Threat Closes L.A. Roads

ONTARIO, Calif.--A major highway intersection east of Los Angeles was closed for two hours yesterday after a man called the California Highway Patrol and said he had explosives in a rental truck parked on a bridge over Interstates 10 and 15.

A police bomb squad found no explosives in the U-Haul truck after using a robot to inspect the vehicle, police Detective Alfredo Parra Jr. said.

Fred Rios, 35, of Riverside, was arrested for investigation of reporting a false bomb threat after officers talked him out of the truck and found two children, ages 1 and 5, inside.

While police were investigating the truck, Parra said the man's wife arrived and told officers her husband was upset over marital problems.

* NEW ORLEANS--The Immigration and Naturalization Service denied allegations that it reneged on a deal to let a prison hostage-taker fly to Cuba with his jail uprising accomplices and said that Roberto Villar, 31, was detained for allegedly raping one of the hostages. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping after he, six other Cubans and a Bahamian inmate took hostages at the St. Martin Parish Jail earlier this month. A parish sheriff's spokeswoman, Capt. Audrey Thibodeaux, said local officials uncovered no evidence that a female inmate was raped during the standoff.

* LOS ANGELES--The Terra spacecraft, which has been orbiting in "safe hold" with its main computer shut down since it was launched Dec. 18 as the flagship of NASA's Earth Observing System, should be functioning as designed early next week after a software change, officials said. A balky antenna and the computer shutdown do not threaten the $1.3 billion mission because both can be corrected, Terra project manager Kevin Grady said Thursday in a telephone interview from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

* FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.--FBI agent David Farrall, 36, was drunk and driving the wrong way on Interstate 95 last month when his car crashed head-on into another vehicle, killing Maurice Williams, 23, and his brother, Craig Chambers, 19, authorities said. After the wreck, the Florida Highway Patrol incorrectly blamed the accident on one of the victims, but Maj. Rick Carpenter apologized to the brothers' family Thursday and said it could be a month before the Broward State Attorney's Office will decide what, if any, charges will be brought against Farrall.

* NEW YORK--Susan Madakor, 40, who mistakenly received $700,000 meant for a United Nations environmental fund because foreign governments used an account number with one incorrect digit, asked a judge this week to grant her the money. Madakor left her $23,000-a-year job at a Manhattan textile company and bought a laundry business for $100,000, set up a college savings fund for her 10-year-old son, paid off $30,000 in credit card debt, furnished a new apartment and leased a van. She was negotiating to buy a liquor store when Chase Manhattan discovered the mistake.

* LOS ANGELES--A shopping mall Santa Claus refused to cuddle a bawling toddler, called the boy's mother evil and ripped off his beard and costume in front of startled children Wednesday. "Although we do provide a person to be the character of Santa Claus, we cannot always be responsible for their behavior," said Jonah Sullivan of New Jersey-based Cherry Hill Photo, which supplied the surly Santa.