North Pole (AP) - 12/24/10 - In a surprise move today, the Justice Department handed down indictments against Santa Claus (AKA Kris Kringle, Per Noel, Saint Nick) for allegedly employing undocumented guest workers at his North Pole toy factory.  Originally alerted by an anonymous tipster known only as “The Grinch”, the Justice Department alleges that Claus operates a large toy manufacturing “sweat shop”, solely utilizing an illegal labor force. According to the government’s press release, this is “the largest such operation ever detected”. Off the record, one official said, "This operation is completely unprecedented in size, probably grossing over five hundred billion in revenue annually." At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it appears that Claus has never withheld employee income taxes, paid any corporate income taxes, or filed a federal tax return. The IRS says its investigation is continuing, but has already initiated procedures to seize Claus’s factory.

Claus, a morosely obese smoker who has admitted in past interviews to being addicted to junk food, is also being investigated for breaking and entering, illegally flying in restricted airspace, and cruelty to animals. The Justice Department has indicated a RICO indictment will soon be forthcoming.

A spokesperson for PETA maintains that Claus's reindeer, which they claim are forced by Claus to tow overloaded vehicles, are considered a rare and endangered species, and PETA is pursuing a federal lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction to enforce the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, halting any subsequent abuse of the animals. PETA will also petition the court for the destruction of the animals as “the most humane course", since, according to PETA experts, the reindeer are no longer able to fend for themselves in the wild.

The Department of Transportation confirmed their investigation of PETA’s allegations against the Claus transportation operation, admitting that their records show no evidence that Claus’s vehicles have ever been registered or inspected by DOT. The DOT was also puzzled that Claus’s freight haulers somehow managed to bypass all state and federal safety inspection stations. However, both the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force were tight-lipped when questioned about Claus's alleged restricted airspace intrusions, and the FBI refused to comment on its ongoing investigation regarding Claus's alleged mass interstate burglaries.

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Claus, as they believe that very few of his toys meet stringent federal safety guidelines. An unnamed source at the FTC said that several million tons of toys would have to be destroyed immediately, though such destruction would likely cause immense environmental damage at the North Pole. However, the EPA indicated that the Superfund would probably cover most of the costs of any necessary cleanup.

The various alleged violations appear to have been ongoing for a number of years.

Though Mrs. Claus could be seen weeping inside the shuttered factory, Claus himself refused to be interviewed, and a spokesperson for Claus had no immediate comment regarding the current indictments or other possible charges because of pending legal actions.

It is unclear as to the ultimate fate of the tens of thousands of undocumented guest workers suddenly thrown out of work by closure of the Claus factory. Most are claiming to be "Elves", but they appear to be unable to establish nationality in any known country, and no country thus far has been willing to accept responsibility for them. The Red Cross has agreed to house and feed them in temporary camps established on site, though the harsh weather conditions make continuing survival questionable unless the international community can quickly reach agreement for providing further assistance. Indeed, the UN Sectretary General announced such assistance would come quickly, as he called for a summit meeting in Mexico City next summer to acheive a binding treaty consensus among donor nations. Unfortunately, the brutal living conditions are likely to be particularly hard on the Elfen children as they are so tiny and, due to late-season Christmas-giving fatigue and the worsening global recession, private relief donations have been less than expected.

In related developments, distraught parents around the globe were already beginning to seek each other out via a newly established website, www.suethecrapoutofsanta.com, in preparation for filing a class action lawsuit against Claus, alleging contract fraud for failure to deliver toys to their children in a timely fashion. The pain and suffering claims alone are expected to run into trillions for the “nice” children, though claims for the “naughty” children seem to be less well founded.

Suppliers worldwide also expressed deep concern regarding the future viability of their long term contracts with Claus. Many had expanded operations specifically to support his operations, and the loss of Claus's business would be devastating, yet another blow to the fragile global economy. The Wall Street Journal's website reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average nose-dived once word of the Justice Department actions filtered out, precipitously dropping almost 10% within minutes of the government's press conference. 

            by D. Irwin and
B. Irwin (AP staff writers)

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