Miss America goes undercover

to catch sex predators

OKLAHOMA CITY - Miss America can add crime-fighter to her resume.

Lauren Nelson recently went undercover with police on Long Island for a sting targeting sexual predators.

Officers with Suffolk County's computer crimes unit created an online profile of a 14-year-old girl that included photos of Nelson as a teenager.

"I got to chat online with the predators and made phone calls, too," Nelson said by phone from Atlantic City. "The Suffolk County Police Department was there the whole time."

The operation was filmed for a segment of "America's Most Wanted" that will air Saturday on Fox. Police spokesman Tim Motz said the operation was ongoing and declined to comment. At least four men were arrested and face charges, said Avery Mann, a spokesman for the show. Another six men agreed to meet Nelson, of Lawton, Okla., he said.

American-Indian women suffer

high rates of rape, sex assuault

WASHINGTON - American-Indian women are more than twice as likely to be raped as other U.S. women, and the suspects often go free because of confusing police jurisdictions and a lack of nurses, Amnesty International reports.

The human rights group said yesterday that at least one in three Indian women will be raped or sexually assaulted, compared with fewer than one in five U.S. women overall.

Confusion about whether state, federal or tribal police should respond means victims might not see a police officer or a nurse for hours or days, if at all. Even if a rape victim is taken to an Indian Health Service clinic, almost half lack staff trained to provide emergency services to victims of sexual violence, researchers said.

Indian reservations, which are often rural and poor and lack large police forces, have long struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and related crimes. Meth has made the problem worse in recent years.

The report indicated at least 86 percent of the reported rapes or sexual assaults of Indian women are by non-Indian men.

2 staffers, 7 inmates hurt

in riot at Indiana prison

NEW CASTLE, Ind. - About 500 inmates staged a two-hour riot at a medium-security men's prison yesterday, injuring two staff members. The rioters set fires in a courtyard before officials used tear gas to restore order.

Authorities were investigating whether the riot at the New Castle Correctional Facility started because newly arrived prisoners from Arizona were upset about their treatment.

Seven inmates also received minor injuries. The riot involved inmates from both states, and none escaped, officials said.

"They were wrapped up in masks, with sticks, knives, shanks," prison guard Larry Savage said of the inmates. "They were just flexing their muscles and they wanted to show that they could take the prison over at any time, and that's what they did."

Million-dollar lottery winner

dies of cancer 3 months later

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Walter Schenk, who won $1 million in the lottery shortly after finding out he had terminal cancer, died Monday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse, according to a funeral home. He was 51.

On Jan. 12, Schenk won $1 million playing a $5 scratch-off ticket in the New York State Lottery's High Stakes Blackjack. Five weeks earlier, he had found out that he had less than a year to live because of inoperable lung cancer.

Schenk had tried to get the lottery to give him a lump sum so he could enter a hospital that specialized in treating advanced cancer. Lottery officials said they were sympathetic but couldn't break the rules. He had received just $34,000 of his win by the time of his death.

On April 4, Schenk married his longtime partner, Joan DeClerck, who was with him when he died. Friend Nick Pascazi said Schenk had made plans to leave his winnings to her.

Ariz. man who admitted feeding puppy to boa skips sentencing

PHOENIX - A man who admitted feeding a puppy to a pet boa constrictor failed to show up for sentencing yesterday. Joseph E. Beadle, 40, had pleaded guilty last month to a charge of animal cruelty, a felony. He was facing up to a year in jail and a $150,000 fine.

Police reports say Beadle fed the mixed-breed, 3-week-old puppy to the snake in June as two 15-year-old boys watched. He poured cooking oil on the dog so it would be easier for the snake to swallow, according to the reports. Investigators found the snake was also a victim of neglect.

Vonage catches a break

WASHINGTON - Internet phone carrier Vonage won relief in federal appeals court from a order that would have barred it from signing new customers as punishment for infringing on Verizon patents. *

- Daily News wire services