German Innovation

Jul. 15, 2009
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In June, two formerly well-off retired couples in Speyer, Germany, whose nest eggs were largely wiped out by investments in sub-prime mortgages in Florida, vented their anger by kidnapping their investment adviser, James Amburn. They took him near the Austrian border to a vacation home owned by one of the couples, bound him like a mummy and beat him over several days (fracturing two of his ribs), in an attempt to punish him and extort his own property as partial compensation for their losses. Police rescued Amburn after he managed to send a coded message by fax.

 People With Too Much Money?

  • In June, a resident at 48 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood paid $300,000 for one outdoor, uncovered parking space, according to the listing agent.
  •   In May, the University of Washington ran a two-month campaign to help certain people hurt by the downturn in the economy. Fans of UW’s football team who lost their jobs or were otherwise financially unable to renew their Huskies’ season tickets could tap into a special philanthropic fund. A donor's $500 tax-deductible gift to "Dawgs Supporting Dawgs" would permit a hard-hit fan to receive two season tickets and maintain his or her place on the priority season-ticket list (though this year’s seats would be in an inferior location).

 Odd But True

  •  For years, Anna Ryan, 42, of Blue Springs, Mo., was baffled as to why her weight would sometimes balloon from 140 pounds to as much as 260 pounds despite her consistent diet and exercise regimen. Finally, two years ago (according to a June 2009 dispatch in London's Telegraph), nocturnal tests performed by Overland Park, Kan., physician Scott Eveloff revealed a disorder: Ryan was a sleepwalker whose routine included as many as eight kitchen visits a night in which she gorged herself (but of which she had no memory the next morning).
  • Jen Nestor Waddell had to rush her 11-year-old Labrador mix, Jack, to the vet in May when the dog started acting strange after a walk in which he had been nosing through some bushes. The vet concluded that Jack had discovered and devoured some dry, harvested marijuana. According to Waddell, "(Jack's) eyes were kind of glossed over. … When he was trying to walk, he was looking at his paw, and then looking at the ground and then trying to get his paw to reach the ground, but was unsuccessful."

 Smooth Reactions

  • Marcus Johnson, 33, of Wichita, Kan., was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May for an incident last year in which, angered by a police officer's demand to lower the volume of his car radio, he immediately drove to City Hall, went up a ramp at about 45 mph, crashed through the front door and continued on through the building.
  • Robert Caton, 50, was arrested in Andover, England, in May after he drove his Rolls-Royce through the front window of a Tesco store. His wife said he had been upset to find out that the bed they had ordered did not come with a mattress.

 Least Competent Criminals

  •  Victor Delfi was arrested and charged with robbing the Lincoln Park Savings Bank in Chicago, having tipped off authorities when he tried to deposit red-dye-stained money into his account at another bank.
  • In June, Marlon Moore, 39, was indicted in Miami in what the Internal Revenue Service said was a series of attempts to cheat the U.S. Treasury. Using several aliases, Moore allegedly requested bogus tax refunds in the amounts of $5.959 trillion, $2.975 trillion and $6 trillion. (Also, under his own name, he allegedly asked for a tax refund of $10 million.)

 Undignified Deaths

  • A 34-year-old man survived a single-car rollover accident in Nelson, Calif., in May, after extricating himself and walking away. But he was struck and killed minutes later by a train as he attempted to cross some railroad tracks.
  • In April in Houma, La., a 23-year-old motorist sideswiped a driver waiting to make a turn and then drove away without stopping. He was killed minutes later when he crashed into another car.

c. 2009 Chuck Shepherd


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