Undercover Tony 

For Anthony Hodel, one scam dies and another is born.

Platinum Warranty Corporation may be out of business, but Anthony Hodel isn't. Only a week after his company declared bankruptcy, screwing hundreds of customers in the process ["Platinum Tony," October 12], Hodel's back at it, selling extended car warranties at warrantyausedcar.com.

The website is supposedly run by Nevada-based Automotive Research Corporation. But when Punch called and asked for Hodel, a secretary connected us to his voice mail.

Hodel's been careful to keep his name off the company books. The Nevada Secretary of State lists "Scott Burnett" as the sole officer. Yet when Punch called back ARC and asked for Burnett, the secretary did a double take. "Umm, you can just leave a message with me, and I'll e-mail it to him," she said nervously.

When we insisted on leaving a voice message, she connected us right back to [cue Scooby-Doo music] . . . Hodel.

And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for us meddling kids.

Lucky for consumers, Ohio's top crimebusters are hot on the trail . . . not.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has yet to launch a criminal investigation. Hodel isn't on Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason's radar either, says spokeswoman Jamie Dalton.

As usual, only the FBI has a clue. Spokesman Scott Wilson says the agency is aware of Hodel, but would neither confirm nor deny that it's investigating.

Gay panic
Poor C.J. Prentiss. Each day she must deal with the unfortunate consequences of inbreeding, also known as the Ohio Legislature.

Her latest adventure involves the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, which handles statehouse operations and maintenance. The board was considering hiring two vendors under contracts that barred discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, etc. Yet strangely absent from the protected list were our homo brothers and sisters. So Prentiss innocently suggested revising the contract to include gays.

"I'm not going to tolerate discrimination in any form," says the Senate Democratic leader from Cleveland. "I really didn't think it was any big thing."

But Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) did. The board rejected Prentiss' suggestion -- though the Senate's own employee handbook forbids discrimination on the basis of homosity. "Clearly, they're in some other century," says Prentiss.

Next on the Senate agenda: Gay-only water fountains and lunch counters.

Hide the crucifixes!
It appears that with all the federal money flowing to "faith-based" organizations, some are using it to promote Jesus. Which is against the Constitution. Which was written by really smart guys from the olden days. Which means we should interpret their words literally. It's the law.

So Government Accountability Office investigators have visited two abstinence-only sex-education programs in Ohio and plan additional probes in Texas, Georgia, and California to see if they're scamming tax dollars for Christ.

In response, anti-abortion clearinghouse Heartbeat International sent an e-mail to its affiliates, suggesting ways to foil the investigation. What would Jesus do? Jesus would hide the evidence.

The e-mail not only warns about the investigation, but provides helpful advice: "Be aware of your words, how you dress, and any jewelry that is worn." And by all means, don't let 'em near the exorcism room!

Victory via bad music
The Indians' failed playoff run can be summed up in one word: Journey.

Early in the season, the team adopted the band's 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin'" as its theme song. It allowed the Tribe to soar to 93 wins, only to tank at the end of the season, just like the band.

But for reasons unknown -- other than that baseball players have very bad taste -- the White Sox also adopted the song as their anthem, which has Chicago papers printing stories about the song's importance to the team, complete with faux-literary analyses of its deep lyrical meaning. And to think people dog Cleveland for its lack of depth.

So Punch called the Sox to ask whether they'd switch their song. With a payroll $33 million larger than the Tribe's, they can afford to buy some class -- like "Who Let the Dogs Out?" or maybe something uplifting from that Lizzie McGuire chick.

"I don't think our guys were aware the Indians had laid claim to the song," Sox spokesman Scott Reifert tells Punch. Like we're supposed to believe that.

The bigger problem, of course, is that the renewed attention may cause Journey to reunite, sending civilization on a losing streak not seen since the Crusades.

The other circus
With Ringling Brothers in town, PETA decided to protest the circus' supposed mistreatment of animals. To simulate said cruelty, Amelia Bruce stripped down to her undies and pasties at the corner of Ontario and Superior last Friday. "If it takes exposing my skin to expose the cruelty the circus shows towards animals," she declared, "I'm totally fine with that."

But this being a labor town, most Clevelanders were more concerned about PETA's cruelty to Bruce for exposing her to the brisk October day.

"Is she getting paid to do this?" one woman asked. When told no, she muttered, "That's just wrong," and walked away.

"Aren't you cold?" more than a few onlookers called out.

One man yelled at another PETA member for not providing Bruce with a mat. "She shouldn't be lying on the bare sidewalk like that," he said, eyes narrowing.

A homeless man even offered to lend Bruce his jacket. She politely declined.

He's backing who?
John McCain has made a name for himself as one of the few U.S. senators interested in election reform. So it came as a surprise when he endorsed Uncle Tom Blackwell in Ohio's governor race.

Blackwell, as all know, did his best to suppress the vote in the last election, going so far as to try to kill registration forms not submitted on paper of the proper weight. He also tried to convert $15.3 million of federal voting-education money into a personal campaign tour.

The guy's so shameless, hookers protest when he's called a whore.

So Punch called McCain's office to see whether he's actually met Uncle Tom or just read the brochures. His spokeswoman ignored our calls.

A press release from Blackwell is more telling. "Ohioans need Ken Blackwell's clear thinking, straight talk and strong leadership at the top of the ticket," it quotes McCain as saying.

Nope, he's never met him.

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