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Curses, Foiled Again A man phoned a Pizza Hut restaurant in Elko, Nev., claiming to have stolen five signs used atop delivery vehicles. He demanded $500 for their return. Police said when the manager wanted proof he had the signs, the caller sent a cell phone picture. Officers were able to zoom in on license plate numbers of two vehicles in the background, registered to Jess Jay Long, 23, a former employee of the restaurant. Police charged Long with extortion, possession of stolen property and grand larceny

* When an employee of a Richmond, Ky., department store confronted a woman suspected of stealing a purse, the woman dropped the purse and fled in her vehicle. The employee picked up the purse and found the woman's wallet inside, with her driver's license, and notified the police. The woman called the store later asking about her wallet and was told it was at the police station. Kimberly Jo Kirby, 44, showed up to claim it and was arrested.

* A 33-year-old man told police in Salinas, Calif., that while he was sitting in his pickup truck outside a convenience store, a man with a gun hopped in and ordered him to start driving. The pickup ran out of gas, so the gunman ordered the driver to get out and push, but he ran away instead. While talking to police, the carjacking victim admitted having stolen the pickup truck in the first place. "You couldn't make up something stranger than this," police Cmdr. Kelly McMillin told the Salinas Californian.

Curses, Duped Again Steve Crawford, 55, told police in Murfreesboro, Tenn., that a man approached him at a Home Depot store claiming to be from a foreign country and confided he "had $400,000 on him." Crawford took the man to a local bank to help him deposit his money but said the man announced "he did not trust the bank." Crawford then took the man to several bank locations and eventually withdrew $7000 of his own money to show the man how banks work.

Crawford said the man asked him to pick up an associate of his and then told him, "We know you are trustworthy if you let us hold your $7000 and walk around McDonald's on Old Fort Parkway and come back." Crawford said he gave the men the money but never found them on the other side of McDonald's.

How Government Works After federal officials estimated the value of hurricane relief supplies given away earlier this year at $85 million, six months later they revised the figure to $18.5 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency told CNN that the General Services Administration, which manages federal property, over-counted cases of toilet paper and plastic cutlery kits by mistakenly listing a single item as being worth as much as multiple items in a package of goods. "It was determined that some of the unit costs were 'eaches' and others were 'for-case' lots," GSA officials said. The GSA's Viki Reath assured CNN she would investigate whether it is unusual for the agency to make such a large miscalculation.

* Virgil Taylor, 34, worked free for 17 years, cleaning up after parish councilors in the town hall restaurant as part of a government-subsidized program in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England. When the subsidies ended this summer, the council notified Taylor, who has Down's syndrome and is a Special Olympics champion, that he would have to pay $5 a day to continue working there. What's more, London's Daily Mail reported, he has to pay even for days he misses work. "The introduction of the fees," the North Somerset Council's Clir Ian Peddlesden pointed out, "was the result of the review we carried out after we won the elections last May."

Unclear on the Concept Pointing out 911 operators receive too many non-emergency and prank calls, Cresskill, N.J., police Lt. Ted Cebulski advised people to "just dial the local number." Cebulski acknowledged that most people still don't know their local police department's phone number, despite tougher laws against bogus 911 calls and publicity campaigns to distribute literature and magnets with the numbers on them, stating, "It's a lot easier to remember three digits as opposed to seven."

* Reginald Peterson, 42, called 911 in Jacksonville, Fla., twice to report that a Subway shop left the hot sauce off his sandwiches. His first call was so officers could order the shop to fix the sandwiches correctly. The second call was to complain that officers were taking too long to get there. Noting the Subway workers had locked the door behind Peterson after he left to find a pay phone to call police, responding officers tried calming him down and explaining the proper use of 911, but his belligerency continued until they arrested him for making false 911 calls.

* The following week, police in Englewood, N.J., reported receiving a 911 call from a man claiming to have been robbed at a gas station. When responding officers noted the victim's description of the robber fit that of the station attendant, the caller, Kadien Jackson, 21, said he made the emergency call because the attendant wouldn't give him a refund on an unused box of condoms. Police charged Jackson with making a false report.

* Two weeks later, Carlos Gutierrez, 47, called 911 in Tampa, Fla., to report a robbery. He said that a slot machine at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino had stolen his money. After Gutierrez made a follow-up call to repeat his complaint, he was arrested and held without bail.

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Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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