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Warning notice posted in Las Vegas, New Mexico, March 24, 1882. Had to post it because I love the term "Bunko-Steerers". From New Mexico's Digital Collections (via Kate Nelson).
Categories: History, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu May 10, 2012
Comments (0)

I'm not sure how old this image is, but it must be 15 or 20 years old at least. It's been circulating online for as long as I can remember.

It's one of those images that's become a staple on humor sites, but people don't often pause to ask about the details of it: is the picture real? Where was it taken? And if it is real, what were all those cops doing there? Were they really all on a donut break?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find out very much about the picture. Although I was able to locate where it was taken, because a few people recognized it. Both Jenni at ivman's blague and April at independently identified it as a Donutland that used to be in Cedar Falls, Iowa. But the Donutland closed sometime during the 90s and was replaced by an Italian restaurant that also seems to have closed.

Some googling revealed that there was once a Donutland at 5312 University Ave in Cedar Falls. And here's that address now on Google Maps. The shot is from a different angle, and the Donutland sign is gone, but I think it definitely is the same building.

Jenni thought the police cars in the picture looked like they were from the nearby town of Waterloo, not Cedar Falls. She joked, "obviously Waterloo was suffering from a lack of security that day!"

April (writing in 2001) also recalled some trivia about the Donutland:

that brown building behind is at the RV place next door.. cool yo! another sidenote about that donutland is at night, the DO in the neon sign's lights were out.. so it said 'Nutland'. There's even a picture of it in my senior yearbook and a caption from a kid that went there and wrote a check out to nutland...he was kicked out for good.

Because I can't see any obvious signs of photo manipulation in the picture, I'm going to assume the picture is real. Though why all the cops were there, I have no idea. Maybe it was staged as a joke. Or maybe all the cops really were on a donut break!
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu May 03, 2012
Comments (2)
It's kinda hard to know who, if anyone, to feel sympathy for here. (Thanks, Bob!)
Lawyer falls for Nigerian e-mail scam, sues Wells Fargo

An Edina law firm that lost nearly $400,000 in a Nigerian wire-fraud scam is claiming that Wells Fargo, which handled the fund transfers, should cover its losses. The Star Tribune reports on the lawsuit by Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, which three years ago received an e-mail from someone purporting to be a Korean woman who needed the firm's help to collect a settlement... In his suit, Robert Milavetz argues that Wells Fargo & Co. should have recognized the red flags involved.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Scams
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 11, 2012
Comments (0)
Another list of urban legends from the BBC. This time it's legal urban legends. All the following laws, though frequently repeated, are NOT TRUE:
  • It's illegal to die in Parliament.
  • It's illegal to put a stamp on upside down.
  • It's illegal to eat a mince pie on Christmas Day.
  • It's legal to kill Welsh people in the town of Chester.
  • It's legal for a man to urinate in public, as long as it's on the rear wheel of his car and his right hand is on the vehicle. And pregnant women can legally relieve themselves in any public place, including into a policeman's helmet.
  • London taxis have to carry a bale of hay in their boot.
  • If someone knocks on your door in Scotland and needs to use the toilet, you have to let them enter.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 09, 2012
Comments (4)
Judith Anne Holland obviously thought she had a pretty foolproof alibi when she got pulled over for speeding. She told the officer she was in labour and on her way to the hospital. But when she got pulled over a second time, within the same hour, she was accompanied to the hospital, where they discovered she wasn't pregnant.

Home detention for pregnancy hoax

A woman who pretended to be in labour twice on the same day after she was caught speeding and driving while disqualified was yesterday sentenced to home detention when she appeared in Invercargill District Court...
Categories: Birth/Babies, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 04, 2012
Comments (0)
M.L. Nestel, writing for, reports that Tide detergent has become the hot new item targeted by thieves. He calls it a "Grime Wave." Nestel writes:

Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that authorities from New York to Oregon are keeping tabs on the soap spree, and some cities are setting up special task forces to stop it. And retailers like CVS are taking special security precautions to lock down the liquid.
According to Nestel, Tide has become a form of currency on the street, where it's known as "liquid gold." People trade it for drugs. A recent drug sting turned up more Tide than cocaine.

Apparently, thieves brazenly go into supermarkets, load up shopping carts full of Tide, and then dash out the front door, into waiting getaway cars.

Nestel's story has been picked up by lots of other news outlets. So far I can only find one, NPR, which is doubtful about it. Their reporter, Jacob Goldstein, asks, "is this for real, or is this a ginned-up trend story?"

If it is a ginned-up trend story, where did Nestel get the idea for it? One source is an article that ran in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press on Feb. 16, about Patrick Paul Costanzo, who's been accused of stealing $25,000 worth of Tide from Walmart. It wasn't the only thing he was stealing, but it was the most unusual. Police Lt. Matt Swenke was quoted as saying, "Obviously, somewhere in our Twin Cities area there was a market for that (detergent). No one can use that much detergent."

Patrick Costanze, accused Tide thief

And back in Dec. 2011, the (Maryland community news) reported the theft of $15,000 worth of Tide from a local Safeway. But again, this article noted that Tide was just one of a number of common consumer products that were being stolen in large amounts. Other products popular among thieves included razor blades, infant formula, and diapers.

So there's two legitimate sources for Nestel's story. In other words, he's not making this up out of whole cloth. But perhaps it would be more accurate to say there's a crime wave targeting common household products, rather than a crime wave targeting Tide specifically.

Update: Looks like the Great Tide Crime Wave was a ginned-up trend story, as many suspected. According to an article on, theft of Tide has long been a problem in the retail industry, and there's nothing new about this. Nor has the problem been getting worse recently.

Lt. Shannon Smith of the Somerset Police Department explains that thieves steal Tide, because it's a widely recognized brand-name household product, and then they sell it to small retail stores for half-price. This has been going on for ages.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 13, 2012
Comments (6)
At least 10 people in Vancouver who bought iPad 2s have reported opening up the packaging only to discover it contained a slab of modeling clay, not an iPad. It's an old strategy for thieves to conceal their crime by replacing the item in the box with something of lesser value. Reminds me of the case from 2006 of the Hawaiian boy who opened an iPod box on Christmas Day, only to discover it contained a package of meat. Link: Yahoo!
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Scams, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 20, 2012
Comments (1)
Two stories have been in the news recently about Manhattan school employees who were somewhat derelict in their commitment to the truth.

The first was Joan Barnett, a parent coordinator, who, in order to get two-and-a-half weeks of vacation, claimed her daughter "Xinia Daley Herman" had died. Her mistake: she submitted a death certificate with weird, misaligned fonts. When busted, she initially claimed her daughter really had "died of a heart condition." But eventually she broke down and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. It's not clear from the article if she really had a daughter with that name. Link: National Post

The second is teacher Mona Lisa Tello, who submitted a fake jury duty letter to get out of class for two weeks. Her mistake: the letter was full of misspellings ('trail' instead of 'trial,' 'manger' instead of 'manager'). Link: NY Daily News

Both Barnett and Tello lost their jobs. So now they have all the vacation time they could possibly want.
Categories: Bad Excuses, Education, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 12, 2012
Comments (0)
Richard Heene is going to have to serve 90 days -- 30 in jail and 60 in a work-release program. Mayumi Heene has 20 days in jail. Prosecutors have asked that they also pay $47,000 in restitution. They're also barred from making any money from the incident. So no money from book deals. Link: LA Times
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 23, 2009
Comments (6)
Two weeks ago I linked to a BBC article by Clive Coleman about the case of the carbolic smoke ball. He must be doing a series on interesting legal cases, because he's back with a great article about the legal case of the snail found in ginger beer. Quick summary — In 1928 May Donoghue claimed to find a snail in her bottle of ginger beer. Her complaint eventually helped bring about modern consumer protection laws in the UK. The catch: "to this day, no-one knows for sure if there ever really was a snail in May Donoghue's bottle of ginger beer."

I should add this case to my list of Gross Things Found in Food.
Categories: Food, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 20, 2009
Comments (2)

Wikipedia is under a censorship attack by a convicted murderer who is invoking Germany’s privacy laws in a bid to remove references to his killing of a Bavarian actor in 1990.
Lawyers for Wolfgang Werle, of Erding, Germany, sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding removal of Werle’s name from the Wikipedia entry on actor Walter Sedlmayr. The lawyers cite German court rulings that “have held that our client’s name and likeness cannot be used anymore in publication regarding Mr. Sedlmayr’s death.”

Occasionally I receive requests from people I've posted about, in regard to some hoax or fraud they committed in the past. They want me to remove or anonymize their name, because any google search for them immediately brings up MOH as the top link. They complain that it's become impossible for them to escape the stupid thing they did in their past. Depending on what they did (for instance, if it was a prank or petty crime), and how long ago they did it, I will consider anonymizing their last name by reducing it to a single letter. After all, I think people do deserve a second chance, and I don't want to be the one responsible for single-handedly casting a shadow over the rest of their life. But in the case of murder I think it's going too far to expect to have the slate wiped entirely clean.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 13, 2009
Comments (11)
What you get for trying to be a hero nowadays:

A man was attacked and robbed after he jumped into a lake believing a boy was drowning, only to find it was a dummy.
The dog walker was approached by a "distressed" couple in Foxes Forest, Portsmouth, who said their son had been attacked by a swan in nearby water.
When the 48-year-old jumped into the lake and discovered the dummy he saw the man going through his coat pockets.

Link: BBC
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 06, 2009
Comments (0)
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