Hoax Museum Blog: Law/Police/Crime

The Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise Panic of 1969

Were teenagers in the 1960s injecting themselves with peanut butter and mayonnaise as a way to get high?

Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2019.   Comments (1)

The $12 Million Message In A Bottle

In 1949, did a California restaurant worker really find a will sealed inside a bottle that bequeathed millions of dollars to him, as the finder of the bottle?

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2015.   Comments (1)

Self-Kidnapping Attempt Goes Awry

From the incompetent criminals file: Back in 1974, 20-year-old Kenneth Lutz of Grand Terrace, California thought he had found an easy way to scam his parents. He kidnapped himself. He did this by attaching a note to his parents' front door demanding $5000 in $20 bills for his return, with instructions that the money be "put out when you go to work Wednesday," and signed the note, "the kidnaper". Then he went into hiding. However, he didn't hide very well. When the police arrived a few hours later they found him sitting at a desk in a camper van behind his parents' home. He promptly confessed that he had written the note, and that no one else was involved in the scheme, explaining, "I wanted the money and it sounded like something that could be done." A detective said that the circumstances of the case had immediately aroused his suspicions because, "You tell me one kidnapper that signs his name 'kidnaper' at the bottom of a note."

Posted: Thu Jan 01, 2015.   Comments ()

The bogus store that never happened

Here's an example from 1975 of bureaucracy at its finest. The Nassau County District Attorney planned to create a "bogus store" equipped with hidden surveillance equipment and manned by undercover cops, in order to catch people selling stolen goods on behalf of organized crime. But before it could happen, another part of the state bureaucracy, the Division of Criminal Justice, issued a press release announcing the plan. Defending the announcement, the agency's pr officer noted, "We can't say there are 49 public grants and one secret one." So that was the end of that undercover operation.

Posted: Sat Dec 20, 2014.   Comments (1)


Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2014.   Comments ()

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014.   Comments ()

Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2014.   Comments (3)

Stop and Kiss — Satire mistaken as news. Gawker reports that an obviously satirical Onion video about a nonexistent NYPD "stop-and-kiss" policy has sparked some real-life outrage — from people who apparently have never heard of the Onion. (Thanks Bob!)

"Stop and kiss ? NYPD need to chill," tweeted one of the many rock-dwellers who took to social media to actually protest a parody video about a fake protest.
"i dont understand the stop and kiss program..its taking it a little too far," tweeted another concerned citizen.



Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2013.   Comments ()

Clown Crime Spree — West Yorkshire police denied reports there was a sinister clown on the prowl in Bradford, "peering in windows, committing robberies and even stabbing people." A police spokesman said, "This seems like it might be a hoax. We haven't had any reports of crimes committed by a clown, I can say that much."


During the past week, a photo has been circulating on facebook and twitter showing an evil clown standing outside a Bradford McDonalds. This photo has apparently helped to fuel the rumors of a clown crime spree.

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus notes that the most popular search term recently on its website has been "clown".
Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013.   Comments ()

Man fakes his own abduction to avoid girlfriend’s wrath — Not exactly a criminal mastermind. Rahmell Pettway needed a good excuse to explain his two-week absence from his Bedford-Stuyvesant home to his girlfriend. So he faked his own abduction, tying himself up with duct tape on the side of a street. When found, he told police that two men in a light-blue minivan had first abducted him and then dumped him there. The problem? The roll of duct tape was still dangling from his wrists. This made the police suspicious, and soon Pettway confessed the whole scheme. They arrested him for filing a false report.

Brooklyn man fakes his own kidnapping to explain two-week absence to girlfriend
nypost.com

authorities grew suspicious of his account, and Pettway soon confessed to the hoax, saying he had gone AWOL for a couple of weeks and was terrified of facing his significant other. Residents said about 10 cops patrolled and taped off the area a day after the faker was first found. "The officers were asking him, 'Are you OK? Are you OK?' " said Lisa, 29, who lives across the street from the bogus scene, and who was shocked to hear his kidnapping was all a maneuver to avoid the woman in his life.

Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013.   Comments ()

Chili Finger Lady back in the news — Remember Anna Ayala? She was the woman who, back in 2005, concocted the story about finding a human finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili. That story got her 4 years in prison. Looks like she's back in the news, and again for lying to the police. This time she came up with a story about how her son was shot in the foot by an assailant. The truth, however, was that her son shot himself in the foot, but he wasn't allowed to possess a gun because of a burglary conviction, so she was trying to cover for him.

If Ayala and her son had told the truth, the son would have been in trouble for illegal gun possession. Now he's still in trouble for having the gun, but the pair are also both facing charges for making false statements to the police.

San Jose's 'Chili Finger Lady' accused of cooking up new yarn involving son's gun charges
marinij.com

Guadalupe "Junior" Reyes has a previous burglary conviction, Wasley said, and is not allowed to possess a gun. He told officers he was approached by a pair and shot "for no rhyme or reason," Wasley said. Mom backed up the story. She gave vivid descriptions from head to toe: one assailant wore a black Oakland A's cap and Air Jordan sneakers. Another looked like someone known on the streets as "Cruz" -- a big man with a goatee and abnormally large ears who rolled up on a black bicycle. She even offered a possible last name.

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2013.   Comments ()

Lawyer who lied about her age — Soma Sengupta has recently been convicted of lying extensively about her past work experience in order to advance her legal career. She claimed that she had previously been an accomplished trial lawyer, although she hadn't been. She also forged reference letters and school transcripts. But what tripped her up was a much simpler lie. She stated on an application that she was 29, but a clerk who was reviewing the form took one look at her and couldn't believe it. Turned out she was actually in her late 40s, and let's just say that she hasn't aged particularly well. (She's now 52.) Once that lie was exposed, all the others were soon found out.

Lies to Win British Post Earn Conviction in New York
New York Times

"One could not help but be struck by the sheer magnitude and the intensity and breadth of the defendant's lies and schemes and deceitful behavior," Justice Farber said.
Ms. Sengupta, 52, who now lives in New Jersey, was convicted of eight felony forgery and false instrument counts and one misdemeanor conspiracy charge. The most serious count carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Justice Farber scheduled her sentencing for March 22.

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2013.   Comments (4)

Fake news already spreading about Dorner shootout — Hey, did you hear that Christopher Dorner somehow survived yesterday's shootout? Yeah, apparently the charred remains inside the cabin have been identified as female, not male! No credible news sources are reporting this, but there's a blurry TV screenshot of a CNN newscast circulating on twitter & facebook that says it, so it must be true!


Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013.   Comments (4)

Photoshopped Greek Mugshots — Over in Greece there's uproar over some mugshots of suspected bank robbers. Photos of the men being taken into custody show them badly bruised, but in the mugshots released by the police these bruises have disappeared, and the police admit that, yeah, they photoshopped the mugshots to remove the bruises. Critics say this was done to hide evidence of police brutality. The police say they did it to make the men recognizable. In the photos below, the pre-mugshot pics are on the left, and the photoshopped mugshots on the right. [nbcnews]




Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013.   Comments ()

Man prosecuted for photoshopping — Over in Zimbabwe they treat photoshopping as a serious offense, especially if you decide to photoshop your head onto the body of Robert Mugage, as graphic designer Ronald Chikambure allegedly did. The official charge against him was "undermining the authority of the President."

Apparently detectives were tipped off that Chikambure was displaying said photoshopped picture on the wall of his office, so they raided his office. They didn't find the picture on the wall, but they did find a copy of it on his laptop, and that was enough to land him in court.

Unfortunately, a copy of the photo in question doesn't seem to have been released. I guess they don't have the Smoking Gun over in Zimbabwe. [newzimbabwe.com]
Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013.   Comments ()

The Disappearance of Matthew Robillard — Sounds like the guy got tired of his old life and decided to disappear and start a new one.

Matthew Robillard's Lethbridge Disappearance A Hoax: Police
huffingtonpost.ca

Police in southern Alberta say the disappearance of a young family man late last week was a hoax. Matthew Aaron Robillard's relatives called police Thursday when the 25-year-old Lethbridge man failed to show up for work at a Scotiabank in nearby Picture Butte. His car was later discovered with a smashed window in an industrial area near the Calgary airport. Media reported his keys, wallet and phone had been left in the car along with a strange package of cigarettes. He apparently didn't smoke. Investigators found Robillard, a married father of a six-month-old baby, Saturday morning in a Calgary hotel.

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013.   Comments (1)

Petty theft as a “social experiment” — From the Bad Excuse file: A New Jersey couple was arrested for stealing outdoor table umbrellas from restaurants around Basking Ridge. They didn't deny taking the umbrellas, but they said it was all for a good reason. You see, it was part of a "social experiment." They were doing a documentary on "doing the right thing." They even had a manila folder with them full of notes about the project. But apparently they hadn't thought through what was going to happen when witnesses "did the right thing" and reported them to the police. Link: Baskingridge.patch.com
Posted: Sat Jul 28, 2012.   Comments ()

A Phony Yacht Explosion, and Other New Jersey Emergency Hoaxes — Last Monday, the Coast Guard received a distress call reporting that a yacht had exploded. Twenty-one people were said to be floating in rafts 17 miles off the New Jersey shore, and at least three were believed to be dead. A massive rescue operation was launched. But the Coast Guard soon realized that the call was a hoax.

It turns out that New Jersey has quite a long history of hoax calls to emergency service providers. The New Jersey Star-Ledger has compiled a list of the most memorable examples. It traces all the way back to what is probably the most famous hoax emergency call of all time, the 1938 War of the Worlds 'Panic' Broadcast.

Some might argue that the Panic Broadcast shouldn't be on the list because it wasn't a call to emergency services, and was even identified as fiction. But thousands of people nevertheless thought it was a report of an emergency, so I see their point in including it.

If one were willing to include New York City hoaxes, the 1874 Central Park Zoo Escape could also be included in the list.
Posted: Mon Jun 18, 2012.   Comments ()

The Old Potato/Laptop Switcheroo Scam — I'm assuming the scammers must stuff the potatoes inside a laptop box. Otherwise I'm not sure how they convince their victims to walk away with a bag of potatoes instead of a laptop.

Manchester police appeal over potato laptop fraud
bbc.co.uk

Police say at least four people have been approached by two men offering to sell them a laptop or iPhone. One man paid up to £1,400 and walked away with a rucksack full of potatoes. Other victims received bottles of soft drinks. Police said the conmen spoke with an Eastern European accent.

Posted: Wed May 16, 2012.   Comments ()

Notice to Thieves, Thugs, Fakirs and Bunko-Steerers —

Warning notice posted in Las Vegas, New Mexico, March 24, 1882. Had to post it because I love the term "Bunko-Steerers". From New Mexico's Digital Collections (via Kate Nelson).
Posted: Thu May 10, 2012.   Comments ()

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