Mar 1, 2000 12:00 PM

Buenos Aires - A million- dollar heist in Argentina's Congress building highlighted concerns about rising crime and poor policing. La Nacion newspaper, carrying a front-page picture of security men and police looking sheepish, slammed it as "a serious and ridiculous episode" going straight to the heart of a national debate about how to combat violent crime, according to Reuters. Three armed men in suits and ties waltzed into the Congress building in full daylight, passing through a disconnected metal detector and walking boldly past security employees and armed police, who did not challenge them. They went to the lower house's treasury where about $1.2 million in cash for wages was being put into 500 envelopes. Tying up two policemen and congressman, they took the loot and left without firing a shot. The heist took 20 minutes. National security chief Enrique Mathov said thousands of people enter Congress every day, making it difficult to police. The media in Argentina has speculated the theft could be linked to the news that Argentina's State Intelligence Department was terminating a third of its staff, including secret service officers, to save money. Opinion polls indicate that 80 percent of people in the Latin American country feel unsafe.

Mexico City - Vanity proved more potent than greed for a would-be Mexico City mugger who preferred to pose for a new photographer's camera than rob him of his valuables, according to Reuters. Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma carried a front-page photo of the would-be robber posing for the camera, pistol pointed skyward. The tale of the young photographer identified as J.V. and his encounter with a street tough known as "The Teeth" began as J.V. was shooting pictures outside a Mexico City drinking establishment called Valencia. He was confronted by the pistol-waving tough who demanded that he surrender his camera, J.V. told Reforma. The photographer said he pleaded to "The Teeth" not to take his camera. 'The Teeth" then ordered J.V. to take his picture. The slightly out-of-focus shot shows "The Teeth" standing in plain daylight posing stiffly with his gun and smiling vaguely. J.V. said he shot one frame and took off running.

New York - A New York City firefighter involved in a dispute with two restaurant owners leasing his property is accused of breaking into their Staten Island eatery for late-night snacks in the nude, according to Albert Hohmann, 46, could face criminal charges after the Richmond County District Attorney's Office reviews about 20 videotapes from a surveillance camera the owners of the Tottenville Inn installed during their months-long wrangle with him. The firefighter, who was suspended without pay from the New York City Fire Department, owns the building and lives on the second floor, authorities said. The restaurant's owners, Michelle Macula and Kathleen Bergen, opened for business on the waterfront in Tottenville in 1998 and began having problems with Hohman in September 1999, according to attorney Bruce Behrins. Behrins said the women had videotaped Hohmann in their restaurant after-hours when they had noticed food and wine missing. "They put in a hidden video camera because they thought it could be employees, and who shows up but Hohmann about a dozen times - in the nude," said Behrins.

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