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Oct. 7, 2011 at 5:06 PM
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111 indicted in vast N.Y. ID theft ring

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday 111 people have been arrested in the country's largest identity-theft investigation.

Five organized crime organizations in Queens with ties to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were broken up after a credit card counterfeit operation netted more than $13 million over 16 months, WABC-TV, New York, reported.

The suspects are charged in 10 separate indictments with stealing credit card information from thousands of consumers in Europe and the United States.

Two dozen of the defendants also are charged with burglaries and robberies throughout Queens; 85 suspects are in custody, while 25 others are being sought by law enforcement, the television station said.

"This is by far the largest -- and certainly among the most sophisticated -- identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. "Many of the defendants charged today are accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, staying at five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets, and purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics and expensive handbags and jewelry with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers."

The suspects allegedly colluded with store owners and employees to finalize the most exorbitant transactions.


Report: Knox sexually harassed in prison

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Amanda Knox says she was sexually harassed by an administrator at the Italian prison where she was held after being convicted of murder, CBS News reports.

Peter Van Sant, producer of "48 Hours Mystery," said a report on the harassment allegations is included in a story on the case to be broadcast Saturday evening. He was interviewed Friday on "The Early Show."

"We learn about sexual harassment inside prison where an administrator would take her up to his office alone at night and say a number of inappropriate things to her, and that left Amanda terrified," Van Sant said.

Knox, a former student at the University of Washington, and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were freed Monday by an Italian appeals court. They had been convicted of killing Meredith Kercher, a British student who shared a house with Knox while both young women were spending a year in Perugia.

Curt Knox told Van Sant he saw his daughter slump in her chair as the court delivered the decision Monday and immediately thought the conviction had been upheld. But an Italian lawyer then turned around and said "she's free."

Rudy Guede, an immigrant from Ivory Coast, was convicted in a separate trial of killing Kercher. Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito said he was the only person involved in the crime.


Prosecutors threaten medical pot clinics

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors are threatening to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California, demanding they stop sales of the drug within 45 days.

Prosecutors have sent letters to clinic owners warning them they face the possibility their properties will be seized and they will be charged with a crime, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The action comes as the Obama administration steps up efforts to limit the spread of pot stores, which accelerated after the attorney general said in 2009 federal prosecutors would not target people using medical marijuana in states that allow it, the newspaper said.

Medical marijuana advocates say the move comes as a surprise.

"It's coming out of left field as far as we're concerned," Joe Elford, the chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, said. "I really don't know what inspired this. It's a complete about-face from what [Obama] said when he was campaigning."

California was the first state to decriminalize marijuana for medical use in 1996, but it remains a federal crime to possess or sell it, and the conflict between state and federal laws is ongoing.

Advocates said they don't believe the government has the money or staff to force all dispensaries to close.

"It's a lot of huffing and puffing," Elford said, "but we'll see if they actually blow the house down."


Key West-Cuba flights approved

MIAMI, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Flights from Key West, Fla., to Cuba will soon begin, but only for planes with no more than 10 passengers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

The flights out of Key West International Airport will begin as soon as final paperwork is cleared, The Miami Herald reported.

The 10-passenger limit could change if the airport upgrades its facilities, Thomas Winkowski, assistant commissioner in Customs' Office of Field Operations, said in a letter to Monroe County Airports Director Peter Horton.

U.S. flights to Cuba are typically chartered and restricted to cultural, medical, educational and journalistic travel, the Herald said.

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