How to Fake Your Way Into and Out of Jail

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

There's something to be said for being good at your job — even if your job is being sneaky. An alleged career forger who was in jail in Illinois on fraud charges involving bad checks and ATM transactions is being hunted by detectives after she used a counterfeit cashier's check to bail herself out of jail, The Herald-Review reports.

Monica Nicholson, 37, posted bond with a phony cashier's check for more than $10,000 on Oct. 2, but by the time authorities realized they'd been duped, she was long gone.

The Sheriff's office says Nicholson was apparently working with two accomplices on the scam, both of whom have since been arrested. Detectives say they're treating the case as a jailbreak.

"We are treating this as a case of escape, just like she filed the bars," Sgt. Ed Culp, chief of investigations at the Macon County Sheriff's Office, said. "She just used a bad check instead."

Culp described the tricky trio as career criminals who specialize in sophisticated schemes to commit fraud, and said his department was actively pursuing the case.

"They make their living as financial criminals; it's their sole means of survival," he added. "I would not be surprised if Nicholson is out there committing fraud again right now."

Thanks to Out There reader Chris S.

If You're Gonna Act Like a Baby ...

BUFFALO, Mo. (AP) — Prisoners returning to a jail damaged in a failed breakout attempt will find a radically new decor — pink with blue teddy bear accents.

Dallas County Sheriff Mike Rackley said he decided on the color scheme as part of extensive repairs necessary after inmates set a fire and vandalized the interior on Oct. 8.

"Basically, if they are going to act like children and commit a childish act, then we'll make a childish atmosphere," he said. "And it's a calming thing — teddy bears are soothing. So we made it like a day care and that's kind of like what it is, a day care for adults who can't control their behavior in public."

"How do you feel tough in a pink atmosphere?" he asked.

Since the jail violence, most of the southwest Missouri county's 30-plus prisoners have been in neighboring jails awaiting completion of the repairs.

Eight inmates already have been returned to the jail, but they are confined to their cells 23 hours a day because of the construction and are "a little testy" because of the restrictions.

"They haven't said much about the color scheme," Rackley said.

He said the new paint job was inspired by similar redecorating efforts at jails in Texas and Arizona.

Researchers have documented the ability of certain colors to evoke emotional and physical responses.

"It's certainly viable," said Mike Carlie, a professor of criminology at Missouri State University. "There have been positive findings that show that certain colors stimulate and excite, and other colors, I guess you would say, 'soothe the soul.'"

Give Me Rep. Glenda Dawson or Give Me Death

HOUSTON (AP) — Republican state Rep. Glenda Dawson is dead, but she's not gone.

She easily defeated her living Democratic opponent Tuesday night, two months after dying from a brief illness.

Dawson's campaign ensured the traditionally GOP 29th District would stay that way after her September death, handing out yard signs, printed fliers listing Dawson's accomplishments and sent out letters to voters.

Dawson beat Democratic challenger Anthony A. Dinovo of Pearland with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Gov. Rick Perry will now probably call a special election to fill the seat.

There's a Really Great 50s Horror Flick in Here Somewhere ...

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) — A breed of giant, ravenous snails that first appeared in Barbados five years ago has thrived on the tropical island, destroying crops and prompting calls for the government to eliminate the slimy pests.

A nocturnal "snail hunt" last weekend reported finding hundreds of thousands of giant African snails swarming the central parish of St. George, the country's agricultural heartland where farmers had complained of damage to crops including sugar cane, bananas and papayas.

"We saw snails riding on each other's backs and moving in clusters," said David Walrond, chairman of the local emergency response office that organized 60 volunteers for the hunt. "You're just crunching the shells as you're walking through."

The volunteers sprayed government-supplied pesticides in gullies and other cool, low-lying areas where the snails are believed to breed, venturing out after dark to catch the snails as they emerge from spending the day underground. Walrond's brigade plans to continue its assault over the next three weekends.

The snails, which are about the size of a human hand, are known to consume as many as 500 different plants and their mucous can transmit meningitis and other diseases.

It Takes Guts to Steal Nuts

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — At first, Larry Ladd just let it go. But after the farmer caught six thieves plundering his walnut orchard in less than a day, he knew he had a problem.

He's not the only one. As prices for almonds and walnuts rise with demand, a growing black market has emboldened nutnappers to cut holes in fences, sneak into distribution centers and drive off with truckloads of nuts.

"At first, I'd just ask the deputy to impress upon them that this is the wrong thing to do," said Ladd. "But then it got ridiculous."

California farmers like Ladd have reason to be vigilant: Growers here produce about 80 percent of the world's almonds and 99 percent of the nation's walnuts.

The state's walnuts earned nearly $4.4 million in 2004, according to the latest figures available from the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Savvy scoundrels target both walnuts and the more valuable almond.

Last month, a Fresno County task force that tackles rural crimes recovered 44,000 pounds of processed almonds taken from a distribution center.

The recovery was a rare break in a series of thefts that has cost California farmers at least $1.5 million in stolen almonds this year, according to the Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operations Network.

There are typically one or two almond thefts every fall, but in the past 18 months, there have been at least a dozen reports of larger looting, said Marsha Venable, spokeswoman for the Almond Board of California, a marketing group.

Almonds sell for about $3 a pound wholesale and twice that much in stores. The nuts are worth so much that thieves who drive away whole truckloads have been known to abandon the vehicles and keep just the almonds.

"Almonds have become such a huge crop," Venable said. "It's attracting anyone."

Authorities arrested six walnut thieves who raided Ladd's farm but later released them without charges. No arrests have been made in the almond thefts.

Forget Ghosts, This Halloween I'm Gonna Be a Moron!

MARYSVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A pair of armed robbers thought that wearing ghost masks would guard their identity. Instead, it led to their undoing, investigators say. A witness saw the ghosts run out the back door of the Best Buy Cigarettes store in rural Marysville the day before Halloween, watching as they jumped into a two-door Mazda sports car.

Yuba County sheriff's deputies found the car, but the suspects — and their masks — were gone.

However, the robbers left behind the wrappers from the masks in the abandoned car. Investigators used bar codes on the wrappers to trace the masks to Wal-Mart, then found surveillance video of the men buying the masks.

"It's a very interesting case," Detective Brandt Lowe said of the unusual chain of evidence.

Alben Bonds, 24, of Linda, was arrested Monday for the Oct. 30 robbery, and police are looking for a 17-year-old boy they say was his accomplice.

Bonds is being held at Yuba County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping and burglary.

Compiled by's Taylor Timmins.

Got a good "Out There" story in your hometown? We would like to know about it. Send an e-mail with a Web link (we need to authenticate these things) to