I haven’t posted a Stupid Criminal Trick in a while but this one is worth the wait. Short version: If you escape from jail, don’t text the detective handling your case with a homophobic slur and an anatomical suggestion. A search warrant for your cell phone data is a sure bet, and it’s an equally sure bet that said detective will use said data to track you down and haul you back to the hoosegow. (How did the man escape in the first place? Turns out that while being processed after his arrest, he somehow managed to join a line of inmates being processed for release. Oops.)
If you’re behind on your rent, and you live across the street from a bank, where you cash your paychecks when you’re working, don’t rob that bank to pay the rent. People will recognize you. And they may even watch when you go across the street to your apartment building and go inside. It’s also probably not smart to call attention to yourself by using a stolen $100 bill to buy a Gatorade for 2.99, and using other stolen Benjamins to pay the rent.
(Story from the Great Falls Tribune.)
Last fall, a Montana woman apparently robbed or attempted to rob five casinos in 24 hours, to raise bail money for her boyfriend, a man known as “Darkness,” who’d been arrested and charged in a shooting the previous day. According to the Billings Gazette, the owner of a stolen car spotted Darkness and the car in a Target parking lot and confronted him; Darkness fired a shot and fled. He was later found hiding behind a nearby house.
The woman—let’s call her “Dumbness”—was charged with three counts of felony robbery, two counts of attempted felony robbery, and one misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer. Her M.O.: walk into a casino, ask an employee to make change, then grab cash from the cash drawer or demand it be handed over. Three times, employees cooperated; two times, they refused. She was caught when employees at a bar reported that two women left without paying for their meals and sheriff’s deputies stopped their car.
I’m not sure whether the moral of the story is to always pay for your food, or to avoid men named Darkness. Both, probably.
Update: After I wrote this, Karen Damron was sentenced to 20 years for 3 counts of robbery and 2 counts of attempted robbery, and ordered to pay $4,300 in restitution. According to the Billings Gazette , that gives her 11 felony convictions. she has a long, sad story, including childhood sexual abuse and forcible drug use. I appreciated that she said she is not using that as an excuse.
““I don’t have a problem doing incarceration,” Damron told [Judge Russell] Fagg. “It’s society I have a problem with.”
She said when she isn’t incarcerated she isolates herself until she relapse into substance abuse.
“I caused an atrocity in this town because I relapsed,” Damron said, adding, “I’m not a victim of my childhood, I’m a survivor of it … that’s all I have to say, and I’m sorry. These were just the crimes I was caught and charged for.” “ She also requested a recommendation to the culinary arts program at the state Women’s Prison—which might indicate her hope for rehabilitation. Let’s all hope she makes it.
Searching for a colorful criminal opportunity for your WIP? We all know it’s a federal offense to impersonate an FBI agent, but some folks will do anything for free coffee. This AP article reports on the case of Steven Goldman, an Air Force vet and convicted swindler who wasn’t quite talented enough to fool the Boomtown Babes who staff a coffee shop in Williston, N.D., center of the Bakken oil boom.
Goldman’s fakery includes passing himself off as an FBI agent, claiming a government rate for a hotel room, conning free limo rides and helicopter rentals, and snagging free dog treats for a non-existent K-9 unit. Once again, I find myself admiring the tremendous creative energy some crooks display, and wishing they could channel it into more positive efforts.
According to the Seattle Times, a man posing as a King County sheriff’s deputy, wearing a T-shirt reading “Sheriff,” a holstered revolver, and a radio of some sort, knocked on doors in an apartment complex, telling residents he was looking for the suspect in an auto theft. Several residents got suspicious and called 911 — they thought he “lacked a police presence” and said when asked for I.D., he ignored them and kept talking.
When a real deputy spotted him, the imposter took off, eluding both a tracking dog and a helicopter search. According to the Times, “Investigators believe the man probably got into a nearby car and split. The sheriff’s office doesn’t know what the imposter was up to. One possibility is that he was looking for the supposed car thief and figured this was one way to find him. Or maybe “he was looking to get his kicks.””
And yes, impersonating a law enforcement officer is a crime.
I wrote last year about the hitchhiker who claimed to have been shot while traveling the country and working on a book about kindness. Turned out Ray Dolin shot himself, either in a suicide attempt — his initial claim — or as a publicity stunt for his kindness project. Another man was arrested and briefly jailed — he happened to drive the same kind of truck Dolin described, but GPS data showed he hadn’t been in the area when the shooting occurred. Dolin was charged with a felony count of tampering with evidence and two misdemeanor charges, and pled guilty.
The AP reports he’s now received a four-year deferred sentence on the felony, which includes numerous conditions, and a six-month suspended sentence on the misdemeanors. He must continue mental health treatment, and was also ordered to pay more than $2,000 in fines and $5,583 restitution. Readers of Books, Crooks & Counselors know that a deferred sentence means the judge reserves authority to impose sentence later; at the end of the deferral period, if the offender has met all conditions, charges will be dismissed. This is not a typical case for deferral — a gun was involved, and an innocent man was caught up in the lies. No doubt Dolin’s apology, his cooperative behavior, and his apparent compliance with mental health treatment were factors in his favor.
A man tried to rob a pizza place in Helena, Montana, but broke down in tears, telling the cashier he needed money for his family. The cashier talked to him for a while, then gave him pizza, wings, and pop – to go.
The facts will determine any charges, once he’s caught. But local police are hoping he doesn’t make a habit of threatening robbery to get a free meal.
If he does, he’ll be eating taxpayer food.
Update: Turns out the would-be thief is also a liar. He made up the story about the kids and faked the break-down when he realized the till was nearly empty. It held $24.65. Geez — or cheese. Some people … .
(Photo courtesy of Krista Davis, New York Times best-selling author of the Domestic Diva series.)
The Billings (Montana) Gazette gives us today’s Stupid Criminal Trick, reporting the case of a 24 year old man “who says he doesn’t remember breaking into the new federal courthouse while it was under construction.” He claimed to have been out with friends, then became separated from them, before blacking out. Meanwhile, though, he apparently broke three second-floor windows with a metal pipe and discharged a fire extinguisher, then passed out, wearing only jeans, on the first floor, where he was found and arrested.
He was initially charged with criminal trespass and burglary, but pled no contest to an amended charge of felony criminal mischief and offered a check for restitution–$10,738. He was given a 12-month deferred sentence and ordered to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation, and obtain any treatment recommended. The misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing was dismissed.
As one commenter noted, that was a pricey fire extinguisher.
Lesson learned, we hope.
Missoula, Montana police recently put the bite on a serial car thief, with help from his cell phone — and his dog. The Missoulian reports that the man stole an SUV in Spokane, Washington and two more in Missoula, where he was arrested after being seen with one of the cars, which was under surveillance. (For readers not in Montana, the two cites are about 200 miles apart.) When police found the cars, they also found “dog-related items and dog hair with color, length and type consistent with a dog owned by Roth,” according to the newspaper’s account of court documents.
He had also taken pictures of the stolen cars with his cell phone.
And – in case you don’t think the guy was stupid enough – he was also charged with criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and driving a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license. Now, I don’t know if the drug paraphernalia was found in the stolen cars, or whether, like the leash, he just left it there. But you gotta know somebody’s gonna be looking for the car, right?
Put this in your comic novel–because you couldn’t write this in a serious mystery with a straight face.
A note on the admissibility of the dog hair evidence: a lab analysis and report will be required before the evidence can be admitted at trial, and the lab analyst will need to testify. But hair analysis–whether human or animal–is not new or unusual, and should not present any evidentiary issues. (Evidentiary issues – that’s legal talk for big doo-doo.)
A Montana burglar used a credit card to pick a lock. Unfortunately, it was his own credit card — and he left it behind. Plus, the homeowner was at home, and spotted him. The Associated Press reports that he’s been arrested and charged with felony attempted burglary and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
No charge for criminal stupidity — that’s free.