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POSTED: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Copper thief gets 10 years

One of the leaders of a gang of copper thieves on Oahu has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Regina Foster had pleaded guilty to conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering for the thefts that darkened portions of Oahu's H-1 and H-2 freeways for two years.

She is the wife of James “;Freeway Jimmy”; Taylor Jr. He is to be sentenced next month after pleading guilty to the same offenses.

Guilty pleas have now been entered by nine of the original 10 defendants.

Deputy City Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter says the gang struck a dozen freeway sites, some more than once, stripping out 72,000 pounds of copper wire worth $563,000.

State officials estimate it cost $3 million to repair the damage.

4 children, 1 adult newest flu cases

Five new cases of swine flu were confirmed on Oahu yesterday, all connected with a Palolo school that counts 10 of the 26 cases recorded in the state.

The new cases at Anuenue School included four members of the same family—three siblings and a parent—and an unrelated student.

The state Department of Education will not close the Hawaiian-language immersion school or other schools, said spokesman Sandra Goya.

“;All of our cases have been mild,”; she said. “;Some of those cases confirmed earlier have recovered.”;

About one-quarter of Anuenue School's 353 students were absent yesterday as parents kept youngsters out of class as a precaution, said Principal Charles Naumu. He said attendance was even lower Friday, with more than a third of the student body absent.

Naumu said he wants to prevent people from casting blame on flu victims for the spread of the H1N1 virus. “;I don't want to have people pointing a finger, people calling this family dirty.”;

One child returned to school yesterday after “;the doctor gave him a clean bill of health,”; Naumu said.

Since Wednesday, confirmed swine flu cases included four students and a third-grade teacher at Anuenue, two Ewa Elementary School students who are siblings of an Anuenue student and one child each at Aina Haina Elementary and Mililani Middle School.

One child attending a private school was also diagnosed with the virus. State Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the department will “;leave it to the school”; to identify itself.

State gets $50 million for water fixes

Hawaii is getting more than $50 million in federal stimulus money for the improvement of aging water and sewer infrastructure.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday the money will create jobs and boost the economy while protecting human health and the environment.

Of the total, $30 million will go to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to provide grants to Hawaii's four counties for waste-water treatment, pollution control and projects that protect water quality.

An additional $19.5 million will go to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to give grants to the counties to improve drinking-water systems.

Neighbor island watch

WAIMEA » The state is looking for licensed hunters to help control feral goats in an area east of Waimea Canyon Road. There will be an archery period and a separate muzzleloader period. For information call 274-3433.

KAILUA-KONA » Kona Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra ruled a second time that Hawaii County can condemn land to complete a bypass highway from Keauhou to Captain Cook, the county said. A similar previous ruling was challenged to the state Supreme Court, which sent it back to Ibarra. In his ruling Thursday, Ibarra cited 1979 plans to relieve “;unacceptable”; congestion on Mamalahoa Highway, the county said.

KAUPO » Maui fire crews airlifted an adult female dog Sunday from a remote ledge overlooking rough seas in Kaupo, according to the Maui News. The dog was spotted by a 16-year-old boy who was camping nearby with his family, the paper said. No one could figure how the dog got to the ledge, which seemed to be accessible only by air or sea, the paper said. The dog was taken to the Maui Humane Society where it is doing fine, said spokeswoman Dale Netz.