Now that Colton Harris-Moore has been nabbed by the prim and humorless Bahamian police, it’s open season on psychologically dissecting the teen robber and analyzing his high-jinks artistry. Love him or hate him, hero or criminal, one thing is certain: this kid gets around. If “well-traveled”, “worldly” and “ingenious” are positive traits (oh, and they are), then Colton darling deserves a congratulatory pat on his orange-jumpsuit-covered back.
Let’s review, shall we? By the fresh age of 19, the Barefoot Bandit has:
- Taught himself to fly with video games and stole at least five planes for private scenic flights across the country, including his final jump to the Bahamas.
- Enjoys fast boats and has managed to steal several sleek and expensive craft for high-speed joy rides across the Pacific Northwest and Florida.
- Traveled thousands of miles in three countries and at least six states by way of stolen cars and bikes.
- Used computer fraud to purchase bear mace and night vision goggles, which is not only totally bad ass, but something that every American male wishes he had in his backpack.
- Survived on uninhabited islets and in the woods at a time when the average American teenager can barely survive at school.
- Checked himself into other peoples’ private vacation homes for relaxation, eating fine foods from their fridges and soaking in their unused jacuzzi tubs, revealing a penchant for spa living.
- Crossed back and forth across international borders sans passport, which is also impressive.
- Stole from Canadians, Americans, and Bahamaians, showing no favorites or displaying any discrimination.
- Took pictures of himself with various digital cameras in wild places, mimicking millions of tourists who do the same.
- Hates shoes and travels mostly barefoot, an unwitting observer of TSA security checkpoint regulations.
The list goes on and on but the point is clear: Young Colton loved his freedom and suffers from interminable wanderlust. The guy has broken some serious state and federal laws and caused around $1.5 million worth of damage but he hasn’t harmed any humans. So the kid is a complete punk? So are most of the Israeli backpackers you meet in Bolivia and the Eurotrash in Thailand. Maybe all that Colton needed was an all-expenses paid gap year in which he got to choose his own itinerary and fly his own planes.
Good luck Colton. Not sure about Wi-Fi reception in prison, but if you keep reading Gadling you’ll soon discover that your insatiable travel itch is fairly universal. We, too love to fly across borders and hike into remote places and soak in hot tubs with a view. There is a legal way to do all these things, but if our brand of travel ever did become illegal, then my guess is that we’d all choose to be outlaws, just like you.
(Photo: Colton Harris-Moore, self-portrait)
The feds just threw down indictments against 38 people accused of pushing fraudulent airline tickets at hefty discounts. They were slashing between $100 and $200, usually, from the normal price of a (real) ticket. And at least two of them worked in hotels, where they were accused of swiping credit card and debit card information to keep the con afloat. Among the charges are: conspiracy, credit card theft and identity theft. The rings appear to have begun in 2001.
How did it work? In Los Angeles, according to USA Today:
The government’s 25-page indictment against Jason Burks and eight other defendants says that Raun Lauderdale Jr. was one of the people who would obtain stolen credit card and debit card information and sell it to Burks, who would then use it to fraudulently buy airline tickets. Lauderdale worked at an unidentified hotel in Long Beach, Calif. On one particular day in September 2009, Burks allegedly used a stolen American Express card number to buy $3,466.03 worth of airline tickets – an Alaska Airlines ticket from St. Louis to Los Angeles, and three US Airways tickets for travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans, records show. Prosecutors say this ring operated from July 25, 2007 to May 14, 2009.
And in Atlanta:
The government’s 31-page indictment against Steven James Palmer, based in Brooklyn, and nine other defendants based in cities such as Orlando, Los Angeles and Atlanta names another hotel worker. According to the document, Alexander Lewis, 25, of McDonough, Ga., stole credit card and debt card numbers from his jobs at unidentified Atlanta hotels. Lewis also went by an alias: “Mike Gotti,” the indictment says. Prosecutors say this ring operated between August 2008 and March 27, 2010.
The alleged scammers would pick up the tickets online with stolen credit card info and use text messages or e-mail to push discount codes to their customers, which could then be parlayed into boarding passes. To stay under the radar, the bookings were kept close to departure times. Advertising was kept to a minimum, and word of mouth was used to generate new “business.”
[photo by abardwell via Flickr]
So, is there such a thing as harmless travel insurance claim that isn’t exactly accurate? Well, that’s a good question for Shaun Taylor.
The Leeds resident was accused of making a whopping £40,000 in claims that affected eight insurance companies over five years. He got caught. Taylor received a suspended six-month prison sentence for 19 travel insurance fraud offenses … in addition to some community service.
According to Cath Williams, claims company Cunningham Lindsey’s complex technical services director, “Our operation was about collating a multitude of data covering 38 separate travel claims and unearthing the common elements between them, which enabled us to assist the police in building the case for a criminal prosecution.” Williams continued, “It’s important for would-be fraudsters to understand that while they may believe insurance companies to be a soft target, there are ways and means of spotting and proving their activities which can land them in court.”
Think you can game the system? Consider how a pair of tight handcuffs can change your perpective!
Eventually, the law will catch up with you. Sherry Lynn Vertoch just got probation and was ordered to repay $55,000 to the people she affected. What did Vertoch do? Well, she accumulated that monstrous tab while posing as an IRS agent and stiffing the Inn Marin hotel in Novato, California. The five-year probation sentence was sent down largely because of her illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
At first, Vertoch’s stays weren’t long. After 2008, she effectively moved in, staying for two years without paying her bill. Her home, room 121, cost $79 a night … well, it should have. To keep the hotel staff off her back, Vertoch told them she was an IRS agent working on an investigation. The story wore thin, however, and a co-owner of the hotel, Robert Marshall, reached out to the IRS to verify her story. It didn’t check out, and Vertoch ultimately wound up in cuffs.
Robert Marshall noted, “The real crime is, we’re a local family business. We don’t have deep pockets, and basically she’s taken money from our children and the families of all our employees. It’s tough times right now.”
There’s a cheese scandal brewing in Italy, and it involves buffalo mozzarella, one of the country’s most famous foods. Served on pizzas and pastas, with antipasti, in salads or just enjoyed by the handful (what? I’m the only person that does that?), the cheese is known for its quality and purity. But it seems that much of the cheese passed off as 100% from buffalo milk actually contains trace amounts of cow’s milk. In some cases, it was even as much as 30%.
So what’s the big deal? I’m not sure I could discern the taste difference between pure buffalo mozz and one with cow’s milk. The problem is that Italy’s authentic buffalo mozzarella is produced under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) seal, meaning that all products bearing that seal need to be produced using certain ingredients and procedures. According to LeaderPost.com, the concern is not about health issues or taste, but rather ” to protect the “Made in Italy” label.”
It seems the scandal even reaches to the highest levels. The president of the consortium of buffalo mozzarella was also found to have watered down his cheese. He was removed from his post by the Italian Minister for Agriculture and replaced with a temporary leadership group.
Until the problem has been solved, visitors to Italy may (unbeknownst to them) wind up eating cheese that isn’t 100% buffalo milk. Of course, it will probably be just as delicious anyways.