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Fog City News Briefs

By Emmett Berg

May 25, 2007

MacArthur Maze reopens

MacArthur Maze opened around 8:40 p.m. on Thursday night despite one professor's concern about the structural integrity of piers supporting the structure.

State bridge engineer Keith Thompson said, "We have full confidence in the structural capacity and integrity" in the rebuilt portion of Interstate Highway 580 that was torched to the ground last month by a crashed fuel tanker."

University of California at Berkeley civil engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh has said that Caltrans should delay reopening the I-580 ramp inside the MacArthur Maze until it can show that the steel and concrete piers remain strong enough to stand up to a large earthquake on the Hayward Fault.

But Thompson said, "Let there be no doubt that we have full confidence in the safety" of the structure, which has been closed since a gasoline tanker overturned and caught fire in the early morning hours of April 29.

The intense heat caused the steel frame of the freeway to soften and the eastbound I-580 connector above collapsed onto the Interstate Highway 880 connector below, closing two major arterials in the interchange. Thompson said the repair work was done "with extreme haste and speed" but insisted "we have compromised nothing in terms of safety and reliability."

Kent Sasaki of the engineering and architectural firm Wiss, Janney and Elstner, who was hired as an outside expert by Caltrans, said he's "confident" that the concrete in the repaired sections of the MacArthur Maze is sound and "I have no doubt it's up to standard."

Sasaki said there were some small cracks in the grout in the columns supporting the arterials but he said Caltrans has removed and replaced the damaged grout.

No injuries reported following Pittsburg power plant emission of chlorine chemical cloud

Three Pittsburg power plant employees who were treated on Thursday for possible chlorine gas inhalation were not injured and have been released from the hospital, Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Director Randy Sawyer said.

The gas was created when somebody at Calpine's Los Medanos Energy Company, located at 750 E. Third St., accidentally off-loaded an estimated 378 gallons of phosphoric acid into a tank containing an estimated 700 gallons of sodium hypochlorite, a bleaching agent, Sawyer said.

When the two chemicals combined, a yellowish-green cloud of chlorine was produced. The solution also became boiling hot and would likely have been bubbling, Sawyer said.

The three employees who were in the building at the time of the release were checked out by paramedics and then taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where they were given oxygen and evaluated, Sawyer said. Their exposure to the gas was determined to be minor.

Although most of the gas cloud remained inside the building, some of it was detected at low concentrations immediately outside the facility.

As a precaution, the county health services department issued a shelter-in-place warning for the people downwind from the power plant, which were mainly industrial businesses.

The warning was issued at 9:53 a.m. and cancelled at 11:30 a.m., according to Art Botterell, manager for the county's Community Warning System.

Garment factory owners convicted of conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud

The owners of two now-defunct garment factories in San Francisco have been convicted in federal court of conspiring to commit a $5 million bankruptcy fraud.

Jimmy Quan, 47, and his wife, Anna Wong, 45, were convicted by a jury in the court of visiting U.S. District Judge William Shubb in San Francisco on Wednesday after a four-month trial.

The couple formerly owned Win Fashion Inc. and Wins of California, two garment companies that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1997 and 2001 and eventually went out of business. They also owned a property management company that they put into bankruptcy in 2003.

Quan and Wong were accused of defrauding the bankruptcy court by concealing assets of the supposedly bankrupt companies and diverting revenue to other companies they controlled. U.S. Attorney Scott Schools said the fraud amounted to $5 million.

In addition to conspiracy, Quan was convicted of 10 other counts of concealing assets, bankruptcy fraud, making false statements and money laundering. Wong was found guilty of two other counts of concealing assets and filing a false bankruptcy declaration.

They are scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 12.

The 2001 bankruptcy of Wins of California left about 240 low-wage workers owed about $1.2 million in back wages until the following year.

The workers were eventually paid in 2002 by a combination of a state garment workers' fund and the bankruptcy court.

Gordon Mar, co-director of the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco, said,

"Today is a major victory for the Wins workers, their supporters and everyone who cares about economic justices.

Three plead guilty to airline travel tickets swindle

A man and his parents have pleaded guilty in San Francisco Superior Court to swindling travelers out of more than $90,000 by failing to issue airline tickets or provide refunds, District Attorney Kamala Harris announced on Thursday.

The Randhawa family - son Manjinder "Manny", and his parents, Iqbal "Paul" and Gurdev "Debbie" - operated M&K Travel Services Inc., which had offices in Fairfield, San Francisco and San Jose, according to prosecutors.

All three family members pleaded guilty to one felony count of grand theft. Paul Randhawa also pleaded guilty to one felony count of forgery, the district attorney said.

According to court documents, the Randhawas advertised discount airline tickets to India and other international destinations. Their victims paid them more than $90,000, but never received tickets or refunds.

In some cases, the district attorney said, their victims arrived at airports only to learn they had no tickets. Others were stranded abroad with no return tickets to the Bay Area.

The Randhawas were also charged in a scheme to steal more than $23,000 in airline tickets from a ticket wholesaler in San Francisco. The family planned to sell the stolen tickets to their retail customers, according to prosecutors.

Paul Randhawa pleaded guilty to forging bank deposit slips falsely indicating he had made cash deposits into the wholesaler's bank account for the ticket purchase.

Paul and Debbie Randhawa will be sentenced Aug. 10. Manjinder Randhawa will be sentenced May 16, 2008.

Two arrested on suspicion of murder

Petaluma police said a 17-year-old juvenile and a Santa Rosa man have been arrested on suspicion of murdering a Petaluma man in his residence in February.

Petaluma police Capt. Dan Fish said the juvenile was arrested Wednesday at his home in the 300 block of Burton Avenue in Rohnert Park; 23-year-old Keith David Kellum was arrested at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday during a traffic stop in the 500 block of Rincon Avenue in Santa Rosa. Kellum also was arrested for a parole violation, according to the captain.

The pair is suspected of killing 20-year-old Uriel Arango Carreno in a detached converted garage at a residence at 1429 Joan Drive in Petaluma on Feb. 7.

Police said Carreno was shot several times while other family members were home at the main residence on the property. Fish said police believe Carreno was slain during a home invasion robbery.

Fish said detectives spent the last several months aggressively investigating the murder and made significant progress during the week of May 14. On Wednesday police discovered physical evidence linking the two suspects to the murder, Fish said.

No additional arrests are expected and no suspects are outstanding, Fish said.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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