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If you saw a wallet lying on the ground, what would you do? A lot of people might, out of curiosity, pick it up to examine it. They might even walk away with it. But if they did, they could find themselves surrounded by police and facing arrest.

This happened to Carlos Alayo who picked up a wallet he saw laying on a New York City subway platform. When he went to get on the train, police stopped him. explains:
The 32-year-old had been ensnared in Operation Lucky Bag, an initiative from the New York City Police Department to lay decoys -- shopping bags, purses, backpacks or wallets -- around the subway system under the watchful gaze of officers who wait to see what passersby will do. The decoys often contain real credit cards issued under pseudonyms to the police department. Theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a felony that could lead to jail time.
Police said that Operation Lucky Bag led to 101 arrests last year. Those individuals had a combined total of 761 prior arrests last year, said police spokesman Paul Browne.
"A person who takes or finds property which is lost or mislaid has a legal obligation to make efforts to return the property to its owner, which can include delivering the property to police," Browne said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has complained about Operation Lucky Bag, suggesting that there must be better uses of police time. I didn't even realize it was illegal to take a wallet laying on the ground. I would try to find out who it belonged to and return it to them, but I wouldn't have thought it was illegal not to do this.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 06, 2007
Comments (13)
Stewart Bright lived with Marjorie Hervey, founder of the Hervey Foundation for Cats, a charity for injured cats. But when Bright and Hervey had a falling out, "Bright accused Ms Hervey of needlessly killing kittens and emailed about 600 supporters of the charity with an attached picture showing a hand with a gun pointing at a kitten with its front paws up as if surrendering."

That's pretty damning evidence, though not in the way Bright hoped. The picture was recently entered into evidence in court to prove that Bright was guilty of sending phoney emails, and also needed a psychiatric assessment.
Categories: Animals, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 05, 2007
Comments (6)
Tickle Me Counterfeit
Authorities are warning consumers to be on the lookout for fake Tickle Me Elmos showing up on store shelves this Christmas. How can you tell the difference between the real and the fake? For a start, the fake Elmo is called "The Laughing Doll." Also, oddly enough, the fakes are more expensive than the real thing.

Phony Doo-Wops
Doo-wop groups from the 1950s and '60s, such as the Drifters, Coasters and Platters, are complaining that they're going broke. They can't compete against all the phony groups pretending to be them who perform for less.

Underwater Scottish Gnomes
At the bottom of Loch Fyne can be found a secret garden inhabited by 40 gnomes. Apparently underwater gnome gardens are popping up all over the world. I last posted about one at the bottom of Wastwater in the Lake District.

Ingenious Disguise
After police pulled Robert Sadlon over for a broken taillight, Sadlon fled the scene on foot. He later reported his truck as stolen. The same cop who had pulled him over went to his house to investigate. There he found Sadlon, who now claimed to be a different man. He had disguised himself by shaving his mustache and changing his clothes.

Climate Change Culture Jamming Hoax
It appeared that a group of major corporations, including Chrysler and Dow Chemical, had gotten together to pledge to eliminate all their emissions in the next 50 years. It turned out that the pledge was an elaborate hoax engineered by a grassroots activist group called the International Rising Tide Network.
Categories: Gnomes, Law/Police/Crime, Music, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 04, 2007
Comments (0)
Ocean's 11 Conman
"It was one of the most audacious jewel thefts in history. In the middle of a crowded room, the famed Star of the Empress Sisi was stolen from its high-security case and replaced with a replica." (Thanks, Joe)

Turkey Mystery
Turkeys mysteriously show up in a town, and then wander away. "After entertaining residents of Harborview Drive on Thanksgiving morning, 15 turkeys departed - in single file - about 1 p.m. Thursday and have not been seen since, residents said Friday."

FEMA not the only agency to hold fake press conferences
Apparently Immigration and Customs Enforcement does it too. (Thanks, Gary)

The EPFX Quack Medicine Machine
Its inventor, William Nelson, claims it can diagnose and destroy disease. The FDA says it's a fraud. And it's just one example from the growing field of "energy medicine." (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Animals, Health/Medicine, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 27, 2007
Comments (4)
I'm on the road up to Lake Tahoe for Thanksgiving, but here's a few quick links I've been meaning to post.

Online hoax leads to girl's suicide
The case of Megan Meier is attracting lots of attention, both online and offline. Megan believed that a young guy on MySpace was interested in her, but when Josh started to send her nasty messages, she committed suicide. Later it was discovered that "Josh" was a fake alias created by adults in Megan's neighborhood. A bizarre case, and one that underlines how important it is for kids to learn to be skeptical about information (and people) they find online.

Man Accused of Posing as a Lawyer
Cranky Media Guy writes, "I love the lawyer's "explanations" of his client's behavior."

Belly Dancer Indicted Over Fake Degree
"A high-profile belly dancer has been indicted for allegedly fabricating her university diploma, a prosecution official said Tuesday in the latest fake-degree scandal to hit education-obsessed South Korea." Since when has it become important for belly dancers to have advanced degrees?

Let's Marry Before Hanging Up
The latest prank from Pakistan: "The latest spin for the emergency helpline (Rescue 15) operators is prank calls from girls, who first report a ‘crime’ and then ask operators to marry them over the telephone." What are kids going to dream up next?
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 21, 2007
Comments (25)
Here's a case that could be described as what you get when you cross Mythbusters with the Darwin Awards.

A 16-year-old boy living in the Tampa area heard a legend that a pipe that ran under the U.S. 301 bridge was filled with gold. Other people told him that it was actually an ammonia pipe leading to a fertilizer company. So the kid decided to test it out for himself and find out what the truth was:
The anhydrous ammonia that flows through the pipeline from the port to fertlizer companies in Polk County is highly caustic. It causes burns on contact and can cause respiratory distress. The teen was burned when he drilled into the pipeline.
The cousins who were with him told the boy not to break into the pipeline and had turned to leave when they heard a noise as he breached the pipe, Carter said. The boys then went home. When the injured teen's symptoms worsened, he told his mother what had happened, and she called an ambulance.

I bet he next sues the county, claiming they should have put a sign up warning people not to drill into the pipe in search of gold.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Sun Nov 18, 2007
Comments (9)
While researching something in the online archives of the New York Times, I spotted this story, published on December 21, 1940, about a very unusual form of petty theft:

Odd Subway Thefts Are Bared In Arrest
Prisoner Sucked Out Coins From Turnstile, Court Is Told

An ingenious method of pilfering nickels from a subway turnstile was revealed in Bridge Plaza Court, Brooklyn, yesterday, when Magistrate Charles Solomon held Chester Madzenski, 24 years old, of 35 Diamond Street, Brooklyn, in $1000 bail for Special Sessions on a petit larceny charge and $1000 bail for sentence Thursday for obstructing a subway turnstile.

Anthony Milli of the Independent subway police, said that Madzenski on Wednesday slipped a flattened penny into a coin box at the Greenpoint station of the line, passed through the turnstile, then came outside again and waited.

Four or five persons put in nickels and went to the trains. Milli said he saw Madzenski then approach the coin box, place his mouth over the slot and suck out a nickel. Milli arrested Madzenski and called Martin Hyland, a maintenance man.

Milli and Hyland found that the coin used by Madzenski rested on a mechanism which allowed the turnstile to revolve, yet kept nickels placed in the chute from dropping into the receptacle box. When several coins piled on top of one another, he said, it became possible to suck up the coin near the opening of the slot.

"This is the most unique form of larceny I've ever encountered," Magistrate Solomon said. "But it goes to prove that dishonesty in any form is still a sucker's game."

This happened 67 years ago, but I'm wondering if this strategy would still work today. Perhaps not in subway turnstiles (few of which still use tokens), but what about in payphones and vending machines? Anyone care to volunteer to find out?
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 08, 2007
Comments (9)
Joe Littrell forwarded me this strange news story posted at I can't tell if it's real or a joke.

Supposedly a man identifying himself as "Agent Egan," a California "undercover investigator," halted a performance of Ray Bradbury's play Dandelion Wine at the Fremont Center Theatre, half an hour into the performance. Bradbury himself was in the audience.
The play, one of Bradbury’s most autobiographical works, includes performances by several young actors, and when the announcement was made from the stage about the cancellation 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, reference was made to an obscure California law requiring a State of California licensed teacher to be present at all performances with young actors. The company spokesman said, however, that they had never before been advised about such a requirement, and certainly not at show time. The play’s director, Alan Neal Hubbs, later suggested to this reporter that the play’s cancellation might have more to do with Mr. Egan’s finding an excuse to shut down the performance due to his previously having been denied free tickets to the play...

When this reporter approached the official for a photo-interview to explain why he had shut down the performance, he threatened to confiscate this reporter’s camera on the claim that he worked as an undercover police officer; however, when asked by this reporter to produce a badge or other official identification, “Egan” refused.

If this incident really happened, and if it's not some kind of publicity stunt, it seems incredible that a theater would halt a play on the word of some random guy claiming to be an undercover agent who refuses to show any kind of identification.
Categories: Entertainment, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 25, 2007
Comments (6)
The New York Times reports about a Japanese designer, Aya Tsukioka, who has designed clothes that transform into vending-machine costumes. The idea is that if you're being pursued by a criminal, you can quickly transform yourself into a vending machine, and the criminal will hopefully run right past you.
Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine. The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.

Tsukioka has also designed a "manhole bag," which is a purse that looks like a manhole cover: "Lay it on the street with your wallet inside, and unwitting thieves are supposed to walk right by."

The disguises don't look very convincing, but maybe if it was dark someone would be fooled... unless they saw the feet poking out from the bottom of the costume. Tsukioka herself admits the disguises might be a bit impractical, "especially when your hands are shaking." Still, she's managed to sell about 20 of them, at around $800 each.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 22, 2007
Comments (10)
Do you ever feel like if you see just one more fake giant inflatable pumpkin, that you're going to go mad and attack something? Apparently this guy did:
LLOYD, N.Y. -- A woman says a neighbor attacked her inflatable Halloween lawn display of three ghosts and a giant pumpkin, then apparently smashed his head through her window in a fit of rage. State Police said officers found a drunken John Odee, 43, inside Dawn Garcia's house in the Hudson Valley town of Lloyd on Thursday night, arrested him after a brief struggle and charged him with burglary.

Garcia told the Middletown Times Herald-Record she heard hollering and swearing and looked outside to see Odee struggling with the giant pumpkin. "He was enraged. I could see that," she said.

When she yelled at him to go away, Odee charged the house. She fled through the back door with three of her children and heard window glass breaking. She called 911 from another neighbor's house. Police said Odee used his head to smash a window to get in.

"What made him do that, I don't know," Garcia said. "We had the same decoration up last year and it didn't bother him."
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 16, 2007
Comments (8)
Big Gary sent me a link to this story with the comment, "I'm not sure who was haoxing whom, but something strange is going on here. If there's a hot black market for cat urine, I think I may be rich." From Yahoo! News:
Cynthia Hunter spent almost two months in jail over a vial of cat urine. Hunter, 38, was arrested Aug. 15 on a charge of petty theft after she was accused of stealing from a Wal-Mart store. Deputies added charges of possession of a controlled substance after finding a vial containing a yellow substance in her purse. A drug field test suggested the substance was methamphetamine, The Tampa Tribune reported. Hunter had protested, saying the substance was dehydrated cat urine for her son's science project and that it had been purchased at an animal clinic. She was released Thursday after lab tests found the substance was, in fact, cat urine.
I once bought coyote urine. It was supposed to scare away animals such as opossums, though it didn't work on the opossum living in our attic. Maybe cat urine does something similar. I can't believe it took the police almost two months to figure out that the substance actually was cat urine.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 10, 2007
Comments (7)
A New Hampshire convenience store clerk claims that he was robbed. However, the thieves didn't use any weapons or threats. Instead, they used hypnosis and mind control to make the clerk not notice that they were taking more than $1000. First coast news reports:
It started with a simple mind game. Think of a wild animal, they say, and we'll write down what's in your mind. but it escalates quickly to very personal information about a former girlfriend, and finally, says Patel, mind control. Even investigators are persuaded.
Patel says that the actual moment of hypnosis occurred when the thieves gave him a piece of paper and asked him to cut it into eleven smaller pieces. The clerk has also said that he'll pay back what was robbed.

Apparently this method of robbery has been used before in India (the thieves were Indian, as was the clerk), but I've never heard of it being used before this in America.
Categories: Con Artists, Law/Police/Crime, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 02, 2007
Comments (11)
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