Suspect in kidnapping to be returned to Florida

By Times staff writers
Published January 25, 2005

ROME, Ga. - A convicted sex offender accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old boy from his school in Florida has waived his right to fight extradition.

Frederick Fretz, 42, appeared in federal court here Monday. It was not clear when he would be returned to Florida.

Fretz, 42, was captured Sunday in Cartersville and arrested on a federal warrant for kidnapping. He faces two Florida warrants of probation violation and failure to register as a sex offender.

Police say Fretz picked up the boy at Dunnellon Elementary School in Marion County last Tuesday and headed north. Authorities found the abandoned disabled car on an exit ramp off Interstate 75 north of Atlanta Friday and found the boy, uninjured, 2 miles away about 12 hours later.

Congressman demands firing of FEMA director

FORT LAUDERDALE - A South Florida congressman called on President Bush Monday to fire the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for "massive misallocation" of disaster aid in Florida.

FEMA Director Michael D. Brown has "stymied investigations" and failed to accept responsibility for mistakes that led to more than $30-million in Hurricane Frances payments to residents of Miami-Dade, even though the county experienced "no more than a heavy rainstorm," Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., wrote to Bush.

"Such a gross waste of taxpayer monies cannot be taken lightly," Wexler wrote.

Bush had not seen Wexler's letter but stands by Brown, said Taylor Gross, a White House spokesman. "The president has full faith in the outstanding job that Under Secretary Mike Brown and FEMA are doing in providing assistance to hurricane victims."

FEMA issued a statement saying the agency will cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general into allegations of fraud in Miami-Dade.

Palestinian who built tourist business dies

ORLANDO - Jesse Maali, a Palestinian immigrant who built an empire of tourist shops in the Orlando area, died of cancer amid federal allegations of hiring illegal immigrant workers, money laundering and income tax evasion. He was 59.

Maali died Saturday at Florida Hospital Orlando after a five-month battle with lung cancer, his family said. He was awaiting trial on federal charges related to his running of the Big Bargain World and Sports Dominator gift and clothing shops in Central Florida's tourist corridors.

U.S. Attorney Paul Perez said prosecutors would meet to consider the status of pending criminal and forfeiture cases.

Last month, Maali's gift shop partner, Mohammed Saleem Khanani, and longtime accountant, David Portlock, were convicted of assorted conspiracy, fraud, tax evasion and money laundering charges.

Maali's family fled the Mideast for Caracas, Venezuela, in 1961. They moved to Orlando in 1986, and Maali ran a hotel and chain restaurants before starting the tourist shop empire that approached $70-million by 2002.

He was a prominent contributor and fundraiser for several charities, ranging from the American Red Cross to Muslim and Palestinian groups.

Man wounds son-in-law, kills self at law office

PENSACOLA - A man wounded his son-in-law at the victim's law office Monday and then rammed a police car with his sport utility vehicle before shooting himself to death, police said.

The crash injured an officer, who was hospitalized in good condition.

It was not immediately known what set off Leslie B. Johnson, 56, who shot William Meador. Meador was in critical condition.

Police told Johnson to drop his handgun as he left the building but he refused and got into his vehicle, witnesses said. Two officers fired shots at his tires before the SUV crashed into the police car and Johnson shot himself.