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Jury Convicts Boone Man In $25M Metals Scam

A Florida jury has convicted a North Carolina man of operating fraudulent precious metals investment businesses that fleeced investors of 25 million dollars. The jury found 54-year-old Arthur John Schlecht of Boone guilty Thursday of conspiracy and wire fraud charges. He faces a maximum 40-year prison sentence plus fines and restitution. Prosecutors say there were hundreds of victims. Four other defendants pleaded guilty. Schlecht's companies offered people the chance to invest in gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion that would be stored in vaults for them. It turned out the companies never purchased any of the metals for investors.   Testimony showed Schlecht spent millions of dollars for cars, maid services, home decorating, landscaping, jewelry, and to make payments to family members.  


A bill that could shield Duke Energy from having to clean out polluted coal ash ponds in two areas of South Carolina will move to the South Carolina Senate for consideration.  The House approved the bill 80 to 30 this past week. The State newspaper reported that the bill would block lawsuits by citizen groups under the S.C. Pollution Control Act.  Democratic Representative James Smith calls the bill "amnesty for polluters."  Republican Representative Nelson Hardwick sponsored the bill, which has the backing of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance. The bill would apply to any company, but it’s especially relevant to Duke Energy, which is dealing with fallout from a coal ash spill at its Dan River plant in North Carolina last month.


The federal government’s approval of seismic testing for oil and gas off the North Carolina coast is drawing opposition – from local officials.  The StarNews of Wilmington reports that the town council in Carolina Beach on Friday unanimously approved a resolution against the testing.  A day earlier the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management endorsed the testing, noting that it would require oil and gas companies to adhere to strict environmental standards to protect marine life. Seismic testing air guns shoot compacted air to the bottom of the ocean, creating sound waves that reflect geological formations. Conservationists worry the testing would disrupt migrating North Atlantic right whales, loggerhead sea turtles and other species. Earlier, the Kure Beach Town Council was split on the issue and didn't pass a resolution.


The annual bill at Duke University is going up and now will total more than $60,000. Trustees on Saturday approved a 4 percent increase in tuition, to $45,800 a year. Add in housing, food and other fees and the total cost next academic year will be about $60,530.   Duke has a need-blind admissions policy, accepting U.S. students without considering their ability to pay. The school then meets 100 percent of their demonstrated financial need. Duke says more than half of its students get some form of financial assistance.


The town of Cherryville's former finance director faces 24 months in prison and must make restitution of more than 435,000 dollars after being sentenced for embezzling money from the city.  The Charlotte Observer reports 59-year-old Bonny Alexander was sentenced Friday in federal court for embezzling city funds from 2005 to 2011. A federal prosecutor says she spent the taxpayer money on cars, travel and a beach house.  Her lawyer says her client is a broken woman who understands that her actions violated trust and harmed the city.  Her prison term will be followed by two years of supervised release.  Cherryville’s mayor said in court that the theft left the city within a month of collapse and insolvency.


A big night for basketball in Charlotte last night. The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association crowned men’s and women’s champions at Time Warner Cable Arena.  The Shaw University’s Lady Bears beat Fayetteville State, 73-70, to win their fourth straight tournament championship. Tournament MVP Kamiya Burwell led Shaw with 18 points.  

In the men’s tournament, Livingstone captured its first CIAA Championship with an 83-68 win over Winston-Salem State University.  The Blue Bears’ Mark Thomas led all scorers with 23 points and won tournament most valuable player honors.  Both teams advance to the NCAA Division 2 regionals.