State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2002

Alaska travel industry sponsors Olympic hopeful Fletcher

JUNEAU - The state's tourism industry will sponsor Olympic hopeful Rosey Fletcher as she prepares for her second Winter Olympic Games next month in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Alaska Travel Industry Association asked Fletcher, a Girdwood resident, to help promote travel to Alaska this summer, as well as its consumer Web site, as part of its national public relations campaign to draw visitors to the 49th state.

"We are pleased to work with such a poised young woman who, we believe, personifies the Alaska spirit," said ATIA president Tina Lindgren. "She will have the world's attention in February when she competes in the Olympic GS-Parallel snowboarding event in Salt Lake, and we hope Rosey can take advantage of that attention to help us spread the message that Alaska is a great place to visit."

In addition to being an ambassador for Alaska travel throughout 2002, Fletcher, 26, will wear a decal on her competition helmet sporting the Web site address and will assist ATIA with promotional activities in Alaska once she returns home in April.

Print shop owner charged with fraud wants trial moved

ANCHORAGE - The public defender representing an Anchorage businessman facing federal fraud charges wants the trial moved outside of Alaska because of what he calls massive and prejudicial pre-trial publicity.

Nezar "Mike" Maad, owner of Frontier Printing Services, faces a Feb. 4 trial in U.S. District Court in Anchorage on two counts of falsifying loan applications, one count of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to the government.

Federal defender Rich Curtner argued Maad can't receive a fair trial in Alaska because of statewide publicity surrounding the damage of Frontier Printing shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Police found smashed equipment and "We hate Arabs" spray-painted on a wall. The incident led to an FBI hate crime investigation and a community fund-raising drive to help Maad, an Arab-American.

Last month Maad was arrested on the fraud charges for which FBI agents and Anchorage police discovered evidence while investigating the print shop damage. The U.S. attorney's office closed the hate crime investigation and said Maad and his wife, Joanne, are suspected of damaging the shop themselves to get insurance money. However, they have not been charged with that.

Troopers identify tools taken from man killed during robbery

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers on Wednesday identified the tools taken during a robbery in which an airplane mechanic was killed on the Kenai Peninsula last week.

Gerald Sibley, 61, was found dead Friday at an airplane hangar at a private airstrip near Mile 18 of the Kenai Spur Highway. He lived in an apartment in the hangar. Troopers said he was shot, and tools and other items were missing.

Troopers said the stolen tools were Snap-On brand hand tools. A Sears Craftsman model five-drawer tool chest also was missing.

Sibley's body was flown to Anchorage for an autopsy by the state medical examiner's office.

Man charged with shooting pipeline seeks delay in trial

FAIRBANKS - The attorney for the man charged with shooting a hole in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is seeking an eight-month delay in his trial.

Meanwhile, Daniel Lewis was indicted on new charges Wednesday, unrelated to the shooting. Police say Lewis threw a tire through the window of a U-Haul business in Fairbanks on Sept. 13, stealing a safe with a small amount of money inside it and driving off with a 2001 GMC U-Haul truck.

The empty safe was found by the side of a road and the truck was found by the side of the Elliott Highway, where it had rolled into a ditch. He faces charges of theft and burglary in connection with the incident.

It wasn't until Lewis' arrest for the pipeline shooting that Fairbanks police could obtain a DNA sample to send to the state crime lab to test for a match with blood found on a window screen at the U-Haul business.

Fairbanks police said the results linked Lewis, who apparently climbed through the window and was cut by broken glass, to the U-Haul crime scene.

At a status hearing on the pipeline shooting charges Wednesday, Lewis waived his rights to a speedy trial after defense attorney Adam Gurewitz asked that the trial to be pushed back from Jan. 28 to September.

BP to replace faulty valve four years after worker complaints

ANCHORAGE - BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. said Tuesday that it will replace a faulty valve used to isolate oil and gas leaks at Prudhoe Bay. The move comes nearly four years after workers first asked the company to fix the problem following a 1,200-gallon oil spill.

"These valves are like the brakes on your car, and the brakes don't work right now," said Marc Kovac, vice chairman of a union that represents about 200 BP workers at Prudhoe Bay.

The malfunctioning valve is located at the Prudhoe Bay gathering center, a sprawling complex where natural gas and water are separated from the oil brought up from Prudhoe Bay wells.

A series of mishaps led to a 1,200-gallon oil leak from a pipe at the center in 1998. As workers struggled to isolate the leak, they discovered the emergency valve didn't seal off the pipe, allowing more oil and gas to seep into a building at the center.

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