Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

When Jonathon Michael Smith, 22, tried to buy a $28,000 pickup truck with a check, the manager of the Ford dealership in Fairbanks, Alaska, became suspicious. He checked with another car dealer and found Smith had used a forged check to buy a vehicle there. In fact, he'd used forged checks to buy two other trucks, all this year. According to court documents, Smith forged all four checks using copies he downloaded from an online blog. All the checks had blurry printing, inconsistent fonts and lacked routing and account numbers. Police Officer Jim O'Malley, who responded to the Ford dealership, already knew Smith and asked him what he was doing. He said Smith replied that he was "being stupid." (Daily News-Miner)

When Allen Nguyen, 22, tried to cash a winning $50 lottery ticket at a convenience store in Winter Haven, Fla., the clerk recognized him as the person who stole $70 worth of tickets the day before. The clerk asked for Nguyen's driver's license and gave the information to Polk County sheriff's deputies, who arrested Nguyen. (Orlando Sentinel)

Mensa reject

When Alice French called her son, Brad, to help thaw a frozen water line under her trailer home in Silver Cliff, Colo., she mentioned having smelled propane a few days earlier. Brad French proceeded to use a weed burner to thaw the water line, sparking a fire that took firefighters 40 minutes to bring under control. "The underside of the trailer caught fire," assistant fire chief Jerry Livengood said. "I suspect there was a propane leak under the trailer because Brad reported hearing a 'whoosh' immediately before the fire started." (Wet Mountain Tribune)

Who needs guns

When a man watching Shutter Island at a theater in Lancaster, Calif., complained about a woman sitting near him using a cell phone, two men with her attacked the man. One of them stabbed him in the neck with a meat thermometer. Acting on a tip, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies arrested Landry Boullard, 39. (Los Angeles Times)

Police in Iowa City arrested Nitasha Camilla Johnson, 20, who they said attacked her sister with a toilet tank lid. (Iowa City's Press-Citizen)

Smart governing

Although an Australian jobs tribunal agreed that an employer was justified in firing a long-time worker for repeated safety violations amounting to "relatively serious misconduct," the panel also blamed the company because the man's firing turned out to be "a disaster" for him. While helping clean a tank that filtered staples from recycled pulp at the Norske Skog Paper Mills in Albury, Paul Quinlivan had to be told four times to put his safety goggles back on. Fair Works Australia tribunal vice president Michael Lawler pointed out that Quinlivan, who worked at the mill for 20 years, was "a middle-aged man with very poor employment prospects for whom the dismissal has such serious personal and economic consequences." The tribunal ordered the mill to rehire Quinlivan and give him $16,000 (US$14,600) as compensation. (The Australian)

FEMA paid twice what it might have to lease a facility in Tennessee that was dilapidated and full of potentially hazardous chemicals. A cleaning company told FEMA it would cost $1.2 million to clean it up. A report by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General placed the blame on two federal officials who bypassed commercial real estate agents and Web sites and instead drove around Nashville in a car looking for vacant offices. When they found one, government inspectors sent to check out the building went at night, using flashlights because there was no electricity.

FEMA paid $122,000 to rent the building for three months, during which someone had to watch the boiler "24/7 so it would not explode or crack." The agency trucked in bottled water because tap water wasn't drinkable, and sewage leaks frequently sent workers home early. One worker developed a rash that lasted the whole three months. Rooms next to the leased office were filled with debris, and some parts were roped off because of suspected chemical contamination. (Politico)

Use 'em or lose 'em

Jim Kennedy, 46, has survived 18 months without a job by living on his frequent flier and hotel loyalty points. After getting kicked out of his condo in Newport Beach, Calif., the former IT and finance worker moved his belongings, including a 375-bottle wine collection, into a storage unit, put his clothes and day-to-day items in his leased BMW and began making the rounds of hotels. Part of the free rooms is free breakfasts, which he augments with microwave meals. He gets his unemployment checks at a Mailboxes Plus. Spending his days checking online job banks, Kennedy figures he has enough points to last another two months but realizes "I'm kind of running against time." (The Orange County Register)

Bad medicine

Massachusetts authorities accused former Fall River dentist Michael Clair of putting paper clips in patients' mouths during root canals, then billing Medicaid for the stainless steel posts he claimed he was using. State prosecutors said that after Medicaid suspended Clair in 2002, he hired other dentists for his clinic and filed claims under their names. (Associated Press)

Thomas Alan Heugel, 56, performed circumcisions without a license, according to Michigan authorities, saying Heugel was fingered by his former boyfriend, who declared, "He needs to be taken off the streets." A Kent County sheriff's investigation found that Heugel told patients he was a doctor and performed circumcisions at his home in Sparta. "I don't know what the attraction is," sheriff's Lt. Kevin Kelley said. "I don't know, and the detective doesn't know."

Neighbor Maria Horn, 53, said Heugel represented himself as an ordained minister, an emergency medical technician and had vehicles modified to look like vintage police cruisers. She said he began performing circumcisions, as well as ear piercings and removing skin tags. (The Grand Rapid Press)

Six New Jersey women who had black-market surgery to enhance their buttocks wound up in the hospital because the injections contained a diluted version of builder-grade silicone. "The same stuff you use to put caulk around the bathtub," said Steven M. Marcus, head of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, adding it's quite different from medical silicone. Plastic surgeon Gregory Borah pointed out that using over-the-counter silicone could cause abscesses on the buttocks that resemble "a big zit." (The Star-Ledger)


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