The Odd Truth: July 19, 2005

SUV hero
CBS
The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Meredith Stoffel.

Toddler's Identity Stolen Twice

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - At 22 months old, Jabriona Terry is a little young to have her own phone. But her mother discovered her daughter's name listed in a phone book and soon realized an acquaintance had used the girl's Social Security number to set up the phone service.

It wasn't the first time the girl has been victimized by identity theft, her mother said.

Someone else using her name and Social Security number listed her on his tax return, claiming her as a dependent to get a larger tax refund, she said.

There is nothing unusual about what happened to LaShonda and Jabriona, police say.

"We get those by the thousands," said Karl Niblick, a deputy chief with the Fort Wayne Police Department.

Utility companies are a particularly popular way to use someone else's identity.

People get someone else's name, birth date and Social Security number and turn on telephones, electricity or gas service and then never pay the bills. When the power gets turned off, they get a new name and number and get new service, often in a new home, police said.

Social Security numbers have become a form of currency, sometimes every bit as good as a fistful of money to buy drugs, Niblick said. The drug dealer can sell the name and number or use it himself for anything from utility service to credit cards, he said.

Sound-Proof Town Council

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. - Whether or not music soothes the soul may be put to the test in Southington Town Hall.

In an effort to protect against eavesdropping during closed-door executive sessions, the Town Council decided to install a $1,200 sound system to pipe music into hallways outside Town Council chambers.

The measure, however, was left in limbo when the finance board deadlocked last week. Town officials were uncertain how the finance board's action would affect the council's plan.

Details about confidential executive sessions have occasionally appeared in newspapers, leading to suspicion that an unidentified reporter was eavesdropping.

But Councilman Arthur Secondo said drowning out conversation with music was unnecessary.

"All you have to do is ask people to move away from the door when executive sessions are being held," he said. "A little common sense, not flooding the hallways with music, is the answer."

Flip-Flop Controversy

CHICAGO - The latest White House flip-flop controversy has nothing to do with President Bush and John Kerry.

After Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team visited the White House, a group photo showed several players wearing flip-flop sandals along with their dresses and skirts.

A controversy quickly followed, with one front-page headline quoting an e-mail sent to a player: "YOU WORE FLIP-FLOPS TO THE WHITE HOUSE?!" Family members of other players were also dismayed, saying the footwear was too casual for a visit with the President.

The young women, meanwhile, are trying to turn the controversy around. The players plan to auction off their White House flip-flops -- and give the proceeds to a ten-year-old girl with a brain tumor.

Missing Gnome Mystery Still Unsolved

GREELEY, Colo. - The mystery of the missing garden gnomes may prove harder to solve after all.

Police found about 80 of the pint-sized figurines stashed in black plastic bags and surrounded by youngsters, but investigators don't think the children stole them.

In fact, Sgt. Dave Adams said the children most likely found them, so it's back to square one.

Adams said police will call people who reported their gnomes stolen to come identify the decorative yard items.

Elsie Schnorr, who had 30 gnomes stolen from her front lawn more than a month ago, will be among the first to retrieve her property.

"I could identify every one of them. My name isn't on them, but I know which ones are mine. Most of mine are one-of-kind," she said.

Conneticut Man Sets Record For Crossing Channel

LONDON - Swimming through good conditions across the English Channel, a Connecticut man has claimed the American record for the most crossings.

Peter Jurzynski has now made the 21-mile swim for the 12th time, his most recent attempt taking 15 hours and 30 minutes.

Jurzynski says he intends to keep swimming the Channel for the rest of his life.

He'll have to keep going for a while to catch the British woman who holds the all-time record for crossings with 39.

Court Appeal Up In Smoke

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Appeals Court isn't taking a cigarette break. The judges have rejected the appeal of a drug dealing conviction because the jury wasn't given a chance to light 'em up. Lawyers for Geuri Lugo argued the jury might have returned a too quick verdict, because the trial judge refused a request for a cigarette break. The judge noted the jury had lunch 30 minutes before and court was scheduled to end early that day. The Appeals Court said it was entirely up to the judge to decide when jurors could outside for a smoke.