Xavier P. Possum finds himself in the Los Angeles County Jail tonight charged with multiple counts of fraud, essentially facing life in prison since the average lifespan of a possum is only 6 to 7 years.
Possum, aged 4, has been on a sophisticated crime spree since June of 2010, bilking numerous insurers in California out of millions. While possums are renowned for their stealthy skill in appearing dead to ward off predators, Possum has taken this deceit to astonishing levels. In the last six months, police believe Possum has played dead more than 200 times, using numerous aliases and subsequently collecting dozens of life insurance pay-outs as a result.
Says Avery Adams, CEO of Ventura County Life and Casualty, one of the nine companies thought to have been victimized, “We believe Mr. Possum has filed as many as 36 fraudulent claims with our office in this year alone, totaling an estimated cost of more than four million dollars.”
If you’re wondering how a possum could actually register for life insurance in the first place, you’re not alone. As Adams explains, “Many humans are confused when they learn that an animal like a possum could actually be insured, but they can. We’re willing to insure virtually any creature provided that they met the qualifications of our actuarial examination, essentially meaning that they are in good health and expected to live their full lifespan. Our life insurance policy holders who are possums are labeled with a small serial number on their left foot that is used to identify them postmortem and process the claim. Our company prides itself on being a good faith insurer.”
When asked how a possum could fake his own death so many times without detection, Adams responded, “When we receive a report of a dead possum we, of course, send investigators to the scene. The problem is that possums tend to look the same. It’s very hard to distinguish one possum from another unless you yourself are a possum.”
Possum’s elaborate ruse began a little more than two years ago when a claim was filed on Possum’s own behalf, after he was apparently found dead in a trash bin.
Again Aver Adams, “We processed a claim in the amount of fifty thousand dollars on Mr. Possum in the spring of 2011. From the accounts of our adjuster in the field that day, Possum appeared to be dead, after repeated pokes with a stick. Though the cause of death remained unknown, his presence in the trash bin seemed to indicate that he was deceased. There was certainly no reason to suspect otherwise.”
Possum, however, was in fact alive and quite well. Refining his techniques over time, Possum apparently was able to hack the database of a variety of California-based insurers in order to gain the case numbers of other possum policy holders. He then began stenciling the stolen policy numbers on his left foot, playing dead in multiple locations, and setting in motion the claims – though authorities are still uncertain as to exactly how.
Says Detective Howard Fawkes of the LA Metro division, “Possum seems to have been running a very sophisticated operation that may have relied on human assistance, since possums typically are unable to use computers, or read, to the best of our knowledge.”
Authorities also suspect that Possum relied on a variety of special effects and the help of animal accomplices in his phony deaths to help fool investigators.
Again Detective Fawkes, “Possum became a master of the disguise, faking his own death in a number of gruesome ways that included the use of fake blood stains and animal accomplices including a black crow, who squawked from power lines feigning interest in the carrion, as well as a team of flies and ants who would pretend to swarm Possum’s dead body.”
But Possum’s crime spree came to an end earlier this week after a discerning neighbor, Marsha Wincott of Burbank, California, noticed that something was amiss as she gazed at the apparently dead corpse of Possum in her alleyway. Says Wincott, “I went out this morning to take out the trash and I saw him in the alleyway. There was blood all around his head, and there were flies swarming his scrotum and ants crawling in and out of his nose. His scrotum was really white. I had never seen anything like it and I just thought to myself, poor thing must have been run over by a car in the alleyway or maybe that he was crawling up on the power lines and fell and smashed his skull. But then the more I looked at him I could tell that something was wrong. I thought I could see him breathing.”
Wincott’s suspicions, as it would turn out, were correct. As local animal control officials arrived on the scene, Possum sneezed several times as a consequence of the ants crawling in and out of his meaty, pink snout.
Says LA coroner’s aid, Mike DeLonpre, “When I arrived on the scene I thought we were obviously dealing with a dead possum. His body was rigid, his head was surrounded by a crown of blood, and there was a large crow sitting on the power line just waiting to have at him. But then the possum sneezed, and then sneezed again. And I just looked over at my partner and we knew we were getting played.”
The coroners waited at the scene until LA Sherif’s deputies arrived, taking Possum into custody. The black crow along with the swarming flies and ants all remain at large this evening. If you have any information relating to their whereabouts you are encouraged to call the Los Angeles Police citizen hotline.
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