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Mother coaches children to fake retardation

A woman from Tacoma, Washington admitted Monday that she coached her two children to fake retardation starting when they were four and eight years old so she could collect Social Security benefits on their behalf.

Rosie Costello, 46, admitted in U.S. District Court that she collected more than $280,000 in benefits, beginning in the mid-1980s. Most was from Social Security, but the state social services agency paid $53,000. Costello pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and Social Security fraud. Her son, Pete, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this month.

According to the plea agreement, Costello began coaching her daughter at age four, and later used the same ruse with her son. He feigned retardation into his mid-20s picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials. Social Security workers became suspicious and uncovered a video of Pete Costello ably contesting a traffic ticket in a Vancouver courtroom.

Pete Costello is scheduled to be sentenced May 11 and faces from six months to a year in prison, as well as $59,000 in restitution. Rosie Costello is scheduled for sentencing May 17. Her standard sentencing range was not immediately available, but in the plea agreement she agreed to repay the government.

Crocodile: man’s best friend

Every Sunday in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica, Gilberto Shedden struts in his best tattered pair of leopard-print shorts, dives into a lake and splashes about in the water with his pet crocodile Pocho, to gasps from a large crowd of locals and tourists. Shedden, 50, rolls the crocodile onto his back, cavorts about with him, lifts his toothy head out of the water and even kisses him tenderly on the snout.

His friendship with Pocho began 17 years ago when Shedden, a fisherman, found the then two-meter (6.6-feet) long American crocodile lolling about in a river with a bullet in its head. He brought the injured crocodile home and nursed it until it was better. He took it to a lake near his house but to his surprise, it slithered out and followed him home.

Pocho is thought to be around 50 years old. American crocodiles, which live from Florida to Ecuador, are less aggressive than Nile or Australian crocodiles and live to around 70 years in captivity.

For the time being, Shedden charges $2 a head to see the half-hour show, and says he’s not interested in doing more than one show a week, given he also makes a living fishing.

March 2, 2007

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.