Doppelganger Goes Down
Filed under: News
When I wrote the tale of Thomas Barrett Stringer, a 42-year-old con man with a record of stealing identities and committing financial fraud ("My Doppelganger, the Debt Monger," July 19), I didn't expect law enforcement officials would ever nab him. After all, he once escaped federal custody while doing a 43-month prison stint, in 2002.
Last year I became one of his many victims, just a cog in a criminal career spanning two decades. Although Thomas admitted to using my identity to — among other things — rent a Chrysler 300 luxury sedan in Charleston, South Carolina, local police were not able to catch him, even though they had figured out he was the culprit. On August 26, 2006, instead of arresting Thomas, North Bay Village Police Det. Philip Register busted his brother Henry on three felony fraud charges. For five months Thomas let his brother take the rap.
This past January 3, Thomas wrote to Henry's defense lawyer: "These charges belong to me, and I would expect the court/police to take the appropriate action." So the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Henry. Meanwhile his older bro was still on the lam, sharpening those identity-thieving skills.
Coral Gables Police detectives almost captured him in Miami Springs on November 6, when he was spotted riding in a 2006 Saab SUV he purchased with a stolen cashier's check. Gables Sgt. Dan Mosquera told me Thomas was wanted for identity theft of a resident and that the U.S. Marshals Service was also on his trail.
"This guy is extremely selfish," Mosquera said. "He has even victimized his friends and he doesn't care."
Mosquera finally snared Thomas 13 days later — five blocks south of the New Times office — inside the Public Storage warehouse at 2336 Biscayne Blvd. "We had to chase after him for a bit," Mosquera added. "I had to trip up his feet. But I thought you would like to know right away that we caught him." Indeed I did. — Francisco Alvarado
Spirituality for Scoundrels
Filed under: Academia
Wouldn't the Magic City be a touch nicer if lawyers, journalists, and mortgage brokers got a little spiritual training before entering their respective professions?
Nathan Katz thinks so. A Dalai Lama devotee, he is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Spirituality at Florida International University, where he has helped prepare for the January launch of a spirituality certificate program. As far as he knows, it's the first of its kind. He hopes would-be nurses, teachers, and other society pillars will participate.
"We hope that by having spirituality as some little part of their training that it is going to spill over to the society at large and make it a little more compassionate and a little more humane," Katz says.
The idea for the program, basically a minor in spirituality, originated with the Dalai Lama, whom Katz met in New Delhi in 1973 when he was studying Tibetan. The Dalai Lama wrote the introduction to Katz's first book, Buddhist and Western Philosophy, and the author arranged His Holiness's visit to FIU in the Nineties.
"He said, 'You do a very good job of training the good brain but not so much the warm heart. It's best to combine these two,'" says Katz, recounting the Dalai Lama's words.
Interested students will start warming those hearts with Meditation and Mystical Traditions, followed by five courses that include Zen and the Art of Ceremony I & II, Sex and Religion, the Psychology of Dreams and Dreaming, and Globalization.
It might be difficult to be as compassionate as Dalai Lama No. 14 when those white-hair silhouettes cut you off on your commute to school, but at least you could get a piece of paper saying you tried. — Janine Zeitlin
We Give Thanks to Candida
Filed under: Food
Ah, South Florida in November. The air is finally crisp. The threat of a hurricane no longer dangles over our collective head. But best of all, it's nacatamale season, sucka!
Outside a little house near the corner of SW Seventh Street and SW Eighth Avenue hangs a sign informing passersby "There Are Nacatamales." I call the number and speak to Candida. She suggests I come back at 6 p.m., when she'll be making a fresh batch.
At 7 I enter the little house to find she has cleared out the kitchen to set up a huge propane burner, where she steams a tall pot of the delicious satchels of Nicaraguan ambrosia while navigating among her cousins, her sister, and a pair of borders who share the four-room house. A huge TV set blasts a telenovela less than a foot from Candida's meticulously organized nacatamale station, a series of bins and bowls within easy reach of a stack of plantain leaves. Chairs and shelves have been pushed to the far corners of the room to accommodate the project.
She begins with pork chunks marinated in vinegar, onions, spices, garlic, and some kind of red berry, and then situates them in a soft corn paste on a plantain leaf. Next she adds a scoop of white rice that has been soaked in yerba buena herb with a prune and a few raisins. She tosses on plump capers, golden raisins, strained oranges, fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and stuffed green olives. Candida caps it all off with a little chunk of fat, which melts down into everything to make it doubly delicious. She charges five bucks a pop.
A forkful brings forth the sweetness of the dried fruits, undercut by the bite of the yerba buena-soaked rice. The tender richness of the pork makes me want to sweep Candida off her tiny feet and run off with her forever.
"Estoy buscando por un novio," she giggles when I tell her.
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She doesn't seem to think there is anything special in her process and doesn't recall exactly how or when she learned to make nacatamales. "Every woman in Nicaragua knows how to do this," she says, tossing a hand. Nacatamales are only for the winter — around the time when Nicaraguan schoolchildren traditionally take their winter equivalent of our summer break.
"For me it's a hobby and I get to make a little extra money," she says.
What are her other hobbies? She blushes and flips back her frizzy hair. "Fiestas, cervecita, dancing, cervecita, going out, cervecita," she replies.
God bless Candida. And Merry Nacatamale Season. — Calvin Godfrey