Law & Fiction–Stupid Criminal Tricks

From the Bigfork Eagle Law Roundup:

“—A caller reported a woman tried to steal from a local grocery store and was allegedly driving a small red pickup. Employees reportedly recovered the cart before she could get away with the groceries.

“—A woman who allegedly attempted to rob a local grocery store called to request access to her personal belongings that she left behind. In her rush to escape with the cart full of goods, she had reportedly left her purse behind.”

Something tells me that when employees discovered the purse, they called the sheriff—and that this isn’t going to work out quite the way she expected.

Law & Fiction–Stupid Criminal Tricks

A continuation of an occasional series of, well, things you shouldn’t do.

From the “You got through dental school, but you didn’t think this was a bad idea?” files: According to The Missoulian newspaper, three men from Utah and Idaho were cited for cooking chickens in a thermal hot spring in Yellowstone National Park in August, 2020. Two spent two days in jail and paid fines; the third—the dentist—avoided jail but paid a larger fine. All three are banned from the park for two years while serving unsupervised visitation.

“A park ranger heard that people with cooking pots were hiking toward the park’s Shoshone Geyser Basin. The ranger found two whole chickens in a burlap sack in a hot spring. A cooking pot was nearby, Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress said,” according to the newspaper.

According to this piece from the Yellowstone National Park Trips website summarizing the dangers of the more than 10,000 geothermal features—hot springs, geysers, steam vents, and my personal favorite, stinkpots, many are literally boiling. One’s as hot as 250 degrees. Not a good place to soak your feet, as another tourist attempted to do. (In a cooler but still hot spot; he survived, with extensive burns.)

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. But have fun trying!

Stupid Criminal Tricks — texting edition

Cyberbullying Doesn’t Pay – Escapee Returned to Jail After Taunting Detective Via Text

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.)

Stupid Criminal Tricks

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.

Just sayin.’

(Story from the Great Falls Tribune.)

Stupid Criminal Tricks

handcuffsFrom the “How Dumb Can They Be?” Files 

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.



The Case of the Phony Feebie

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.

Stupid Criminal Tricks: the fake deputy

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.

Stupid Criminal Update: the hitchhiker, the kindness project, and the shooting that wasn’t

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.

The Case of the Hungry Robber

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.

Unfortunately, as he started to leave, a large knife fell out of his pocket. Other evidence includes the demand note he gave the cashier.

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 … .

Story and update from the Helena Independent Record.

(Photo courtesy of Krista Davis, New York Times best-selling author of the Domestic Diva series.)


Stupid Criminal Tricks #5 – Don’t break in to a federal courthouse

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.