State briefs

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Police charge two in morning burglary

JUNEAU - Juneau police arrested two men on burglary and theft charges after a teen-age girl reported finding men in her apartment this morning.

Martin Baker, 35, was charged with first-degree burglary and second-degree theft, both felonies, and the misdemeanors of driving with a revoked license and leaving the scene of an accident, police said.

Zachary Salter, 19, was charged with first-degree burglary, second-degree theft and the misdemeanor of fourth-degree assault, police said.

Police were alerted at about 6:30 this morning by a girl, 16, who said she was awakened by noise in her apartment. She said she discovered two men, one wearing a ski mask, stealing a computer.

After taking the computer, they left in a blue van, which struck the girl's vehicle while backing out of the apartment building's parking lot, police said.

Police did not identify where the apartment is. Officers found the van near Salmon Creek and later arrested Baker, the driver. Police found Salter at the Breakwater Hotel.

Baker and Salter are being held at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Senate panel approves money for heliport study

JUNEAU - A U.S. Senate committee has approved spending $2 million to pay for an environmental impact statement for a new Juneau heliport.

The community has been looking to balance complaints by some residents, who say helicopter flights taking tourists to see the Juneau Icefield cause too much noise, with operators who want more flights. The city has focused attention on a possible heliport at Sheep Creek or Dupont in the Thane area, over objections from the Thane Neighborhood Association.

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved the impact statement funds. Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, added the money to the fiscal year 2003 transportation appropriations bill. The measure still must be passed by the full Senate and reconciled with its counterpart in the U.S. House.

The Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this summer approved $500,000 for a heliport environmental impact statement in a separate interior appropriations bill.

Fuel spills outside old laboratory near Barrow

ANCHORAGE - An estimated 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel spilled Saturday at the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory 4 miles north of Barrow.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation learned of the spill Monday morning.

State officials said the Navy performed a cleanup of old pipes and equipment at the site two years ago and left a 3,000-gallon aboveground fuel tank. The tank was connected to a three-quarter-inch line that the Navy reported had been plugged.

The tank and about 2,000 gallons of fuel was transferred to Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. to be used as a backup fuel source for its natural gas-powered generators.

The corporation claims the pipe was not capped and that a frost plug keeping the fuel in the line melted, the DEC said.

The fuel spilled onto a gravel pad. The corporation was able to pump 750 to 800 gallons of fuel off the ground.

IRS announces tax relief for Alaska residents

ANCHORAGE - Tax relief is being offered for Alaska residents affected by spring flooding, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The tax relief is for individuals, relief workers and businesses directly impacted by flooding between April 27 and May 30.

The disaster area includes the Fairbanks North Star Borough and 10 villages: Aniak, Crooked Creek, Ekwok, Kwethluk, Lime Village, McGrath, New Stuyahok, Red Devil, Salcha and Sleetmute.

Affected taxpayers have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on either their 2001 or 2002 federal income tax returns. Amending a 2001 return will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on the 2002 return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

Affected taxpayers amending a 2001 return to claim the disaster loss should put the words "ALASKA FLOODS" in red ink at the top of the form so that the IRS can expedite the processing of the refund.

Taxpayers may download forms and publications from the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov or may order them by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).The IRS toll-free number for general tax questions is 1-800-829-1040.

Grand jury indicts doctor and nurse on fraud charges

ANCHORAGE - A federal grand jury has indicted a doctor and his wife on health care fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Monday.

Dr. Jay D. Van Houten and his wife, Ida Chen, a registered nurse, face 83 counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that the two used three different schemes to commit health care fraud. They are accused of billing for services not rendered, double billing private insurance companies for services already paid by the State Worker's Compensation Fund, and falsely billing acupuncture services as though they were for physical therapy.

If convicted, Van Houten and Chen could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and fined $500,000.

Quakes shake parts of Alaska

PALMER - An earthquake jolted Southcentral Alaska Monday, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said the magnitude 4.8 quake occurred at 9:20 a.m.

It was centered about 55 miles southeast of Anchorage or 30 miles northeast of Seward. It was felt as far north as Talkeetna and as far south as Seward.

An earthquake also rattled Interior Alaska on Monday, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer said the quake had a magnitude of 4.7.

It occurred at 4:25 a.m. and was centered about 90 miles north of Fairbanks or 65 miles southwest of Fort Yukon.

Kmart cuts hours at stores once open 24 hours

TROY, Mich. - Kmart Corp. has reduced hours at seven of its 110 supercenters, including those in Alaska. The move ends 24-hour operations at the stores.

Company spokesman Steve Pagnani says the cutback in hours has occurred since July 8 and covers stores in Alaska and California, as well as Michigan.

Juneau's Super Kmart Center cut its daily business hours to 18 from 24 in June.

"We found the (Juneau) market over time didn't support a 24-hour store," Kmart spokeswoman Julie Fracker said at the time. "We let it go as long as we could."

Kmart in Juneau is now open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

"It's absolutely dictated by location," Pagnani told The Detroit News of the recent cutbacks in hours. "Their traffic was a little lower at night, so we cut hours to give the stores more time to stock the shelves."

Kmart has been suffering from slow sales since its Jan. 22 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and is looking at a variety of strategies to lower costs. Last week, Kmart Chairman James B. Adamson said the company plans to cut jobs at its Troy, Mich., headquarters and 18 distributions centers within the next two months.

In recent years, Kmart has emphasized the 24-hour superstore concept as a means of keeping pace with 24-hour rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Walker-based Meijer Stores Inc.

In another financial development, Jay Alix & Associates LLC, one of the company's bankruptcy professionals, filed a request to be paid $1.19 million in fees and expenses for work performed in May.

The Southfield-based company, now known as AlixPartners, has provided a variety of bankruptcy services to Kmart during the company's reorganization.

The company also is providing two of its executives to Kmart to serve as the retailer's chief financial officer and treasurer. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago reviews such spending requests.

Fairbanks woman dies in house fire

FAIRBANKS - An elderly woman died early Monday morning in a house fire in the Hamilton Acres subdivision.

The victim has not been identified, pending notification of family members. The cause of the blaze, which is under investigation, has not been determined.

Another occupant of the home, sleeping upstairs, told investigators he was awakened by shouts from the basement. He tried to reach the basement stairway but was driven back by heavy smoke and heat.

Outside the house he found flames coming out of the basement bedroom window and ran to neighboring homes for help.

Firefighters arrived four minutes later and found heavy black smoke streaming from the front door and basement window.

Ernie Misewicz, Fairbanks Fire Department deputy fire marshal, said firefighters were able to get the blaze under control and extinguished within 10 minutes after their arrival.

Upon searching the home, they found the body of the victim in the basement bedroom. Investigators said there was no smoke detector in the basement.

Misewicz estimates the fire damage at about $35,000.

Man convicted of having home meth lab

ANCHORAGE - A Wasilla man was found guilty by a federal jury Monday of keeping a methamphetamine lab in his home, trying to make more than five grams of the drug and possessing unregistered guns, prosecutors said.

The jury was hung over another charge that accused David Kaznakoff Jr., 24, of keeping a gun while dealing drugs, prosecutors said.

Kaznakoff likely faces six to 10 years in prison, said assistant U.S. Attorney Stephan Collins.

Collins said it was clear Kaznakoff was making methamphetamine and was planning to create a bigger operation. He said the trailer where Kaznakoff lived was stocked with ample supplies of products used to make the drug and a police scanner.

Kaznakoffs attorney, Pamela Scott, said her client was simply a drug user who was not sophisticated enough to run a drug operation.

Horse shot, killed two days after purchase

ANCHORAGE - A 2-year-old filly was shot dead in its corral in Kenai, two days after its owner brought it home.

Suzanne Bender bought the horse, named Calibrated Roulette, for $4,000 and put it in a corral bordering her home.

The horse likely was shot with a .223-caliber rifle sometime between 11 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday, Alaska State Troopers said.

Sgt. Sonny Sabala said the horse was struck once in the right shoulder, the bullet piercing both lungs and the heart.

Bender and her boyfriend, Dan Phelps, found the animal lying stiff in its corral around 9 a.m. Sunday. Neither had heard any unusual noises overnight.

Neighbors told troopers that shots rang out in the middle of the night and they also heard a car driving away.

Compiled from wire service reports.



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