Wyoming News Update

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Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment.

AIRPLANE FORFEITURE

Feds file charges stemming from seizure of plane, cash

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are pressing felony charges against two Colorado men accused of operating an unregistered airplane that authorities claim was involved in a criminal enterprise.

The charges follow the government's seizure nearly two years ago of the Cessna airplane after it landed at the municipal airport in Cody, Wyoming. Police also confiscated over $250,000 in cash from a Cody hotel room rented by the pilot and a passenger.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne is pressing a civil forfeiture case against the plane and the cash, alleging both are tied to illegal drugs.

But an attorney for pilot Scott Michael Lewis of Englewood, Colorado, says there's no evidence of that.

San Francisco lawyer David M. Michael says the cash was from legitimate activities, and he's demanding it back.

Lewis says forfeiting his property would violate his constitutional rights.

WYOMING WEATHER

Winter storm bears down on parts of Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The National Weather Service has posted winter storm warnings for extreme western Wyoming, including Jackson, Afton and Kemmerer.

Winter storm warnings are also in effect for the south-central mountains. A winter weather advisory is posted for much of southwest Wyoming, including Rock Springs and Evanston.

Snow is expected to start falling Friday afternoon and increase in intensity by the evening.

Meantime, strong winds are causing travel problems, especially for light trucks on Interstates 80 and 25.

The wind is also blowing snow, creating slick conditions.

I-80 between Laramie and Elk Mountain was closed Friday morning because of poor conditions.

UW PROVOST SEARCH

UW officials turn attention to filling provost position

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — With the top spot at the University of Wyoming filled by incoming University President Laurie Nichols, administrators are now looking for the university's next provost.

The Laramie Boomerang reports that faculty, staff, students and deans have been offered the opportunity to tell members of the 17-person search committee what they want in a provost.

The university is working with the search firm Storbeck/Pimentel to fill the position.

Officials say Nichols will become more involved with the search for her number two as it progresses. Nichols previously served as provost at South Dakota State University.

WILDLIFE MIGRATION

Wyoming adopts wildlife migration conservation guidelines

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming has adopted new guidelines to protect some of North America's longest wildlife migration routes from oil and natural gas development.

The guidelines call on state wildlife officials to continue to identify routes traveled by elk, antelope and mule deer. Biologists also will study ways to counter threats to those migrations.

The state Game and Fish Commission endorsed the broadly written guidelines Thursday with support from both environmentalists and the petroleum industry.

The guidelines could play a role when petroleum developers seek to drill on federal land in Wyoming. State biologists will refer to their findings when they advise federal agencies on wildlife populations on federal land.

Vast natural gas reserves in western Wyoming underlie habitat for elk, antelope and mule deer that travel to the Yellowstone region each summer.

YELLOWSTONE SOUND RECORDINGS

Sounds of Yellowstone featured on MSU website

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana State University Library has added the sounds of Yellowstone National Park to its online archive of natural sounds recorded in ecosystems across the West.

The Billings Gazette reports that people can access the sounds — which include the bellows of bison, the bubbling of mud pots and freezing ice — online through the library's Acoustic Atlas.

The new recordings are the result of a project between Yellowstone National Park and the Acoustic Atlas, which was founded in 2013 and offers new ways to experience nature online.

The Acoustic Atlas website also includes a podcast that includes stories and interviews on Yellowstone.

CONVICT-MILITARY PENSION

Wyoming man who sought military pension gets 18 years

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A judge has imposed an 18-year prison sentence on a Wyoming man who sought unsuccessfully to have his sentencing on child sex-crime convictions delayed so he could receive a military pension.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne sentenced Army National Guard Lt. Timothy Wells on Thursday.

Wells, of Cheyenne, was convicted in October of sexual exploitation of a child and other charges. Prosecutors say the crimes occurred at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne.

Johnson recently denied a request to release Wells from custody temporarily and reschedule his sentencing for April to allow Wells to finish the 20 years of military service necessary to qualify for a pension.

Assistant Federal Public Defender James Barrett told Johnson in court that Wells now has lost his military pension.

GAS PUMP GLITCH

Powell gas pump glitch results in $12K loss for McIntosh Oil

POWELL, Wyo. (AP) — A dozen Powell-area residents have been sentenced for exploiting a glitch at McIntosh Oil Company gas pumps that allowed them to get as much fuel as they wanted for $1.

The Powell Tribune reports that court records say the company lost roughly $12,000 from the scheme in 2012 and 2013. The last of the 12 criminal cases wrapped up last month.

The total punishments for the defendants included five months of jail time, nearly 20 years of probation and one trip to boot camp.

A defect at the gas pump machines had allowed the defendants to use prepaid credit cards to fill up their tanks for only $1. McIntosh Oil discovered the glitch in April 2013, months after the thefts started.

Police still haven't traced $3,000 of the $12,000 loss.

HOUSE SEAT-YOUNG PERSON

25-year-old enters race for Wyoming's US House seat

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Buford man has announced his bid for Wyoming's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that 25-year-old John Meena filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission stating his intention, making him the youngest candidate in the race.

Meena is running as the only independent in the already crowded contest to replace Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis.

This if Meena's first foray into politics. He currently works as a database administrator and accountant for the Wyoming School Facilities Department.

State Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, state Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, Casper pizzeria owner Charlie Tyrrel, state corrections officer Jason Senteney, veterinarian Rex Rammell, Northwest College professor Mike Konsmo, Platte County resident Darek Farmer and Casper resident Paul Paad have also announced bids for the seat.

UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD

Mills man gets probation for unemployment fraud

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A Mills man has been sentenced to probation for making unemployment claims when he was working.

KTWO-AM reports that Homer McCann was handed a 2- to 4-year suspended prison sentence with three years of probation. He pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining benefits by fraud. He has also been ordered to pay $7,400 in restitution.

Prosecutors say McCann started receiving unemployment benefits around March 2009, but discrepancies were later found in his claims in 2010. The Unemployment Department sent him over-payment notices, but he didn't begin repaying the state until 2013.

McCann told the State of Wyoming Special Investigation Unit he was having trouble making ends meet and was collecting unemployment and still working.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

Jobless rate in Wyoming at 4.3 percent in December

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming's unemployment rate increased to 4.3 percent in December.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reports that the rate is up from November's 4.1 percent.

The state's jobless rate is still below the national rate of 5 percent.

Albany and Niobrara counties have the lowest unemployment rates in the state at 2.9 percent, followed by Goshen at 3.1 percent and Weston at 3.3 percent.

Fremont County posted the highest unemployment rate at 6 percent, followed by Natrona and Sublette each at 5.5 percent and Uinta at 5.2 percent.

SheridanWyoming.com

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