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Mortgage fraud sentence

(AP) -- An Orange County man who took part in a $100 million mortgage fraud scheme has been sentenced to a year in federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said John Allen was sentenced Monday in San Diego.

He's one of five people who had pleaded guilty to crimes ranging from conspiracy to wire fraud and money laundering.

Authorities say Allen, a Laguna Hills mortgage loan processor, was involved in a scheme that involved recruiting straw buyers for homes, then arranging $100 million in mortgages at inflated prices, with about $15 million going into the conspirators' pockets.

Allen helped create phony documents to obtain the loans.

Nearly all of the homes later fell into foreclosure.

New president's mansion

(AP) -- As the University of California prepares to welcome former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as its next president, the college system's governing board is being asked to consider renovating the vacant mansion that housed many of Napolitano's predecessors.

The UC Board of Regents is scheduled to take up a staff request on Tuesday for an initial $620,000 toward the estimated $3.5 million to $6 million cost of restoring the three-bedroom, seven-bath Blake House.

The house, located not far from UC Berkeley, has been empty since 2008.

The university spent more than $100,000 a year renting a house for Mark Yudof, whom Napolitano is replacing on Sept. 30.

The university has leased her a 3,500-square-foot house in Oakland at a cost of $9,950 a month.

Money for both the renovation work and the president's rent comes from a private endowment.

Spewing well capped

(AP) -- A crew on Monday appeared to stop water and methane gas that spewed for days from a Southern California well, but 37 families were still staying away from their homes until experts could cap it, authorities said.

A disused water well in Hawthorne, a southwestern Los Angeles suburb, was being capped on Thursday when water and methane began to pour from it, owner Golden State Water Co. said.

Boots & Coots, a company that specializes in dealing with oil, gas and water well work, injected water into the well on Monday to halt the outflow, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Brian Jordan said.

The company then began injecting mud and other materials to cap the well, which could be accomplished by later Monday or Tuesday.

At its peak, the well gushed 500 to 2,500 gallons of water a minute, Jordan said.

However, there were no injuries or damage to homes and the methane gas had dissipated, he said.

Wildfire park opens

(AP) -- A San Francisco Bay Area wilderness park is open again after a wildfire there consumed nearly five square miles.

Mount Diablo State Park in Contra Costa County reopened on Monday, two days after the fire was fully contained.

Park officials tell the Contra Costa Times that visitors should avoid any burned areas.

Danita Rodriguez, district superintendent for the Diablo Valley District of the state park system, says there are plenty of other hiking trails available and people can still get to the mountain's summit.

The fire began on Sept. 8. Officials say it was sparked by target shooting. More than 75 homes were evacuated at one point.

Tree door

(AP) -- A tiny tree door has appeared in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park after another one was removed because it violated city code.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported a father and his 6-year-old son first installed a wooden door to cover the small opening of a tree in March.

The door crafted by Tony Powell stirred the delight of visitors who left notes and offerings for the little creatures who might be using the door.

But when park officials found out, they removed the door, saying its hinges damaged the tree.

The move sparked a small outcry, prompting city officials to replace the door with a temporary one. Powell has put in a new one that passes inspection because it's attached to a log -- not a living tree.

Best Vegas month

(AP) -- A new report shows August was the best month of the year for new-home sales in southern Nevada.

Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research counted 763 new homes sold in August, which is up 29 percent from a year earlier.

The statistics, cited by the Las Vegas Sun, found the median price of those homes was more than $266,000, up 31 percent from a year ago.

Officials with the firm say southern Nevada builders pulled 673 new home permits in August, which is up 17 percent from August 2012.

They've pulled 5,057 permits so far this year, up 26 percent from the same time period last year.

Tunnel agreement

(AP) -- Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee said that longshoreman picketing the site of Seattle's $2 billion tunnel project have agreed to allow work at the site to proceed while they continue to seek resolution with the contractor in a dispute over jobs.

Inslee said Tuesday that the president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 has agreed to dismantle the picket line that has been up since Aug. 20, and that the boring machine could be running within the next few days.

Boring at the tunnel project began at the end of July, as the world's largest tunneling machine started digging a pathway that will ultimately carry vehicles under downtown.

The longshoremen, who view the waterfront positions as their territory, are upset about four jobs that involve loading excavated dirt onto a barge. They believe a contract signed earlier this year gives them the loading jobs.

Versace mansion sale

(AP) -- A corporation had the winning bid for the South Beach mansion that once belonged to Gianni Versace.

VM South Beach LLC bid $41.5 million Tuesday for the oceanfront property on Miami Beach's touristy Ocean Drive.

The Miami Herald reported that VM South Beach's principals include the Nakash family of New York, who control Jordache Enterprises.

Gianni Versace bought the property in 1992. He was fatally shot on its steps in 1997 by a serial killer. His family sold it in 2000, and it operated as a private club and then as a boutique hotel until earlier this year.

The mansion has 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and a 54-foot-long swimming pool lined with 24-karat gold tiles. Versace spent $33 million renovating it. It was initially listed for sale at $125 million.

Revenue bonds

(Bloomberg) -- An economic development agency in Michigan's Wayne County issued $17.3 million in revenue bonds, with a portion maturing in December 2043 priced to yield 8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The tax-free deal had been on hold for weeks after Detroit filed a record municipal bankruptcy in July. Detroit, Michigan's most populous city, is located within Wayne County.

Lot line dispute

(AP) -- An 80-year-old Pennsylvania man has been charged with using his lawn tractor to fling rocks and debris at neighbors and police.

The Beaver County Times reported Donald Martin drove his tractor toward three neighbors after using the machine to pull a bush out of the ground in a property line dispute on June 21.

On July 3 and Aug. 30, police say Martin drove the tractor over bare ground so the mower would fling rocks and other debris at his neighbors and -- in the last encounter -- a responding police officer.

Martin faces a preliminary hearing Sept. 24 on simple assault and other charges.

Homebuilders seek permit

(Bloomberg) -- Hammerson Plc and Ballymore Properties Ltd. plan to seek permission to build homes, stores and offices on a 10.5-acre (4.2-hectare) site near London's Old Street Roundabout technology hub within 12 months.

Hammerson and Dublin-based Ballymore are working on a 280,000 square-meter (3.3 million square-foot) development proposal for the Bishopsgate Goods Yard, according to a filing in December.

The companies together bought an option to acquire the site in 2002.

As many as 2,000 homes, office buildings, stores and leisure facilities may be developed on the site, the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney said in a 2010 planning document.

Residential property values in the City of London and its fringes, including the Goods Yard, rose 14 percent in the year through July, double the average growth rate in the best parts of central London, according to data compiled by broker Knight Frank LLP.

Retail will be “a very large component” of the project, which will include residential and commercial space, Atkins said without being more specific.

Controlling photovoltaic

(Bloomberg) -- China will strictly control the construction of new photovoltaic manufacturing projects to curb excess capacity in the world's biggest maker of solar panels.

New solar manufacturing that “purely” expands capacity will be strictly banned, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Tuesday.

Annual spending by companies for research and development and upgrading equipment combined must be no less than 3 percent of revenue and no less than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million), according to the statement.

A global oversupply of solar panels led to a 20 percent plunge in average prices last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

China's solar industry now accounts for seven out of every 10 solar panels produced worldwide, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Office complex plans

(Bloomberg) -- Henderson Global Investors Ltd., the manager of $108 billion in assets, plans to build an office complex capped by a 34-story tower in the City of London financial district as developers tap the area's burgeoning insurance market.

The 170-meter (600-foot) high project would be within a cluster of skyscrapers in the City's insurance district, Henderson said Tuesday.

The plan includes 910,000 square feet (84,500 square meters) of offices and shops to accommodate 7,000 workers and would cost 391 million pounds ($623 million) to build.

Henderson's project will be completed by 2019 “at the earliest,” Nick Deacon, director of property at Henderson, said.

The company plans to secure tenants for 300,000 to 350,000 square feet of space before beginning construction, he said.

About 2.7 million square feet of office space in the City may be vacated by tenants in 2019, according to data compiled by broker Knight Frank LLP.

Occupiers can move out of an additional 4 million square feet of office space in the financial district in 2020, the broker said.

Looking toward US

(Bloomberg) -- Lippo Group, an Asian investor of property and banks founded by Indonesian tycoon Mochtar Riady, is seeking real estate acquisitions in the U.S., encouraged by signs of recovery in the world's biggest economy.

“We can consider anything as long as it's in property,” Riady, 84, said. “We see the U.S. economy improving, so that’s where our focus will be.”

Announced property deals in the United States have totaled $49 billion this year, compared with $27 billion in the same period last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Riady said that the rupiah's decline this year will not affect its acquisition plans because the overseas deals will be handled by its Singapore company. OUE Ltd., previously known as Overseas Union Enterprise, is helmed by his son, Stephen.

Rock bottom rates

(Bloomberg) -- Rock bottom mortgage rates may be a thing of the past in the United Kingdom, as banks' borrowing costs surge amid growing evidence that an economic recovery is taking hold.

HSBC Holdings Plc's (NYSE: HBC) First Direct and Yorkshire Building Society, a customer-owned lender, are among those raising their rates for five-year fixed-term mortgages, according to Knight Frank Finance, a London mortgage broker.

Fixed-rate costs for banks are rising as Britain heads for its fastest growth since the start of the financial crisis, spurring speculation that tighter monetary policy may come sooner than expected.

“For anyone who is remortgaging, this is the time to lock in and get the best rates,” said Dominik Lipnicki, founder of Your Mortgage Decisions, a Surrey, England-based mortgage broker. “This is the beginning. I don't think it will be temporary.”

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