British heritage under threat from thieves and vandals

British heritage, milepostA recently released study has shown that last year there were more than 75,000 crimes against British heritage sites. That shocking statistic includes damage to more than 30,000 historic buildings in 2011.

One rising trend is in metal theft. With hard economic times, thieves have discovered that selling scrap metal can turn a quick profit. Lead roofs are being ripped off old churches, Victorian ironwork is being dismantled and even entire statues are being carted away.

Deliberate vandalism and graffiti are also major problems. We reported earlier on one of the more disgusting heritage crimes where drunks are peeing on 700-year-old buildings in Cheshire. Even more ominous, at least 750 historic sites were attacked by arsonists last year.

The more serious damage to older heritage sites can’t be fixed and the whole nation is faced with the dire prospect of losing traces of its communal past because of the selfishness and idiocy of its underclass.

One example from an earlier year is shown here in this photo courtesy P.L. Chadwick. This historic Thames & Severn Canal milepost originally had a metal plate affixed to it, which gave distances. This has disappeared and cannot be replaced.

Is that an iPad in their pants or is the TSA just happy to see us?

It happens every day. You amble up to the TSA security checkpoint, and with the customer service touch of gulag overlords, the TSA officers slowly herd you through to freedom on the other side. They stare you down with steely eyes, inspect your ID with hawkish intensity, berate you for forgetting the hand sanitizer in the deepest recesses of your backpack, and apparently, occasionally stuff your electronics into their pants.

That is what one Florida TSA agent is guilty of – stuffing items of material worth into his TSA-issued pants. Nelson Santiago had all but perfected the art of the security checkpoint heist. He would pilfer items out of screened luggage such as GPS units, tablets, laptops, video cameras and more. He would take pictures of his loot (probably with a stolen camera) and immediately post the stolen goods online to sell. The goods would be turned around and sold before his shift even ended, making him a nimble bastard of the highest order.

And then one day, while casually stuffing a gleaming iPad into his pants, he was caught red-handed.According to the Broward Palm Beach New Times, a Continental Airlines employee witnessed Santiago (left) as he pulled an iPad out of some poor sap’s luggage and slid the tablet computing device into his pants. The authorities were alerted, and Nelson Santiago’s reign as the “Thief of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport” was over. Charged with two counts of grand theft, Santiago was finally apprehended and taken into custody.

While his overall take is an estimated $50,000 in electronics, most of the goods will never be recovered. Santiago has worked at Terminal 1 of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport since 2009. I don’t think he will be making it back to work any time soon.

American Airlines ticket agent accused of half million dollar credit card fraud

american airlines ticket agentA (now former) American Airlines ticket agent from San Jose airport has been arrested upon suspicion of a running a major credit card theft scam.

Micheline Johnson, pictured here, worked the airline ticket counter at Mineta San Jose International airport for American Airlines. As part of her job, she regularly dealt with passenger credit cards to pay for tickets, fees and other charges. Each time she was handed a credit card, she would make a copy of the data stored on the card and hand it back to the passenger.

Using special equipment, she then made replicas of the cards, and made purchases at Safeway stores in California, Nevada and Washington between 2007 and 2010. In total, she is accused of making at least 2,800 transactions on 350 credit cards, totaling over $480,000.

Using the cloned cards, she would purchase gift cards, then use those cards to buy electronics which she then sold on eBay.

Prosecutors say they do not know how she made copies of the cards, but her scam was uncovered when someone turned on her and notified Safeway. Unfortunately, none of the high-tech fraud protection systems in place at credit card companies were able to pinpoint the fraud to cards used at the airport, and if weren’t for the person that notified Safeway, this fraud could have gone undiscovered for many more years. Johnson had worked for American Airlines for ten years. She is now being charged with grand theft, possession of stolen property and identity theft. Bail was set at $1 million. If convicted, she faces up to twenty years in jail.

This ticket agent scam was reported the same day a travel agent was caught selling thousands of fake travel vouchers to unsuspecting customers – clearly not a good day for honest people.

[Photo: San Jose DA]

American arrested for stealing 299 stuffed birds

Here’s a new low in the annals of crime. An American man has been arrested in England for stealing 299 stuffed birds from the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, England.

The unnamed 22 year-old has been arrested in connection with a break in at the museum back in June. The birds that were stolen were all rare and would have fetched a fair amount on the black market, showing that the unnamed suspect knew what he was doing. Most of the stuffed birds have now been recovered.

The Natural History Museum at Tring is famous for its collection of more than 750,000 preserved birds, 95% of all the world’s species. If you’re not in the neighborhood, you can still check out their species of the day, a feature running throughout 2010 in celebration of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. Today’s species is the Welwitschia mirabilis, a plant that can live for up to 1,500 years despite living in the harsh Namib Desert.

This seems to be a mixed year for museums. Hundreds of historic treasures have gone missing in Pennsylvania and the Met had to fork over some stolen Egyptian artifacts.

On the bright side, museum attendance is up as people try to save money by visiting sights close to home. Hopefully none of these folks are stuffing dead critters into their coats.

[Photo courtesy Sarah Hartwell]

Chocolate thief to lose hands in Iran

Can you call it “sweet revenge?” Probably not …

A man convicted of robbing a candy store has been sentenced to have his hands chopped off. As if that isn’t enough to keep him from stealing, he’s also going to do a year in prison. The guy was arrested back in May, when the police found “$900 (£560), three pairs of gloves and a large amount of chocolate in his car,” the BBC reports.

So, if you find your way to Iran, bring a full wallet – or exercise some restraint. The BBC adds that amputation is usually only used in the cases of habitual thieves, but I don’t know that I’d roll the dice. If you want a candy bar, just buy it. Then, you’ll have the hands you need to eat it.

[from hapal via Flickr]