MONTGOMERY, Ohio Aug 7 2011– Officer Roy Sims of the Northern Kentucky University Police Department has died from injuries he sustained when his motorcycle collided with a hearse during a funeral procession near the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Montgomery. The 51-year-old Sims had been with the department since 2009 and was retired from the Covington Police Department.
Authorities told WLWT-TV that Sims “had just cleared an intersection and was accelerating to get to the front of the procession when he was struck. The driver of the hearse told officers he was making a right-hand turn and didn’t see Sims coming.”
NKU Police Chief Jason Willis reportedly said that Officer Sims was working a private detail while off-duty when the accident occurred.
Sims was originally going to be flown to University Hospital by a medical helicopter, but was transported by ground to Bethesda North Hospital, according to WCPO-TV. Sims was declared dead at roughly 1500 hours local time, according to reports.
NKU Police Chief Jason Willis said in that WCPO report, “This is a sad day for NKU. Today we lost a good a man and an excellent police officer. NKU is very much a family, and we’ve lost one of our own.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn.Aug 7 2011 – A retired Metro police officer passed away this week. Major Tom Dozier held the record for longevity at the Metro Police Department.
The 81-year-old spent 50 years on the force. Most people at the department said the chances that someone will ever break that record are slim.
Dozier became a Nashville Police officer in 1953.
He was on an episode of Rescue 911 hosted by William Shatner. Two jail inmates escaped and Dozier commanded a SWAT unit that helped rescue the hostage they had taken in an ambulance.
Dozier will most be remembered for the record he holds in Nashville. He protected and served the people of Nashville for 50 years. No one has served longer.
“When I started my career with the Metro Police Department in 1969 Tom was there and when I retired in 2003 Tom was there,” said Former Metro Police Chief Emmet Turner.
Dozier’s son, Steve, is a Metro Judge.
“Yeah, I’m 53 so he’s been a police officer nearly as long as I’ve been alive,” said Steve.
Dozier commanded the bomb squad. He was also a motorcycle officer who helped protect dignitaries like U.S. presidents.
Dozier also directed the training academy when it first opened. He carried a big stick. Just ask Tom Junior.
“A few times when I got a little over the speed limit some of the officers were lenient on me, but I got it worse when I got home because they’d already called him,” said Tom.
Judge Dozier said the one word to describe his father is loyalty.
“He was loyal to his family, his department and the men and women who served with them even risking his life,” Steve explained.
It’s the kind of dedication the Metro Police Department may never see again.
“For anybody to work 50 years in any organization, much less the police department, you had to be truly dedicated and care about the organization which he did,” said retired Metro Police officer Mickey Garner
Police said there was another employee who came close, retiring after 48 years.
Washington DC Aug 7 2011 As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers approaches, it is clear to federal authorities that nuclear power plants are high on the target list.
Less than three weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security warned electric utility companies that terrorists were likely targeting their reactors — and using power plant workers to gather intelligence.
“Violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions,” the agency warned in a note to power plant operators that a spokesman later tried to downplay as “routine.”
The alert came after federal intelligence analysts examining documents collected from Osama bin Laden’s compound learned that al Qaeda hoped to launch a massive attack to mark the anniversary.
The Homeland Defense alert was nothing new to the industry, which has had to pour billions into the federally mandated secret security measures over the decade while most Americans have forgotten all about terrorism and fifth-column insurgents.
More than any other industry, the nuclear industry already reflects the new “cold war” that has diverted billions of dollars into defense and changed the very character of the business.
The nation’s 104 nuclear reactors once were the sites of frequent arranged public tours. Security guards policing their gates were friendly – occasionally even chatty.
The plants, after all, were a symbol of President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program that supplied equipment and information to schools, hospitals and research facilities throughout the world.
In the decade since the terrorist attacks, U.S nuclear plants have become fortresses, fenced in by miles and miles of razor wire, protected with cameras and other sensors the industry won’t talk about, and backed up by reinforced concrete walls.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency overseeing the industry, concentrated on safety before the 9-11 attacks.
These days the NRC works hand in hand with Homeland Security and also staffs an around-the-clock operations center with direct, secure connections to the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and a dozen other agencies.
The nuclear power plants are armed to the teeth, guarded by a growing private army that has doubled in size to 9,500 since 9/11.
The once friendly guards have been replaced by well-armed “security personnel,” as they are called.
Trained to near-military standards, their mission is to repel intruders and, at all costs, keep them out of the protected area — the walled-off, reinforced grounds inside the fences where the reactor and critical equipment are located.
And the weapons are getting bigger. Congress authorized the use of automatic weapons in 2005. Think machine gun.
The government calls them “enhanced weapons” and has created a set of regulations to allow their use, one that takes into account state laws and the concerns of local and state law enforcement, as well as other federal agencies.
The industry points out that security guards had already been permitted to use guns that fire .50 caliber bullets.
Whatever weapons the guards have, the teams have to be sharp. They must defend the reactor against a highly trained paramilitary team every three years in mock attacks that always occur during the night.
Security expert Johnathan Tal, president of TalGlobal, a San Jose-based international security and risk management firm with thousands of corporate clients, said terrorist interest in nuclear facilities is very real and ongoing.
“Jesse James said he robbed banks because that was where the money was. Terrorists will try to blow up a nuclear plant because that is where the radiation is,” Tal said.
“Terrorists want to make a significant impact on the economy, on our psychology, the way we live our lives. A nuclear power plant is a big structure and considered safe. If you can blow one up, you achieve an economic impact and create a tremendous amount of fear.”
The defense buildup is a kind of new cold war. It has not only transformed the industry, but it is also very expensive.
“We now have spent well over $2 billion,” said Chris Earls, director of security for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group. “This is above and beyond the year-to-year annual cost. This has been a huge investment in time and attention.”
Akron’s FirstEnergy Corp. alone has spent about $132 million over the decade since 9-11 complying with a steady stream of new NRC security regulations.
The company spent a key portion of the money on “enhanced training” for its expanding security forces, including weapons training,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Young. The company also “strengthened physical barriers.”
Young declined to reveal the size of the guard force except to say it is “very sizable.” She said a significant percentage of the force have military backgrounds or are currently in reserve units.
The NRC requires every power plant’s security forces to train regularly. It annually inspects them as well as overall defense plans and the physical security of each plant.
The three-year force-on-force war games are anything but play. A plant’s guards, armed with laser weapons, are pitted against similarly armed professional paramilitary squads.
Most members of the teams have military backgrounds. “They are former special forces, Seals, Delta Force, and Rangers,” said Earls of the NEI.
The force-on-force exercises always occur at night – in fact three consecutive nights during a scheduled week to test a plant’s three shifts.
On attack nights, the guards normally on duty are armed as usual, with live ammunition — just in case a real terrorist group attacks, said Holly Harrington, a spokeswoman for the NRC .
The plant guards therefore do know that an attack is coming, but not exactly when, and not where, she said.
“The mock attacks are also preceded by several weeks of table top exercises and other interaction with NRC,” said Harrington.
View full sizeFirstEnergyHeavy fencing and razor wire are part of the perimeter defense at FirstEnergy Corp.’s Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pa., near Pittsburgh (FirstEnergy photo)
Earls said the whole exercise, including the preparations, can cost a utility up to $2 million.
If the plant’s security team fails, that’s recorded as a violation – one that can entail an unspecified fine. The NRC inspectors don’t leave until corrections are made. Then the plant has to endure another attack, said Harrington.
In its 2010 report to Congress on security at the nation’s nuclear plants, the NRC noted that 24 power plants were subjected to the force-on-force inspections. Twelve plants had no problems.
Of the other dozen, 10 plants had some problems and were cited. Two failed, meaning real attackers would probably have made it into the protected area, where the reactor, the control room, the steam turbine and generator, emergency equipment are located. The protected area is also where the spent or used fuel rods are kept in a deep pool of water, water that must be cooled.
In 2009, the NRC conducted force-on-force exercises at 22 plants and found three cases where “targets were not effectively protected.”
The NRC does not reveal the defensive weaknesses of any plant and does not reveal what power plants failed.
The agency and the industry continue to insist on the soundness of analytical studies done after the 9-11 attacks, which concluded that the heavy-walled buildings containing commercial reactors would withstand the impact of a jet liner.
But at the same time the NRC now requires that any power company building a new reactor will have to prove — with engineering detail — exactly how that the reactor will survive a hit by a large aircraft.
Even if existing reactor buildings can survive an air crash, critics such as David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, think the force of the shock waves from the impact of a large aircraft — wherever it hits — would probably knock out at least some emergency electrical systems. It’s an assertion that studies and calculations can’t easily disprove. That leaves preventing air attacks in the hands of the NORAD.
Mandating protection against an unseen threat — cyber attack — appears to have been developed more slowly. Reaction computer systems are not connected to the Internet. The agency will not even begin detailed inspections of every plant’s cyber defenses until next year.
Security upgrades, as extensive as they have been, will continue to expand as terrorists think up new strategies, say both the industry and the NRC.
The NRC is now considering new mandates to better enable the nuclear plants to survive natural disasters. The new rules were inspired by the reactor melt-downs in Fukushima, Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami in March.
Early recommendations from an NRC task force would require reactor operators to stock the plants with additional back-up, portable power generators, water pumps and other equipment on-site to help workers keep damaged reactors from overheating until electrical power for the major equipment could be restored.
The NRC quietly ordered extra emergency equipment be put in place in the months following the 9-11 attack. It ordered reactor operators to inspect that equipment and extra supplies earlier this year. The inspections turned up problems at some plants.
None of the proposed preparations to cope with a natural disaster or a terrorist attack are adequate, said Paul Gunter, director of the reactor oversight project for Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear group.
“The fundamental issue is how can you make something that is inherently dangerous safe,” he challenged. “This is all spin. The vulnerability of nuclear power plants to the loss of offsite power remains an issue coming out of Fukushima as well as 9-11.”
Waleska Velasquez, 29, a science teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High, was arrested Wednesday and release on bond Thursday, The Miami Herald reported.
Police say Velasquez, charged with three counts of having sex with a minor, has confessed to having sexual relations with the student, who is now 17, starting in August 2009 and continuing through 2010.
Velasquez told investigators she gave the boy gifts, cash and a cellphone she used to send him romantic texts and photos of herself nude and in sexy lingerie.
Velasquez was hired by the Miami-Dade district in 2007.
In light of her arrest, the district “will work toward a swift termination,” district spokesman John Schuster said.
“The district regularly reminds staff that personal relationships with students are unethical, forbidden by school board rules and may be illegal, as in this instance,” Schuster said.
Augusta GA Aug 7 2011 Columbia County authorities have arrested and charged former Augusta State University basketball player and Grovetown High School teacher Etsho Ilunga with stealing from the high school.
Ilunga, 28, was arrested Thursday on seven counts of computer theft and seven counts of computer fraud, which include stealing nearly $18,000 from Grovetown High, where he was to become a French teacher and assistant basketball coach this school year.
A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ilunga was a student teacher at Grovetown High last school year.
He played basketball at Augusta State for two years, starting with the 2006-07 season.
High school staffers first noticed money missing from their bank account in April and reported it to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, according to an incident report.
Investigators say Ilunga had access to a school check from which he used the account and routing number to set up online transactions, sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said.
“There’s no indication he used the actual check; he just used the information from it,” Morris said.
Investigators believe Ilunga attempted seven transactions. Some of those paid his personal credit card debt using the school account information, and others were unsuccessful attempts to make student loan payments, Morris said.
The captain said Ilunga also is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.
“Federal authorities are investigating him for similar thefts in other jurisdictions,” Morris said. “In total, those thefts may exceed $50,000, including the thefts at Grovetown High School.”
Ilunga, of the 3700 block of Walton Way Extension in Augusta, is at the Columbia County Detention Center, and no bond will be set, a jailer said.
After playing two seasons at Southeastern Illinois College, Ilunga transferred to Augusta State before the 2006-07 season.
In his two years, the 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward played in 37 games, starting one. He recorded 69 points and 54 rebounds in his career.
“Augusta State Athletics is aware of the situation regarding one of our former student-athletes,” ASU Athletic Director Clint Bryant said in a statement. “However, as with any legal proceeding, it is inappropriate for us to make any comment until the legal process has run its course.”
Fort Smith police officer Carson Addis arrested Wesley Christopher Warnock, 34, on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, possession of hydrocodone, possession of methadone, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent and a misdemeanor complaint of possession of a controlled substance, a police report states.
Merle Dickerson, superintendent of Van Buren School District, confirmed that Warnock resigned Thursday but declined further comment.
Warnock was a teacher at Northridge Middle School, 120 Northridge Drive in Van Buren, according to a 2009-10 Arkansas Science and Technology Authority mini-grant awards list. According to Warnock’s Facebook page Friday afternoon, he had been employed with the Van Buren Public School District since 2005. By Friday evening, the page was no longer active.
According to the police report, Addis was patrolling near North 50th Street when he saw a Toyota Camry being driven by Warnock stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, a man – later identified as Eric Pledger, 34, of Alma – leaned out of the passenger door and spit on the road, but because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, Addis pulled the vehicle over, the report states.
While running their identifications and insurance for the car, Addis stated he became nervous because both men were “moving around a lot,” according to the report. He asked Warnock to step out of the vehicle, and, while performing a pat down, Addis found nine suspected hydrocodone pills, five suspected methadone pills and about 11⁄2 grams of marijuana with rolling papers in his front pocket, according to the report.
Addis also found about a gram of marijuana in one of Pledger’s pockets, according to the report. After Warnock gave Addis permission to search the vehicle, a “glass pipe that is commonly used to smoke methamphetamine” and a bag with a third of a gram of meth was located, the report states.
Pledger was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use and a misdemeanor complaint of possession of a controlled substance.
Both were transported to the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center, and both were released on $5,000 bond.
New York City NY Aug 7 2011
A city high school teacher was arrested Friday for bedding an underage student at a hot-sheets motel in Long Island, police said.
Tara Driscoll, 33, an english teacher at the Campus Magnet high school, in Cambria Heights, Queens, is accused of having the sex tryst with the unidentified student on March 19 at the Capri Motel in Lynbrook, Nassau County police said.
The boy, who is under 17 years old, was a student at Campus Magnet, but it’s unclear if Driscoll taught him.
When the student’s mother learned of the encounter, she alerted police, cops said.
Driscoll, who has worked as a teacher for city since 2006 and earns nearly $57,000 a year, surrendered to special victims investigators Friday morning, cops said. She was charged with rape and criminal sexual act.
Driscoll is still employed by the city, but has been reassigned out of the classroom, the city Education Department said.
WCBI-TV reported that Sisk’s pickup truck hit a fallen tree early Friday on the Natchez Trace Parkway, about one mile north of Highway 82 at Mathiston.
Authorities said overnight storms apparently blew the tree across the road. Sisk was on his way home from his job as a security guard at the Eupora hospital when the wreck occurred in the darkness before dawn.
Sisk was a Starkville police officer 29 years and served the last seven as chief before retiring in April 2001. He took a job in North Carolina, then returned to the Starkville area.
New Orleans LA Aug 7 2011 A mother-son cop duo accused of assaulting a bouncer at a Treme barroom in May pleaded guilty Friday morning to the attack, the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office said.
Gerald Blanco, 32, pleaded guilty to simple battery and domestic abuse battery. Emelda “Toni” Blanco, 51, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and simple battery. The mother and son were New Orleans police officers who were off-duty at the time of the fracas.
The attack happened early May 22 at Robertson’s Vieux Carre Lounge in the 1500 block of Basin Street. Derrick Blackston, the bouncer, suffered cuts to his head and face after being slugged with closed fists and his handcuffs, which Emelda Blanco yanked from his belt.
A spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said the Blancos were required to leave the department as part of a plea agreement. Emelda Blanco, a former Police Department sergeant, retired from the force July 23. A police spokesman said Gerald Blanco, a former 8th District patrolman, resigned from the department Friday.
Each count could carry up to six months in jail. A sentencing date had not been set Friday afternoon, according to court records.
“This conviction should send a clear message to the community that no one — and I do mean no one — is above the law,” Cannizzaro said in a prepared statement.
The attack on Blackston stemmed from a simmering grudge, the bouncer said days after the incident.
Blackston said he identified Gerald Blanco as a man he previously turned away from the bar for trying to enter with a handgun tucked in his waistband. Blackston said Blanco left the bar that night but returned early May 22, the morning of the beating.
The Blancos were arrested three days after the attack when they surrendered themselves at the Police Department’s Public Integrity Bureau’s office.
Gerald Blanco also pleaded guilty to a separate domestic abuse battery charge in an unrelated case, Cannizzaro’s office said.
Philadelphia PA Aug 7 2011 A 71-year-old man jumped to his death from a second-floor balcony at Chestnut Hill College Aug. 3, Philadelphia police reported.
Police would not confirm the identity of the man, but college President Carol Jean Vale, S.S.J., released a statement offering condolences to the family of Rudolf Alexandrov, whom she identified as an adjunct professor.
Philadelphia police said they responded to an emergency call from Chestnut Hill at 5:25 p.m. and found the man lying on the floor with a head injury inside College Hall. He was unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:03 p.m.
He had jumped off a balcony ledge inside the hall and fallen approximately 30 feet to the floor, according to police.
Initial reports that Alexandrov had jumped in front of his students and his wife were erroneous, Kathleen Spigelmyer, Chestnut Hill College’s director of communications, said Friday afternoon.
Alexandrov was a resident of Elkins Park and taught in the college’s school of continuing and professional studies, an undergraduate program for adult students. His class on business mathematics was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., Spigelmyer said.
“To our understanding, he never went into the classroom,” she said.
His usual routine before class was to sit in the College Hall rotunda and go over his notes, Spigelmyer said, but on Wednesday afternoon, a college staff member noticed he had stepped over the railing on the second floor landing and was standing on the ledge.
The staff member approached Alexandrov, and a campus school security guard also arrived, Spigelmyer said. As they were attempting to convince Alexandrov to climb back over the railing, two other staff members came near.
“At that point, he took his own life,” Spigelmyer said. “To our knowledge, there were three staff members and a security guard on that level [with him].”
Alexandrov did not speak to anyone before he jumped, Spigelmyer said.
There were few people in the rotunda at the time of the suicide, she said. Offices closed at 4:30 p.m., and regular students are gone for the summer, she said.
Someone in the rotunda screamed, however, drawing students and other professors from the classrooms. One of the other professors was Alexandrov’s wife, Olga, who is also an adjunct professor at Chestnut Hill and was teaching a 5:30 p.m. class, Spigelmyer said.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the college staff is helping with funeral arrangements and is preparing meals for Alexandrov’s family, Spigelmyer said.
“We’re a very close community. People are very upset,” she said. “Obviously we’re concerned about his family. This is a family community here and it’s just our nature to reach out at times like this.”
RALEIGH NC Aug 7 2011 A dog named Hurricane Hugo has lived a life as destructive as the storm with the same name.
Restrained by a logging chain hooked to a car axle buried in the ground, the pit bull’s only shelter from cold, heat and rain likely was a blue 50-gallon plastic barrel. At 46 pounds, he was described as severely underweight. If his days were spent as those of most fighting dogs, he spent hours each week on a treadmill to build his endurance. At other times, he would have been tethered within several feet of another dog to create aggression.
“Their day-to-day life is spent chained to the ground,” Amber Burckhalter, a dog trainer in Atlanta who works with aggressive animals said of the typical fighting dog’s life. “They unchain them for a dogfight and they go into the pit. And if they come out, they come out. And if they don’t …”
Burckhalter examined Hugo after an undercover investigator bought him at a dogfighting enclave in Duplin County in April 2010. The man who sold Hugo, 78-year-old Harry Hargrove, is considered a legend in the dogfighting world and was sentenced Thursday to 60 months in prison, the toughest sentence that U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle could give him. He was taken into custody immediately.
By comparison, NFL player Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison and three years of probation. He served 18 months in a federal penitentiary and two months on home confinement before resuming his football career.
“This is as sick as it gets,” Boyle told Hargrove. “It really is.”
Hargrove told the judge that he once had more than 100 dogs but was down to about 35 when he was arrested. Some of those 35 dogs weren’t his, he said. Boyle brushed that explanation aside.
“This doesn’t make it better,” he said.
Hargrove’s brother and niece believe that his experience in Vietnam changed Hargrove dramatically, said his attorney, Sherri Alspaugh. Boyle rejected that theory out of hand.
“Why would he discard all of that for a life of brutality?” the judge asked.
Hargrove had pleaded guilty earlier this year to selling, delivering, possessing, training, and transporting animals for the purposes of having the animals participate in an animal fighting venture.
In their motion for a tough sentence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office described a gruesome, blood-stained scene where winning dogs barely survived and losing dogs were electrocuted, their carcasses found in a pit where garbage was burned.
“It was horrific,” said Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace, whose office got a tip about the dogfighting on Hargrove’s rural property. Thirty-five dogs were found on the land, behind Hargrove’s older mobile home, which was located about 100 yards down a dirt path, Wallace said.
The early investigation by Wallace’s deputies told the sheriff that this case required assistance. He learned that Hargrove had lived in Duplin County, then joined the military and left the area for decades. He traveled dogfighting circuits in Georgia, South Carolina and maybe Florida before landing back in Duplin County, Wallace said.
So Wallace called the feds and he called humane organizations and the undercover officer went to Hargrove’s home, where he bought Hugo for $1,500. Hargrove told the agent he had fought Hugo three times and that Hugo had won all three.
King County WA Aug 7 2011 Shoplifting has escalated in King County over the past decade, with the costs absorbed by the public.
As a result, organized retail crime is on the radar of local law enforcement agencies. In May, county prosecutors filed charges against two unrelated organized retail theft rings that recruited shoplifters to steal nearly $6.1 million worth of goods. Two undercover investigations tracked stolen merchandise from commonly victimized stores in King County such as QFC, Fred Meyer and Safeway.
Thieves swipe everything from dishwashing soap and razor blades to diapers and meat, then sell the items to a middleman for a fraction of their value. The middleman, known as a fence, resells stolen items for profit.
The National Retail Federation estimates that annual losses from organized retail crime are as high as $30 billion. In Washington, the estimated annual loss to retailers is $77 million, according to the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance.
Two fence operations busted
In one case, Chanthou Rim and Sara Kong are accused of running a fence operation. The couple is believed to have recruited more than 30 “boosters,” mostly drug addicts seeking cash for heroin and oxycontin.
The boosters would steal hundreds of dollars worth of items at a time, then sell the loot to Rim and Kong for pennies on the dollar. The couple would resell the items in their Samway Market in White Center, or send them to a higher-level fence for shipment to Cambodia.
According to detective reports, a pair of auto dealers in South King County were linked to the theft operation. Export Auto Sales in Kent and Rain City Motors in Auburn are under investigation for their role in exporting health and beauty items that were packed with vehicles in shipping containers headed to Cambodia. Some of the items had been marked from undercover operations, according to reports.
Shoplifters who sold items to the couple had been arrested and eventually became confidential informants, leading detectives to Rim and Kong’s operation. Using an ultraviolet pen, detectives marked stolen property with the originating retailer’s store number. Detectives then purchased the stolen items at the Samway Market.
Undercover detectives met with the couple on multiple occasions to sell stolen goods ranging from detergent, diapers and hygiene supplies to pain relievers and fertilizer.
The couple faces 19 charges including trafficking in stolen property, criminal solicitation and conspiracy to commit organized retail theft. In this case, county prosecutors estimate the loss to retailers at $4.8 million. If convicted, Kong and Rim face up to 63 months in prison.
A second and unrelated case involves four defendants at GMS Market in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. Gulshan Rai, his wife Shabnam Sukhija, their son Jatin Rai and daughter-in-law Mitu Rai face similar charges for their roles in trafficking and selling stolen property.
According to detectives, boosters for GMS Market were paid $1 or $2 per item stolen. Boosters received suggestions for successful shoplifting as well as shopping lists. In this case, county prosecutors estimate the loss to retailers at $1.25 million. If convicted, the four GMS defendants could face prison sentences ranging from nine months to 22 months.
The defendants in both cases were arraigned June 2.
Roots of the problem
Most shoplifters involved with the fencing operations are adults with severe drug addictions, said Jason Moulton, loss prevention director for Safeway stores in the Seattle division.
Retailers must create an environment that deters theft, he said, even if theft is only a symptom of a bigger problem.
“The real issue here is substance abuse,” Moulton said. “It’s like we’re playing a chess game and trying to keep them from playing in our particular area.”
Moulton joined Safeway almost 11 years ago after a career in the FBI. In that time, and especially the past five years, organized retail crime has skyrocketed, he said. The problem became bad enough that state statutes were passed and revised in the Legislature to specifically address this type of crime. The multimillion-dollar losses have a major impact on cities because big grocers like Safeway are also among the biggest taxpayers.
Moulton believes that cities and counties face a disincentive to incarcerate shoplifters due to the costs of jail. Even after an arrest and guilty plea, a shoplifter with a drug problem is likely to reoffend.
“The only time these people aren’t stealing from us is when they’re in custody,” he said. “Every time we take out a booster or fence, they’re replaced by another because of the marketplace.”
More organized theft cases are finding their way into the county legal system. Deputy Senior Prosecutor Andy Hamilton credited better store security and preparation by law enforcement, including Federal Way police, in fighting retail theft. Some King County detectives now specialize in finding these elusive criminals who target big stores like QFC, Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and Home Depot.
“They’re very brazen about it,” Hamilton said. “I’m not saying the mafia or the Cosa Nostra is behind this, but it is organized.”
Hamilton calls organized retail crime a “double theft” because retailers pass the extra cost onto consumers while the state loses the sales tax revenue. Costco is one example of a retailer with lower shoplifting rates, he said, likely due to a practice of “checking” customers when they enter and leave the store.
According to Federal Way police, tenants at The Commons Mall in Federal Way — including major retailers like Sears, Macy’s and Target — report fewer losses due to organized thievery. This is credited to the constant police presence and relationships with loss prevention officers.
However, the real frontier for organized retail theft is online. GMS Market allegedly made $7,000 to $8,000 a month from Internet sales, according to a Seattle police investigation.
“There are folks making big money on the Internet. The profit is incredible,” Hamilton said. “We try to tell the average consumer if a deal’s too good to be true, it’s probably stolen.”
Police are investigating the death of 32-year-old Richard Webb.
Baldwin County Coroner Stan Vinson said officials believe Webb committed suicide by a gunshot to the head, but the case was still being investigated.
He was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m.
While investigating the stabbing death of Willie Young Jr. in Daphne on Wednesday, an informant led the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office to Webb’s home at 206 Jeff Davis Road.
The car in which Young was attacked had been taken to Webb’s home, where someone tried to clean the vehicle, and investigators found “numerous items of evidence” in a trash can, authorities said.
“Obviously we were going to review his involvement and had not reached that point as of yet,” Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Anthony Lowery said.
Charles “Charlie” Shaver, 23, is charged with murder in the slaying of Young, while George “Doc” Richardson has been charged with obstructing governmental operations and tampering with evidence. Both men are being held in the Baldwin County Corrections Center.
Police were called to Webb’s home this afternoon, where officers found him dead. Press said police were trying to obtain a search warrant and were investigating the death.
“Until we know anything further, I can’t comment anything further,” Press said.
Young was stabbed between 15 and 20 times in the head, neck, chest and back, according to Maj. Anthony Lowery, with the sheriff’s office. After being dumped from the car on Pollard Road, he then left a trail of blood as he knocked on doors seeking help before he died.
According to a suit he filed last month in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington, American Patriot informed Omar after about five months of work as a security guard that his beard violated the firm’s “grooming policy.”
Omar, who was born in East Africa and immigrated here as a child, contacted the local office of CAIR, which wrote the company a letter explaining how his beard was an outgrowth of his religious beliefs. The letter failed to persuade American Patriot CEO Scott Jacobs, who told Omar that if he didn’t shave, he wouldn’t work, according to the suit. Omar refused, and that was the end of his career at American Patriot.
Perhaps Jacobs, who couldn’t be reached for comment this morning, was influenced by his law-enforcement background. According to his firm’s website, the American Patriot CEO spent 11 years as a deputy for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Grooming policies are not uncommon in such agencies. The face will be clean shaven, except that mustaches will be permitted. If a mustache is worn, it shall be kept neatly trimmed and tidy. Mustaches may extend laterally not more than one-half inch (1/2″) from the corner of the mouth, nor more than one-quarter inch (1/4″) below the corner of the mouth, nor more than one-quarter inch (1/4″) down over the upper lip.
There are also “female hair standards,” incidentally, which mandate that women keep their hair shorter than their uniform collar.
SPD spokesperson Mark Jameison says he doesn’t know whether any officer has ever challenged those policies for religious reasons. But if someone did so, he says, “I’m sure it would be considered.”
In fact, employers are obligated by state and federal anti-discrimination laws to make such accommodations, according to Omar’s suit. CAIR says Omar already has a ruling from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying that he was wrongfully terminated. Now, Omar is hauling American Patriot into court for back wages he says he’s due and a reform of the company’s policies.
J.R. Parker, 38, of 7201 W. 24th Ave., was arrested and being held facing charges of burglary and theft, Lt. Samuel Roberts said.
Cpl. Javier Garza and Patrolman Joseph Gallagher went to the power station after representatives from A&R Security Services and NiSource Corp. security reported Parker had taken them to his home where they recovered some stolen items.
In 2007, Kenneth Frank was in a vehicle near Gaslamp Restaurant and Bar in Long Beach when his friends began to taunt security guard Seminare Thompson, who responded by smashing the car’s window.
Frank then exited the vehicle and was punched in the head by Thompson.
Frank claimed he suffered a brain injury that left him unable to play football or complete his studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
He blamed Gaslamp, alleging it was negligent for failing to hire a responsible security company. Gaslamp argued it wasn’t liable because Thompson was employed by Paragon, a now-bankrupt security contractor which lacked insurance.
The jury determined Thompson and Paragon were agents of Gaslamp, and therefore held the bar liable for the full verdict.
HOLYOKE Mass Aug 7 2011– Paper City authorities nabbed a West Springfield woman who went on a Friday afternoon shoplifting spree at Kmart, according to Holyoke Police Lt. Michael J. Higgins.
Kim M. Nardi, 42, of 19 Elm Ave., was arrested at 5:43 p.m. Friday for stealing 155 items valued at $615.43, Higgins said Saturday.
“They (Kmart security) watched her on camera putting the items in reusable shopping bags,” the lieutenant said.
Nardi apparently brought her own bags into the Kmart store, located at 2211 Northampton St., and stuffed them with dozens of items, Higgins said.
She will be arraigned Monday on larceny charges in Holyoke District Court.
Orangeburg SC Aug 7 2011 Police are looking for a Cordova man who allegedly left a child behind in his effort to elude authorities after he stole a Captain America mask.
The incident happened around 6:40 p.m. Sunday, after Kmart employees spotted a couple that appeared to be stealing, according to an Orangeburg Department of Public Safety incident report.
They had a “small child” riding along in a shopping cart, the report said.
Kmart employees told police the woman picked up a couple of bottles of pain reliever. They claim when she met the man in another part of the store, she pocketed them.
Employees also allege the man was seen on a security camera placing a Captain America mask made for kids, valued at $8.99, inside his clothing.
When the pair attempted to leave, they were confronted. The woman was detained. But the man rushed off in front of nearby Reid’s grocery store pushing the shopping cart that carried the small child.
“He then left the shopping cart, unattended, near the end of Reid’s in the parking lot and ran from the scene,” according to the incident report.
The child was recovered unharmed and turned over to family members.
The 29-year-old woman was taken to jail on a charge of shoplifting. Police were given the 23-year-old man’s name and are still searching for him.
Bridgeport CT Aug 7 2011A 42-year-old Bridgeport woman was arrested Friday on charges she nearly struck a police car after being approached about stealing several items from a Kohl’s Department Store, police said.
Diana L. Eldredge, of 106 Harborview Ave., was charged with reckless driving, interfering with an officer, engaging in pursuit, no insurance and theft of plate, among other crimes.
About 2:30 p.m. members of the Kohl’s Department Store Loss Prevention team said they saw Eldredge selecting multiple men’s wear items, taking them into the woman’s fitting room and leaving the woman’s fitting room without the items visible.
When Loss Prevention checked the fitting room, there were no items inside, police said. Eldredge passed all the cash registers and exited the store.
Police said Eldredge was approached by a Kohl’s employee who asked her to return to the store. The employee told her that police had arrived, to which she replied, “I don’t give a [expletive].” Police said Eldredge jumped into her car and drove away, almost striking a cruiser.
Officers followed her car into Bridgeport and onto I-95 South. Eldredge was eventually stopped after she left the highway, taking exit 22, police said.
Eldredge has a history of 54 prior arrests, police said, and she is suspected of stealing items from a Marshall’s Department Store on Friday and a Kohl’s Department Store last Saturday. Police said she was released from custody around 8:30 p.m. on Friday
Wayne NJ Aug 7 2011 A 53-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon after he threatened to blow up the Willowbrook Mall, said Wayne Police Lt. Wayne Lougheed.
John J. Alexander III contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from a cell phone near the NJ Transit bus station in the Williowbrook Mall parking lot shortly before 4 p.m. saying he would be “blowing up” the mall, Lougheed said.
Someone near Alexander overheard him speak to the department on the phone, Lougheed said. Wayne police were notified of the situation, Lougheed said.
After speaking with him, police determined that Alexander would undergo a psychiatric evaluation, Lougheed said.
Alexander, who is homeless but stays in the King’s Inn on Route 46, was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson by the Wayne First Aid Squad to be evaluated, Lougheed said.
Criminal charges are pending, Lougheed said. Alexander could be charged with creating a false public alarm, Lougheed said.
Alexander was not found to be under the influence of any controlled dangerous substances, Lougheed said.
Police blocked off the bus stop for part of the afternoon until the incident was taken care of.
CAPE CORAL, Fla.Aug 7 2011- Southwest Florida’s new Metal Theft Task Force is cracking down on copper thefts. The group combines intelligence from Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and the Fort Myers Police Department. Already, they’re following a new trend in precious metal thefts.
Jason Sawicki and Eugene Weisensee, both of Cape Coral, were arrested for allegedly taking part in an elaborate shoplifting scheme aimed at selling scrap for cash. The Metal Theft Task Force said the two would steal small, expensive items from hardware stores. Then, they allegedly sent someone else into the store to return the item. Without a receipt, they were issued a gift card or in-store credit from the retailers.
“They would then utilize that in-store credit to purchase copper tubing or other precious metals and then scrap that material for cash,” Lt. Tony Sizemore of the Cape Coral Police Department said Wednesday.
CCPD says Sawicki and Weisensee tried to pawn the copper at Cape Coral scrapyard Allied Recycling Center. After over a dozen visits over just a few months time, the scrapyard grew suspicious and contacted authorities.
“There was a high amount of new material being scrapped by these two individuals. They began a surveillance operation on them and found out the scam,” Sizemore said.
CCPD believes there are more people involved in the shoplighting scheme. More surveillance operations are currently being conducted, and more arrests could follow.
PORTAGE, Ind. Aug 7 2011 — Police in northwestern Indiana say a 20-year-old man possibly suffered a seizure while taking his state driving exam and crashed into a minivan, killing the other driver.
Portage police say the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles instructor told officers that the man taking the driver test appeared to suffer some sort of medical problem when he accelerated and drove through a red light.
The Times of Munster reports the man’s car smashed into the driver’s side of the van, fatally injuring 71-year-old Guy Manna of Ogden Dunes. He died at a nearby hospital soon after the Tuesday afternoon crash.
The BMV instructor suffered a broken leg in the crash, while the man taking the driving test had minor injuries to his hip and wrist.
Cleveland OH Aug 7 2011 Dimorio McDowell transformed his prison cell into a business office with nothing but a mobile phone and a lot of chutzpa.
From 7 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week, McDowell worked tirelessly building a Cleveland criminal enterprise that did up to $1 million worth of work.
Want a jumbo flat-screen, but don’t have $2,000?
McDowell and his unsavory team of Cleveland shoppers could fetch a 55-inch TV and anything else you wanted — stainless steel refrigerator, hardwood flooring, laptop computer — for half the store price.
Just give them a few days. McDowell was serving time for credit card fraud at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey. But one of his associates would meet you at a Cleveland gas station with the loot.
Incarceration in the largest U.S. prison was doing nothing to slow down McDowell’s life of crime. Then, in October 2009, McDowell accidentally tripped across the path of a small-town Summit County cop.
Soon, the master con — who slipped in and out of others’ identities more often than most people change underwear — was nabbed in his own skin.
This is a story about how Bath Township police Detective Dan Lance turned a theft from a local Lowe’s store into a major fraud investigation involving the U.S. Justice Department.
The case ultimately smashed an organized retail theft ring that preyed on big-box stores across Northeast Ohio and revealed how much damage a flimflam man can do with a phone, determination and years with nothing to do but steal.
Court records, interviews with police, the FBI, state and federal prosecutors and a victim show how the scheme unraveled.
Jay Paul Williams, with a scribbled shopping list in hand, darted up and down the aisles of Lowe’s in Bath Township on Oct. 14, 2009, on a mad spending jag most homeowners could only dream of:
Refrigerator, washer, dryer, microwave, stove, table, chairs, lamp, pedestals, cords, packages of Lysol, Oust and Pledge, floodlights, conduits, screws and dozens of other useful doodads.
He wheeled into checkout just before closing.
The bill was about $14,000 — nowhere near the $20,000 limit on the credit card he was using — so Williams tossed eight $500 Lowe’s gift certificates onto the credit card tab, too, signed the bill and headed for the door.
Outside, Andre Reese, his sister’s boyfriend, was waiting for him in a rented U-Haul. As the men packed the truck, it became clear Williams had bought too much.
Williams told the store clerks he would be back the next day to pick up what wouldn’t fit in the U-Haul.
But by the next morning someone at Lowe’s had figured out Williams was up to no good and Lowe’s security called Detective Lance for help.
Bath is probably best known as the home of Jeffrey Dahmer and the place where LeBron James built a mansion.
Before Interstate 77 sliced it in two, it was mostly rural. But as Akron families moved west and Cleveland families farther south, it evolved into one of the richest, most educated areas of Ohio.
Lance, who has been a cop for 31 years, is one of two detectives at the township’s police department, which is about two miles north of Medina Road, the township’s southern border where a crush of plazas, big-box stores, restaurants and supermarkets have sprung up. It’s a hot spot for petty crimes that come with retail congestion.
But when Lowe’s security called the day after Williams’ shopping spree, Lance suspected this case was different.
Williams, it turned out, had paid for his loot with a temporary shopping pass — a ticket Lowe’s provides people authorized to use someone else’s store credit card.
At the time, Lowe’s computers verified Williams was on the account of Shirley Stockton of Marietta, Ga.
When security called Stockton that morning, she told them she had never heard of Williams and hadn’t provided anyone with access to her credit card.
“It felt as if our house had been robbed,” Stockton later said.
When Williams returned to Lowe’s about 1 p.m., police were ready.
Lance fired off a message to the onboard computers in the township police cars and nine officers — including the township police chief and two Fairlawn cops — converged on the store.
Williams had no felony record and initially cooperated with Lance.
Reese — a career criminal on federal probation after recently being released from prison on a drug conviction — denied everything.
As Williams told it, his part of the scheme worked like this:
Someone — Williams didn’t know who — added his name and personal information to credit card accounts of people he didn’t know.
Then Reese and a guy he never met named Twon, sent Williams lightly coded text messages with strangers’ credit card account numbers, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
When it was time to go shopping, Reese picked up Williams in a rental truck and either Twon or Reese gave him a list of products and model numbers to buy.
Once inside a store, Williams approached the service center, presented his real identification and told the clerk he was listed on a particular person’s credit card as an authorized user.
When the clerk punched the information into a computer, everything looked kosher and Williams was free to spend up to the card’s credit limit.
How the story was reported:
This story is based on hundreds of pages of court records and interviews with nine people, including investigators, prosecutors and a victim. Dimorio McDowell did not respond to written questions mailed to him in June at the prison where he is incarcerated. Corporate officers with Lowe’s and GE Capital declined to be interviewed about the case and how it may have affected their strategies to prevent organized retail theft.
Afterward, Reese paid Williams his share — 20 percent of whatever the bill was before taxes.
Reese told Lance another story.
He conceded he was with Williams, but said he rented the U-Haul to help a friend move and only agreed to stop at Lowe’s so Williams could pick up something.
Organized retail crime
The U-Haul’s GPS, however, betrayed Reese. When Lance scrolled through the computer mapping device’s trip history, it showed the U-Haul had recently visited big-box stores in suburbs across Greater Cleveland.
Law enforcement and national retail organizations have a name for this kind of crime — organized retail theft. It impacts nearly every store in the U.S. and results in about $30 billion in losses every year.
These crime rings often use professional “boosters” who steal entire store shelves of contact lens solution, baby formula and other small items that can be resold online or at flea markets.
Boosters, at least the successful ones, stay on the move.
If they scatter their targets, police often don’t see a pattern since departments don’t share much information. The Bath case was a little different. These men were taking $1,500 refrigerators, not $15 razors.
The day after Williams’ arrest, Lance began looking for patterns.
He pored over BOLOs — police slang for “Be-on-the-Lookout-for” alerts that law enforcement agencies sometimes send — looking for similar retail thefts in the area.
He found so many, Lance began typing detailed information into a database — dates of thefts, store locations, methods suspects used, suspect names, suspect mug shots.
Whoever was behind this ring was no amateur, Lance concluded.
He suspected the group might have someone working on the inside — at the credit card companies — to provide the kind of information needed to pull off the thefts.
How else could anyone make this scam work?
After talking to the credit card companies — which then launched internal investigations of their own — Lance reached out to detectives in area departments, looking for theft cases he might have missed.
The ring, it turned out, had been hitting dozens of stores from Beachwood to Rocky River and Willoughby to Alliance.
And it was still operating. On Nov. 4, Mentor police Detective Edward Zigman called Lance with a fresh piece of the puzzle.
Police there had arrested a man the day before for a similar crime. The man, like Williams, was using a Georgia resident’s credit card and working with Andre Reese.
By now, the credit card companies had wrapped up their probes and assured Lance that their employees were not involved.
So who was accessing the credit card information?
“Man, this is one serious hacker,” Lance said.
Some computer genius must be hacking into the credit cards, Lance thought. Maybe it’s Twon — the mysterious person who sent text messages with account information to Williams’ phone. But Williams insisted he didn’t know who Twon was.
All the calls were from the 215 area code, so Lance figured Twon was in the Philadelphia area.
Bath Township didn’t have the equipment or resources to pursue it. Lance had taken the investigation as far as he could.
So Zigman, hoping to help, reached out to the FBI on Nov. 24.
Prison phone break
Special Agent Andrew Burke was blown away by the organized retail theft database Lance had put together.
By now, a printout of the database was more than an inch thick and jammed with hundreds of minute details gleaned from police reports, interviews of officers, store security and court records.
Lance knew who was dating whom in the ring and how some of the players were related.
There was no doubt. Lance had unearthed a major theft ring.
In February 2010, Lance, the FBI and other local police investigators formed a task force. Its first mission was finding Twon.
Working with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the task force received a court order for a pen register — a list of dates and times of all phone calls and text messages sent and received from a phone.
The pen register quickly revealed two things that stunned investigators:
• One cellphone was making 200 to 300 calls a day, mostly to credit card companies.
•All of those calls passed through a side of a three-sided cellphone tower near Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey, meaning the caller never moved.
Behind the story with Bath Township detective
Bath Township, Ohio, Detective Dan Lance tells how investigators initially believed the theft ring’s mastermind lived somewhere around Philadelphia. They were stunned to learn he was a federal prison inmate in New Jersey.
FBI Agent Burke quickly figured out they were dealing with an inmate.
No one was hacking into the credit card companies. Someone was using a telephone to call.
“That’s the last thing I expected,” Lance said. “I was shocked.”
After narrowing the field of Fort Dix inmates to those nicknamed “Twon,” the task force zeroed in on Dimorio McDowell.
A life of crime
McDowell was an unlikely mastermind.
When he was a boy, he scored 67 on an IQ test, revealing he was probably developmentally disabled.
Not long after, he dropped out of school — in eighth grade.
A defense attorney in Georgia once cited this background — and that McDowell is HIV-positive — hoping a judge would go easy on McDowell.
It didn’t work. Maybe because there was so much evidence showing McDowell is a lifelong thief.
His first serious run-ins with the law began in 1995, when he was still a teen. By 1999, he had been convicted of wire fraud in a Georgia federal court after purchasing about $223,000 on other people’s credit cards.
The first prison stint did nothing to rehabilitate McDowell. The moment he got out, prosecutors said, he started credit card fraud schemes again around Atlanta.
McDowell partnered with women who worked for GE Card Services. Between 2003 and 2005, court records show the group stole more than $268,000 from J.C. Penney, Sears, Lowe’s and other stores.
A judge sentenced McDowell to 136 months in prison in 2005, which ultimately landed him in Fort Dix. McDowell’s time in Dix, a former military installation now serving as the largest U.S. federal prison, was supposed to isolate him from society.
But when McDowell got hold of a mobile phone, it opened a window to a world of crime.
How and when McDowell first got a phone in Fort Dix is not clear. But by the time investigators in Ohio caught up with him, it was spring 2010. And they wanted a wiretap to hear what McDowell was talking about.
Unlike a pen register — which only tracks dates and times of incoming and outgoing calls and messages — a court-approved wiretap lets investigators listen to calls and read texts.
But getting a wiretap in a federal prison was going to be tricky.
Phones are a big no-no for federal and state inmates. Many corrections officials consider mobile phones deadly weapons because inmates have used them to plan prison riots, attacks on guards and murders outside prison.
Investigators knew they had to inform the Fort Dix warden about McDowell’s phone, but they feared she might seize it before they could secure a wiretap, a complicated legal process that often takes a month or two.
“Leaving the phone in the hands of a prisoner is usually not an option,” said Steve Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for Northern Ohio. But this was an unusual situation.
In March 2010, the tiny case that started in Bath Township had reached the highest levels of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Urgent wake-up call
Matthew Kall’s BlackBerry woke him at 3 a.m. Friday, March 5, in the Ukraine.
Kall — an assistant U.S. attorney in Cleveland — was in Kiev working on a case involving a criminal ring that brought Ukrainians to the U.S. on fake visas.
Kall had to switch gears.
After negotiations with prison officials, Kall had a thumbs-up to pursue a wiretap warrant on McDowell’s phone, but he had days — not the usual months — to get it done.
Kall was scheduled to fly home that day and left three hours later on a 12-hour flight.
In Cleveland, investigators converged over the weekend to write the necessary affidavit — a excruciatingly detailed, fact-filled explanation about what their investigation had revealed and why they need a wiretap.
Kall submitted the wiretap application to the Justice Department for approval Monday. Justice signed off on Tuesday. A judge approved the wiretap Wednesday, and investigators began listening to McDowell Thursday.
“It may be a record for a case that does not involve national security,” Dettelbach later said.
A judge gave investigators two weeks to make their case.
McDowell, the wiretap revealed, was on the phone 16 or 17 hours a day.
His day often started with a call to directory assistance seeking phone numbers and addresses of people in other states who shared the same name as the shoppers who worked for him in the Northeast Ohio theft ring.
When he found matches, he’d call those people, sometimes posing as a cable television employee fishing for personal information.
Not everyone fell for it. McDowell was neither slick nor clever. But he was persistent.
If one person hung up, he’d call another with the same name until he got what he wanted. All he needed was a scrap of information — a birth date or part of a Social Security number — to start peeling away someone’s identity.
Once he had that scrap, McDowell’s next call was to a credit card company –GE Capital, Citigroup and HSBC. Often, McDowell pretended to be a fellow employee, a fraud investigator with the same credit card company trying to sort something out.
That often established an immediate connection with the call taker.
Then McDowell set about building trust. McDowell tossed around words that only company employees usually know, office jargon to describe the computer systems they used or business operation slang, insider information McDowell gleaned over the years defrauding the same companies.
If the call taker asked McDowell for an employee verification code, he’d make one up. When the call taker said the number was invalid, McDowell blamed the computer.
Those who didn’t believe McDowell hung up. But McDowell just dialed the credit card company again and repeated the same schtick until he found someone less suspicious.
McDowell became a master manipulator of credit card companies. If he would have put as much time and effort into a legitimate career, there’s no telling how far he could have gone, one detective said.
Then — sometimes with the sound of prison gates clanging in the background — McDowell would provide the call taker with the scrap of information he weaseled out of an account holder earlier that day and say the customer’s Social Security number was no good.
Many call takers would then read the credit cardholder’s Social Security number aloud to see if McDowell — the purported fraud investigator — had the same number.
With that, McDowell could start hijacking accounts.
Sometimes he’d call a credit card company, pretend to be the cardholder and add the name of a shopper to an account — like adding Williams’ name to the Georgia woman’s account at the Lowe’s in Bath.
Other times, he’d simply swap out his shopper’s real birth dates and Social Security numbers with those of the true account holder with the same name.
Investigators — who are required to listen to a wiretap around the clock — were repeatedly stunned by McDowell’s brazenness.
“Do you hear that?” Lance said, popping up out of a listening cubical, wondering if anyone else could believe what he was hearing.
Behind the story with Bath Township detective
Bath Township, Ohio, Detective Dan Lance Lance explains how easy it was for Dimorio McDowell to con call takers at credit card companies.
McDowell — who has a deep baritone voice — was impersonating a woman as he talked to a credit card company.
It was an excruciatingly bad performance, but the call taker didn’t question it. Other times, McDowell chatted with the same credit card call taker for a half-hour, walking away with the Social Security numbers of 10 people.
“I can’t believe how easy it is for this guy to manipulate the system,” Lance said. “They are just so willing to regurgitate information.”
While investigators listened to McDowell feed account information to his shopping crews in Cleveland, two surveillance teams — one for east of Cleveland, one for west — waited, ready to fan out.
When investigators heard a shopping team was on its way to a Best Buy or Home Depot, for example, each surveillance team headed out, hoping the wiretap would soon reveal more clues about which suburban store the shopping team was targeting.
If they couldn’t make it there before the thieves set up, investigators called the store and warned employees to freeze the credit card accounts of the people about to come in.
They knew it wouldn’t spook the crooks. Members of the theft ring knew each fake account had a limited life. They just moved on and tried another credit card at another store.
Investigators also called the stores where surveillance teams arrived before the shoppers. They asked employees to let the fraudulent transactions go through so investigators could follow the players.
Usually, after the rental truck was loaded, a member of the theft ring — often Reese — drove the merchandise to a nearby gas station. There, he met black market customers who pre-ordered specific computers, TVs and other items.
The customers paid Reese 50 percent of the store prices on the items. Any merchandise left — shoppers were instructed to max out a credit card even if their shopping list was short — was taken to a warehouse on Ivanhoe Road in Cleveland.
Two weeks after they started listening, investigators had what they needed.
An uncertain future
Officials searched McDowell’s prison cell in late March or early April and found three mobile phones and three notebooks filled with people’s names, credit card account numbers and Social Security numbers.
The wiretap only targeted one of McDowell’s phones, so it’s unclear how he used the others.
McDowell, Reese, Williams and six others were indicted by a federal grand jury on a slew of fraud charges. More than a half-dozen others were charged with lesser crimes in state court.
Except for Williams, most were repeat offenders. Police were familiar with some. When Mentor Detective Zigman walked into federal court, for example, he recognized Michael Sailes.
“I see you’ve changed your employment,” Zigman said.
A decade ago, Sailes and a group of Cleveland-area residents were convicted on federal charges for robbing jewelry stores in five states and making off with more than $1.2 million in gems.
Many of the others charged as part of the theft ring were convicted drug dealers.
Lance suspects they considered organized retail theft a “safer” crime than drugs since guns and violence are rarely involved. And unless someone like Lance connects the dots, penalties for a simple theft are often less severe than for drug crimes.
Reese, it turned out, was McDowell’s street manager in Northeast Ohio. Although he’s not sure how, Lance figures the two somehow met through prison.
Both men pleaded guilty late last year to wire fraud and identity theft charges. Reese was sentenced to nearly 12 years in prison.
And a judge earlier this year sentenced McDowell to an additional 14 years behind bars.
They were ordered to pay more than $255,000 in restitution.
Lance said he wants credit card companies to use this case as a tool to teach their call takers how to detect and prevent fraud.
Is McDowell’s con over?
Lance pauses and said he hopes so.
Prosecutors asked prisons to label McDowell a “serious telephone abuser,” a title that will limit his use of prison pay phones.
But thousands of smuggled mobile phones pour into prisons each year. And, even without a mobile phone, McDowell proved last year he can do damage.
After federal authorities brought McDowell to Ohio to face charges involving the theft ring, they housed him in the Lake County jail.
There, McDowell continued his fraud. When authorities suspected it, they searched his cell and found a six-page spreadsheet containing credit card information, a packet of receipts, canceled checks, bank statements and credit-card images.
Jailers increased security, but it didn’t help.
McDowell used the jail’s pay phones to contact sheriff’s sergeants, lieutenants and captains.
What was McDowell up to?
He pretended to be an official with the U.S. Marshal’s service and ordered himself transferred to another facility — perhaps one with easier access to phones
SALEM MA Aug 7 2011— A Lowell, Mass., man who put on women’s clothing, lipstick and makeup is facing an indecent exposure charge for lifting his skirt and exposing himself to shoppers at the Mall at Rockingham Park, police said.
Edward Gavin, 58, was arrested Thursday afternoon by Salem police at 4:09 p.m. after employees and mall security called them to complain.
“He was sitting in a general area of the mall,” in a public seating area, Deputy Chief Shawn Patten said.
Witnesses told police that a man dressed in a skirt, make-up, earrings, a wig and pantyhose was sitting in a chair outside the Macy’s department store near the Earth and Sky Bar, according to Patten.
He said the area — located on the first floor — has a public seating area near mall kiosks.
Officers at the scene were told that the man — later identified as Gavin — repeatedly spread his legs, lifted his skirt and exposed himself through the cut-open pantyhose, Patten said.
A janitor and two employees working at a mall kiosk first noticed the man and informed mall security who in turn called Salem police, Patten said.
Gavin was taken into custody without incident, Patten said.
He was charged with a Class A misdemeanor of indecent exposure. The charge is punishable by up to a year in county jail and a $2,000 fine.
Gavin was booked and later released from police custody on $340 cash bail.
He will have to appear for arraignment in Salem District Court.
Police say Gabriel Copley of Mount Sterling, Ky., faces a possession of a destructive device charge for the incident Saturday at Eppley Airfield in Omaha. The 20-year-old was being held at the Douglas County jail. It wasn’t immediately known whether he had an attorney.
Omaha police officer Michael Pecha says Transportation Security Administration workers found the item during a routine screening and evacuated the airport’s south terminal. A police bomb squad later took the item outside and destroyed it.
The FBI is helping investigate. Pecha says investigators believe Copley forgot the item was in his bag and didn’t plan to harm anyone.