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Jewish World Review
Feb. 13, 2009
/ 19 Shevat 5769
A new life, dead ahead
Even if you've managed to hang on to your job and your home during the current economic crisis, like most Americans you've probably had to make sacrifices, such as cutting down on household expenses, dining out less frequently or getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning to siphon gas from a neighbor's car.
Things are tough all over, of course, even for the once high-flying Wall Street executives who reaped hundreds of billions of dollars during the market boom but who now are facing the humiliation of being forced to scrape by on just a measly few billion dollars from American taxpayers.
In even more dire straits are those financial industry crooks who, after years of enriching themselves by defrauding clients, may soon be trading in their pinstripes for prison stripes. In an effort to avoid jail entirely, many of these crooks are pursuing an unusual, but increasingly popular option: faking their own deaths.
Sure, at one point most of us have probably fantasized about running away and starting a new life, whether because of a bad breakup, a financial setback or after receiving a summons for jury duty. After all, who wouldn't want to escape the soul-crushing responsibilities of day-to-day life by starting over again with a different name, a new identity and a slimmer, more muscular build (Hey, it's a fantasy, right?)
This notion of hitting the open road and starting fresh is probably just the grown-up version of the common childhood dream of running away from home. I remember once, at age five, I got so fed up with my mother's draconian television restrictions (just two hours a day? Where was Amnesty International?) that I packed a bag and left the house in a huff. I could tell that mom knew I was serious by how quickly she locked the door behind me. I returned before long, however, having realized that being five and getting by on my own was not easy, particularly after Mom canceled her credit cards.
But maybe your prospects are so bad that you've determined that starting a new life is the best option. It's important to remember that faking your death requires careful, diligent planning, as opposed to the way you used to decide how to invest other people's life savings.
The first step is to make sure that the situation you face is genuinely dire. For a cautionary tale, we look to the example of Bennie Wint, a man who, according to news reports, faked his drowning death in 1989 while visiting Florida because he feared police were about to arrest him on drug charges. He then fled to Arkansas to begin a new life under an assumed name. The plan worked perfectly for 20 years until last week when, after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation and admitting the truth to police, Wint was told that there was never any record of a warrant for his arrest. Whoops! Let this be a lesson to you kids: say no to drugs!
But let's assume that you do have good reasons for needing to disappear. If so, be sure not to make the simple mistake Indianapolis financer Markus Schrenker did. After years of shady dealings threatened to catch up with him, the 38-year-old recently took off from Florida in his private plane bound for home and then, in the skies over a location in Alabama where he'd stashed a motorcycle, Schrenker allegedly parachuted out and left the aircraft to crash when it ran out of fuel.
The plan worked beautifully until police checked Schrenker's Facebook page, and found the following incriminating sequence of posts from the day of his disappearance:
11:25 am: Markus Schrenker is in the air and on his way to Alabama home.
12:42 pm: Markus Schrenker is double checking his parachute can't be too careful!
1:08 pm: Markus Schrenker is sending a phony mayday message to those dopes at air traffic control.
1:27 pm: Markus Schrenker is ditching his plane and jumping out to start his new life so long, suckers!
Finally, as you plan out your fake death and new identity, try to think outside the, um, coffin. Consider the example of a thief in Nigeria who was recently caught trying to break into a car. According to police reports the thief, thinking quickly, attempted to evade capture by I am not making this up turning himself into a goat. Not fooled, the police took the goat into custody and paraded it around in the world's first recorded instance of a four-legged "perp walk."
Sadly, the goat/thief did not get away, but from his failure we can all learn a simple lesson about changing into an animal to escape the police: there's a reason it's called going "on the lam."
JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
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© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner
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