Surprise! You've been embezzled, and more 

Stranger Than Fiction

Curses, foiled again

Authorities charged Ruth C. Amen, 46, with embezzlement after she paid for a surprise birthday party for her boss. Amen had been the office manager at a real-estate company in Boca Grande, Fla., for more than 10 years, but her decision to foot the bill for the party aroused the suspicion of company officials. They alerted Lee County sheriff's investigators, who discovered that Amen had stolen $181,674. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Elizabeth A. Hoen, 18, was charged with stealing three steaks from a grocery store in Wausau, Wis., after she attracted attention by standing naked from the waist down on a street corner. She had put her pants back on by the time police arrived but ran when officers approached. They caught her, found the steaks in her purse and determined they'd been stolen from a nearby grocery store. (Wausau Daily Herald)

Hedging their bets

Worried that unseasonably warm temperatures this winter bode ill for next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, local organizers have stockpiled 450,000 cubic meters of snow near the Black Sea resort. "We've prepared seven separate areas for snow storage high up in the mountains," said Sergei Bachin, whose Roza Khutor ski resort will host Alpine skiing, snowboarding and freestyle competition. He pointed out the snow, which is costing an extra $11 million to store, will be covered with a "special thermal seal" to minimize melting during the summer. Even so, he expects 140,000 cubic meters of the snow will melt. (Reuters)

Problem solved

Prostitution arrests in Salt Lake City dropped 92 percent in 2012 from the previous year. The decline occurred after the city police department disbanded its vice squad. Police Chief Chris Burbank explained that prostitution is the type of crime where "the more you put officers out working it, the more arrests they're going to make." (The Salt Lake Tribune)

Fair fowl

Emu ranchers who've seen demand for their birds' meat decline, see hope in the large block of fat that covers most of the 6-foot-tall emu's body, between the hide and the flesh. When the fat is processed as oil rubbed into a person's skin, it's touted as a treatment for wrinkles, burns, acne, arthritis, psoriasis and eczema. It's also used in shampoo and cosmetics. Taken orally, it can treat cholesterol, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and allergies. "The oil is beneficial for almost any kind of skin condition," said Clover Quinn, who owns the Wild Rose Emu Ranch in Hamilton, Mont. A single bird produces 250 ounces of oil, which Quinn sells for $10 an ounce. Mike Eppley of the American Emu Association warned that rising prices in the past five years have tempted some producers to cut the pure emu oil with soybean or canola oil. (The New York Times)

Firearms follies

Logan Bunn, 27, injured himself after firing a gun at a tree outside a home in northwest Iowa. The Allamakee County Sheriff's Office said the bullet ricocheted off the tree and hit him. (Associated Press)

Police were called to a Wal-Mart store in Northborough, Mass., after employees reported a man in his 40s opened a package containing a flare gun and fired it, damaging the floor. Sgt. Joseph Galvin said that when employees asked the man why he shot the flare, he told them he "wanted to see if it worked." (Framingham's MetroWest Daily News)

Florida State Sen. Audrey Gibson introduced a bill making it unlawful to "sell ammunition to another person who does not present certification that he or she has successfully completed an anger-management program." The bill adds that the certification "must be renewed every 10 years." (Fox News)

Pedi to the metal

Scientists from New York University will measure the degree of contamination from hexavalent chromium, a "well-established carcinogen," in Garfield, N.J., by collecting toenail clippings from city residents. Because toenails grow slowly, researchers will be able to determine how much of the metal has accumulated in the body over the past 18 months as a result of a chemical spill in a residential neighborhood 30 years ago, according to environmental medicine professor Judith Zelikoff. (Associated Press)

Father of the year

Shawn Wayne Hughes, 32, agreed to sell his 6-year-old daughter for $1,500, according to police in Kingsport, Tenn., who said Hughes told the buyer, a 75-year-old woman who agreed to his offer under police direction, that he needed the money to bail his girlfriend out of jail. When he showed up to exchange the child for cash, police were waiting. (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Criminal hygiene

Beate Proeller, 47, stole more than $16,000 worth of toothbrushes from Kohl's stores in Middletown Township and Morton Borough, according to Pennsylvania State Police, who accused Proeller of placing phony price tags over the real price tags on some 200 high-priced electronic toothbrushes so they'd scan at a fraction of their true retail value. (Philadelphia's WPVI-TV)

Avoid the snow traps

Huang Nubo, a former official in the Chinese Communist Party's Propaganda Department who's now a property developer in Beijing, intends building a golf resort in a remote village in northeastern Iceland. He believes the luxury hotel and "eco golf course" at Grimsstadir would attract wealthy Chinese seeking clean air and solitude. Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson said he saw no reason to block the venture, which is expected to cost more than $100 million, but added that he's puzzled why Huang would want to build a high-end resort in a place so isolated that "you can almost hear ghosts dancing in the snow." Xu Hong, a vice president at Huang's company, said Grimsstadir was chosen because "there is a market demand in China" for peace and quiet. (The New York Times)

Dangerous work

Edgardo Toucet sued a Florida temp agency that assigned him to a manufacturing plant near Orlando to operate a peeler machine, which uses a razor-sharp blade to cut carpet foam. He claims he "received no orientation or other formalized instruction or training in preparation for his temporary work assignment as a peeler machine helper," and that while working, he "came into contact with the machine's spinning blade and his penis and testicles were completely severed." (Courtroom News Service)

Short fuse

Upset when a bank ATM wouldn't return his card, John Ouillette, 44, tried to pry open the machine's front cover, causing roughly $11,000 in damage, according to police in Nashua, N.H., who charged Ouillette with felony criminal mischief. (Nashua's The Telegraph)


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