National Digest

NATIONAL DIGEST

April 10, 2004

2 are sentenced for roles in `Virginia jihad' network

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Two American Muslims accused of training for holy war against the United States by waging paintball battles in the Virginia woods were sentenced yesterday to 15 years or more in prison.

Randall Todd Royer, 31, and Ibrahim al-Hamdi, 26, were among nine men who either pleaded guilty or were convicted of charges related to their participation in what prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network." Two others were acquitted on all counts.

The group used paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as military training in preparation for holy war against nations deemed hostile to Islam, prosecutors say. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, several members went to Pakistan with the goal of joining the Taliban and fighting U.S. troops. No members of the conspiracy ever actually joined the Taliban.

IRS is expanding audits of executives' tax returns

WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service plans to increase audits of corporate executives after exploratory examinations uncovered significant problems.

Keith Jones, director of IRS field specialists, said yesterday that the agency expects to send a memo to all agents next week instructing them to inspect corporate executives' returns at twice the current rate, including scrutiny of such corporate perks as stock options, private jets and luxury apartments.

The agency said it has identified eight areas that need more oversight, including executive stock options, business and personal use of fringe benefits, and improper use of family limited partnerships as a way to transfer compensation to other family members.

Investigation begins at site of N. Mexico refinery blasts

GALLUP, N.M. -- Federal investigators arrived yesterday at a gasoline refinery where two explosions injured four workers.

The inquiry into Thursday's twin blasts at the Giant Industries refinery could take up to a year, said an official with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board, an independent government agency.

Authorities said an initial explosion occurred in a unit of the refinery that produces high-octane fuel, causing a second blast in the same area. Four employees suffered severe burns and were airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Leland Gould, a vice president for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Giant, said company officials had not determined what caused the first explosion but believed it was an accident. The refinery, which was scheduled for a routine 30-day maintenance process next week, remained closed yesterday; company officials said it would not reopen until the maintenance was complete.

3 are arrested in scheme to intercept Indiana mail

HAMMOND, Ind. -- Bags of undelivered mail found in a motel trash bin led to the discovery of metal traps apparently mass-manufactured to fit perfectly inside street-corner postal collection boxes. Three people were arrested in what federal investigators say was an identity theft scheme that involved more than 180 pieces of mail intercepted from people in seven Indiana cities.

Mark Shaw, a U.S. postal inspector, said the three opened stolen mail and took checks and billing-account data. The information was used to manufacture counterfeit driver's licenses and blank checks.

The operation financed drug use and the group's travels across the country, Shaw said. Postal inspectors nationwide have been notified because the mail trap devices appear to be mass-manufactured.

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