED CONTRACTING: SACRAMENTO (AP) — California regulators say nearly 80 people face criminal charges for doing contracting work without a license following a broad-reaching undercover operation.

The California Contractors State License Board said Friday the stings were conducted this week in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and other counties.

Investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects like painting, electrical work and masonry. Most of those caught had posted Craigslist advertisements for their services.

If convicted of misdemeanor contracting without a license, they face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Of the 78 arrested, 57 may also be charged with illegal advertising, and 24 others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment.

SF POLICE SHOOT, ARREST MAN WHO STOLE TAXICAB: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco police say they have arrested a suspect who officers shot at after he stole a taxicab and smashed it into a squad car.

Officer Gordon Shyy says the incident began at around 4:30 a.m. Friday when a man in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood began jumping on the hood of a cab and shattered the windshield.

The taxi driver fearing for his safety ran as the suspect got inside the cab and fled.

Shyy said when officers located the taxi and tried to stop it the suspect made a U-turn and rammed the taxi into the officers' squad car as one officer fired multiple shots at the cab as it sped away.

The suspect abandoned the cab and was eventually taken into custody on suspicion of carjacking and assault on a police officer.

BOY IN POT BROWNIE SCHOOL INCIDENT ARRESTED: COSTA MESA  (AP) — A 12-year-old Orange County boy who allegedly passed around a marijuana brownie at his school, sickening students, has been arrested after authorities say they found a bag of pot in his backpack.

Costa Mesa police say the boy was arrested Thursday at his home after Pomona Elementary School officials discovered the marijuana in a backpack he'd left at school.

Seven students at the elementary school became sick on Tuesday after the boy allegedly gave them bites of a marijuana-laced brownie he brought from home. The kids had breathing trouble, nausea and vomiting. They went to a hospital but have recovered.

FBI SEARCHING FOR MISTAKENLY FREED FUGITIVE: PINOLE  (AP) — The FBI is searching for a suspected bank robber mistakenly released from a Northern California jail.

The FBI said Friday that Gary Fite is wanted in connection with a March 1 robbery of a Mechanics Bank in Pinole, about 25 miles east of San Francisco.

Fite and his alleged getaway driver were arrested later in nearby Vallejo.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jimmy said the 22-year-old Fite was released on March 5, but he had no further details.

 BONE FOUND NEAR WATERFALL IDS MISSING CHICO MAN: OROVILLE  (AP) — A bone fragment found in the water below a Butte County waterfall has been identified as belonging to a Chico man who fell from a trail almost a year ago.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said Friday that DNA tests conducted by the California Department of Justice matched the bone to 28-year-old Mitchell Padula, whom witnesses reported seeing tumble over the 410-foot Feather Falls near Oroville last April.

3 INDICTED IN ALLEGED $2M MORTGAGE FRAUD: SACRAMENTO . (AP) — Three San Francisco Bay area residents are facing charges in connection with an alleged $2 million mortgage fraud scheme.

A federal grand jury indicted 66-year-old Surjit Singh of Dublin, his son, 38-year-old Rajeshwar, of Pleasanton and Anita Sharma on Thursday on charges of mail fraud, bank fraud and false statements on a loan and credit application.

Authorities say Surjit Singh and his son used straw buyers and fraudulent documentation to obtain $2.1 million in residential mortgage loans for four properties in Elk Grove, Sacramento, Modesto and Stockton. The 51-year-old Sharma, a Gilroy resident, was allegedly one of the buyers.

Authorities say the homes were then allowed to fall into foreclosure.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento did not have any attorneys listed for the defendants. A call to a listing for a Rajeshwar Singh in Pleasanton was not immediately returned. A listing for an Anita Sharma in Gilroy could not be found.