Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "California's wall of fire," Nov. 8, 2003

Tooth delay

Don Masey lost his dentures in the Mediterranean Sea, but they turned up back home in Britain. Mr. Masey, 59, lost the false teeth while swimming on vacation at Makriyalos on Crete. His kids put on their snorkels and searched for them, but they didn't find them. "I had to spend the whole week with people making jokes about snapper fish," he told the Times of London. But two weeks after the Maseys left, some local fisherman had an unusual bite: Mr. Masey's dentures caught in their net. Asking around, they heard jokes about the toothless Briton, and so they sent the dentures to a tour operator, who sent them to a travel agency, which forwarded them to their owner. "I got them back on Saturday and Sunday dinner," Mr. Masey said, "was the best meal of my life."

Hidden down under

Swedish tourist Per Johan Adolfsson last month tried to smuggle four baby king cobras and four baby boas into Sydney-by hiding them in pouches in his pants. His attorney told the Melbourne Herald Sun that Mr. Adolfsson wanted to sell the illegal (in Australia) snakes to pay for an eight-day vacation down under. Instead, he faces several weeks in jail. "It's a bizarre way to have a holiday," the attorney, Michael Priddis, admitted.

Random act?

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Authorities in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Oct. 22 made what has to be one of the easiest robbery arrests in history. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that 37-year-old Susie Marie Leigh was the first customer through the doors at a U.S. Bank branch in Santa Cruz on that day. She had no weapon, but she allegedly demanded money and a teller handed over $857. Witnesses say she then told another teller, "I've now committed a bank robbery, it's OK to call the police," then she walked outside and waited in her pickup truck-which is plastered with "random acts of kindness" stickers-until police arrived. Ms. Leigh could face up to 5 years in prison, but prosecutors said she may really need mental health treatment. "If she didn't really intend to take the money, that's not a robbery," said District Attorney Bob Lee. "Yet we can't have people walking into banks scaring tellers."

Debt's prisoner

Brazilian Denival Santos didn't do the crime, but he did the time-and then some. Investigators in Rio de Janeiro told Reuters that the unemployed baker agreed to pose as convicted robber Rene Coelho Honorato and serve his prison sentence to cover a $275 debt. Authorities uncovered the plot after Mr. Santos had served 3 months of Mr. Honorato's 6-year term. They gave Mr. Santos an extra 4 months for his part in the ruse. An investigator told Reuters that Mr. Santos was "lucky" to be caught: "Apparently, the bandit promised him a swift release and not very harsh conditions, which wasn't the case."

Thievery by another name

Millions of Americans who would probably never break into a home to steal apparently have no moral problem with insurance fraud. A Roper survey commissioned by the Insurance Research Council found that 33 percent of respondents said it is acceptable to "increase the amount of an insurance claim by a small amount to make up for a deductible." "Insurance is not a tangible product," Elizabeth Sprinkel, senior vice president at the Insurance Research Council (IRC), told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "You're paying for a promise of coverage. People think, 'I'm paying in all of this money and I'm not getting anything back.'" Incidents range from reimbursements for car stereos that weren't stolen to elaborate hoaxes and even arson. But the crime isn't victimless. The IRC claims that property-casualty insurers lose $30 billion per year due to fraudulent claims, forcing some insurers to curtail or drop coverage. Insurance fraud also adds around $250 per year to a typical household's home and auto insurance premiums.

Czech bounced

Don't tell the Czechs that the private character of government officials doesn't matter. The Czech government last week fired a tax official who stole a small lump of cheese from a store. Authorities said the theft-and the official's attempts to cover it up-raised questions about his reliability. The stolen cheese was worth about 50 cents.

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