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    Around the state

    Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 7, 2000


    Sandhill cranes following ultralight reach Florida

    TRENTON -- A dozen sandhill cranes following an ultralight aircraft to Florida have nearly reached their warm, winter destination.

    The flock is resting in Gilchrist County in North Florida and is expected later this week to reach the coastal wildlife refuge where it will spend the winter.

    The young sandhill cranes are a test of an experimental migration program in hopes the same technique could be used to draw endangered whooping cranes to warmer climates where they would have a better chance of survival.

    Heather Ray, administrative director for Operation Migration, said the birds are expected to arrive Wednesday or Thursday at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico in Citrus and Hernando counties.

    The birds travel for no more than two hours a day, covering no more than 70 miles or so, in the migration flight that began in Wisconsin early last month.

    The public will not be able to see the cranes once they land. The birds' guides and handlers have dressed in crane outfits to keep the cranes from becoming accustomed to and following humans.

    The cranes are from a group of 23 chicks hatched and raised in isolation using techniques developed by scientists who study the birds. The chicks were trained to run behind the ultralight, then fly behind it, just as they would follow an adult crane.

    The flock of 13 cranes left Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin Oct. 6 for the 1,250-mile journey over Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

    On Friday the operation reported that one bird was found dead in the pen that is used to corral and protect the cranes at night. The operation believes the bird was injured while in the pen.

    Brinks theft investigation leads to German arrests

    TAMPA -- A German father and son are being held on charges that they were part of a $3.5-million burglary at a Brinks warehouse in Fort Myers, the FBI said Monday.

    Agents say they have recovered nearly $1.4-million of money they suspect was taken in the September theft. It was found in three safe deposit boxes at First American Bank of Texas in Austin.

    Paul Simecek, 52, and Bohdan Simecek, 28, are being held in Hanover, Germany. They are charged with conspiracy to commit bank larceny, conspiracy to possess moneys obtained from bank larceny and possessing stolen money that has crossed U.S. boundaries.

    Authorities are still searching for Brinks driver Henry Von Schwarc. The FBI has a warrant out for his arrest.

    German authorities intercepted packages containing U.S. currency that were mailed to several addresses in Hanover, said Frank Gallagher, the FBI's special agent in charge of the Tampa division.

    Search warrants also turned up a passport bearing a photograph of Von Schwarc but the name of Frank Macormeck, Gallagher said.

    Von Schwarc, 41, hasn't been seen since his shift ended at the Brinks warehouse on the Sept. 2, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. When employees returned to work on Tuesday, cash was missing from the facility.

    Couple's $45-million Lotto win is a repeat for store

    VERO BEACH -- A Piper Aircraft worker and his nursing assistant wife won $45-million in Saturday's Florida Lotto drawing, the second lucky ticket bought at T&S Mobil Mart in less than three months.

    Coincidentally, lottery officials said Ruben and Judith Metante are cousins of one of 26 country club workers in Vero Beach who snared a $65-million jackpot in July after buying a winning ticket at the convenience store. He is 44. She is 41.

    "I don't know what's in the water there," Lotto spokesman Bernard Edwards said Monday. "I bet a lot of people are going to go to that store and buy a ticket though."

    Telephone calls to the Metantes' home were not immediately returned.

    Lottery officials said the couple and their two little boys drove to Lotto offices in Tallahassee on Sunday after learning they had the winning numbers in Saturday night's drawing: 3-7-18-30-38-41.

    The couple were waiting at the door Monday morning when lottery officials arrived. They collected a one-time payout of $22,764,432.55 and headed home about noon, lottery officials said.

    "They were a very nice couple," said Alfred Bea, a Lotto information officer. "They said they hoped to make wise investments, secure college for the boys and said it no doubt means an early retirement."

    Elvis sighting hoped for after theft from museum

    TALLAHASSEE -- Where have they gone, Elvis, Janis, Jerry and Jimi?

    That's what a Tallahassee museum would like to know.

    Sure all these rock icons are dead -- Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix.

    But now they're missing too.

    The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science had scarecrows made to look like the legendary performers out in front of the museum, but someone stole them.

    The museum has a rock-and-roll exhibit up right now, and when a group of downtown Tallahassee merchants decided to have a scarecrow contest, the museum went with the rock theme to promote its exhibit. But Friday night or early Saturday, someone made off with the four scarecrows.

    "They took everything but Jimi Hendrix's head and Elvis' blue suede shoes," said Chucha Barber, the museum's director of institutional advancement.

    Barber said the scarecrows, made of all kinds of material, were worth about $300 total, not counting the labor for making them.

    There have been no Elvis sightings so far, or for that matter sightings of any of the missing straw rockers.

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