Dateline: Australia--Apparently, Australia was serious about its ban on Jolly Olde St. Nick. Professional Santa John Oakes claims he has been fired for saying “ho, ho, ho” and singing Christmas carols on the job at a department store in Cairns. Temporary employment agency Westaff recently made headlines for ordering its seasonal Santas to say “ha, ha, ha” instead of “ho, ho, ho” because the phrase might frighten children and could be offensive to women. Mr. Oakes, 70, told the Cairns Post, “After my shift on Monday, I got a call from my manager telling me my services were no longer required. I hadn’t done anything wrong so I asked her why, and she said, ‘You said ho, ho ho and that’s not appropriate.’ She also said I wasn’t supposed to sing, but I was only singing ‘Jingle Bells’ to get the kids to laugh for their photo.” A company spokesman for the U.S.-based Westaff said, “The candidate was not sacked nor was his use of the term ‘ho, ho, ho’ a factor in our decision.”
Dateline: Louisiana--A man was sentenced last Monday to more than four years in prison for bilking friends and family out of more than $800,000 in a bizarrely implausible medical scheme. Brent Eric Finley, 38, of Rayville, was sentenced in federal court in Monroe to 51 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. His wife Stacey Finley was sentenced in August to spend 63 months in prison, and both are ordered to jointly pay restitution in the amount of $873,786.94. The couple pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud in connection with a scheme in which Mr. Finley convinced friends and family members that his wife was a CIA agent, who could arrange to have their hidden medical problems diagnosed by satellite imaging. After the orbiting spy satellites diagnosed the medical problems, the Finleys convinced their victims that secret agents would administer medicine to them as they slept. “These audacious criminals should remind all of us that scam artists will go to great lengths to take our life’s savings,” U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington said in a news release following Monday’s sentencing.
Dateline: Florida--A suspicious package forced the closure of several city blocks and a parking garage last Monday in Sarasota. The unfathomable device that caused the panic? An old manual typewriter. According to Southwest Florida’s Herald Tribune, the typewriter was found inside a locked cage under a first-floor stairwell landing in a county parking facility on Ringling Boulevard. The antiquated, non-electronic writing device caused enough confusion for police to blow it up using a remote-controlled robot. Although it was eventually dubbed harmless, police are continuing to investigate how the confounding piece of technology wound up inside the locked cage.
Dateline: Florida--The primary heir to New York hotel magnate Leona Helmsley’s fortune has been forced to flee her home and change her name due to repeated death threats. Trouble, a white Maltese who belonged to the billionaire until her death in August, was flown out of town by private jet under tight security two months ago after receiving around 20 such threats, the New York Post reported. The pampered pooch, who inherited $12 million, is now living in an undisclosed location in Florida under an assumed name. The paper did not say who was suspected of being behind the threats, but Trouble is said to have earned countless enemies due to a penchant for biting. John Cody, who is in charge of the dog’s multi-million-dollar trust fund, said the cost of Trouble’s round-the-clock security detail, medical care, chef-cooked meals and grooming were an estimated $300,000 a year. Before her move to Florida, Trouble was living in a 28-room mansion in Connecticut.
Dateline: California--A pedestrian who was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in San Leandro while talking on a cell phone has been identified as 16-year-old Daniel Segundo. Segundo was apparently so deeply absorbed in his cell phone conversation that he walked around a lowered crossing gate and onto the tracks before being hit at 12:30 p.m. last Wednesday by a northbound Capitol Corridor train. The incident took place about 8 miles south of the Oakland station, authorities said. None of the 20 passengers or crew aboard the train was injured, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. The circumstances of Segundo’s death remain under investigation. Crew members aboard the Sacramento-bound train told authorities they saw Segundo talking on the cell phone before he was struck and that the warning lights and gates at the crossing were functioning properly.