Entries in Crime (7)


Court: Violent Snatching of iPhone was Temporary Taking Not Theft

iStock/Thinktock/Apple, Inc.(LOS ANGELES) -- An appellate court in Contra Costa County, Calif., has discovered a previously unknown pastime: cellphone joyriding.

It involves a stranger taking violent possession of an owner's phone against the owner's will, but the court has found that this isn't theft. It's "temporary taking."

The facts of the case, according to the appellate court's decision, filed Sept. 26, are these: "On December 20, 2010, Matthew Cardoza was standing outside the hospital where he worked, taking a 10 minute break. He was using his new Apple iPhone 4 cell phone to exchange text messages with his fiancee."

He had just hit "send" on his last text when a stranger approached him and said, according to the court filing, "Hey, man, let me get that phone."

The stranger took the phone out of Cardoza's hands and made off with it. Cardoza gave chase, grabbed the man by the back of his shirt, and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, the stranger yelled, "Give me the phone, give me the phone. I'll hurt you. Give me the phone." He punched Cardoza in the head several times.

Cardoza got the phone back, after which the man said, "I'll pay you, I'll pay you. I just want the phone." Cardoza told the man he didn't want his money and asked him please to leave him alone.  

The violent stranger was Kurt Carr, who prior to the incident, had a fight with the mother of his fiancee, according to the filing.

"He felt he had to call his fiancee immediately to tell her about his fight with her mother," according to court papers. Carr went looking for a phone, and saw Cardoza on his new iPhone. He then asked Cardoza multiple times for the phone, according to the filing, following which, there was the struggle.

The court found that in order to prove theft, the prosecution would had have to have shown that "[Carr] intended to deprive [Cardoza] of [the phone] permanently or to remove it from [Cardoza's] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Retail Surveillance Assists Authorities with Crimes Outside Stores

FBI(NEW YORK) -- Retail surveillance cameras are doing more than just capturing shoplifters, as authorities turn to businesses who keep a digital eye on their storefronts.

Surveillance footage played a critical role in helping authorities identify the two Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.

Video surveillance outside the Lord and Taylor department store near the Boston Marathon finish line captured images used by the FBI of the Tsarnaev brothers.

Richard Mellor, vice president of loss prevention with the National Retail Federation, said he has seen retailers help capture everything from bag burglars to car thieves in store parking lots.

And the technology is improving in at least two ways.

First, the ability of video to be transported over long distances has expanded with digital capabilities; that is, “transporting the actual images of what is seen on one side of the camera and who is looking at it,” Mellor said.

“Now those images are being transported pretty quickly over thousands of miles to headquarters in retailing where they’re able to see images of cities around the U.S. where they have stores. That’s a new development over the last five years that has grown leaps and bounds.”

Second, the ability to view an enhanced, clarified image is another technological advance.

“Now the ability to enhance the video, and as we have all seen by first images of the Boston bombing, those images were better and more clearer as the hours passed. So the first images of individual faces, that gets enhanced over a computer system,” he said. “Those fuzzy black and white images of people for which we cannot make an identification now have been enhanced to the point they keep refining the image so it’s so clear that they can make an identification.”

In 2011, authorities used camera footage outside a Safeway grocery store to analyze the shooting of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz.

Mellor said many customers prefer to shop in retail stores with surveillance, despite privacy concerns, if the cameras are in plain view.

“Obviously, there’s a prevalence of cameras all over the place and the world,” Mellor said. ”Unfortunately that has become a necessary thing to do with types of crimes out there.”

When asked if retailers would ever take the desire for extra footage “too far,” and invade privacy in dressing rooms or bathrooms, Mellor said, “I’ve lived in the retail world a long time. That is an absolute ‘no no’. No leader of loss prevention would permit their people to do that.”

Security cameras inside a 7-Eleven also helped clarify information during the tense standoff that led to the death of an MIT campus police officer.

Police initially reported that the brothers had robbed a 7-Eleven in Cambridge, which turned out not to be true.

“There was an incident at a 7-Eleven store yesterday evening in Cambridge, but our local loss prevention asset protection manager was able to review the video tape and ascertain the description of who the robber was,” said Margaret Chabris, spokeswoman for 7-Eleven.

The convenience chain company has spent millions of dollars installing a state-of-the-art DVR surveillance camera system in the past year, said Chabris.

Like many retailers, 7-Eleven is glad to help authorities by providing surveillance footage for criminal investigations.

“They have helped solved incidents at our stores and police look to us as a resource to investigate crimes that have nothing to do with 7-Eleven,” Chabris said.

Lord and Taylor did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Calif. Man Busted in Counterfeit Software Scheme

U.S. Department of Justice(LOS ANGELES) -- Hundreds of online shoppers who believed they were purchasing authentic copies of Microsoft Office 2007 CD-ROMs received counterfeit copies of the program, federal agents said Monday in announcing the arrest of a 30-year-old California man.

Collier Harper, of Lakewood, Calif., allegedly imported and sold more than 1,000 bogus copies of the software over the Internet from sites like eBay and Craigslist.

“They look very real or genuine,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said.  “That’s sort of the danger.  Somebody can go on eBay and think they’re buying a genuine Microsoft product and in fact it’s not genuine.”

Harper is charged in a four-count federal indictment with trafficking and smuggling.  If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.

Prosecutors claim Harper had the fake software packages shipped from a manufacturer in China and then sold them online in the U.S.  The amount he is accused of selling would have been worth around $150,000 in stores if they had been genuine Microsoft discs.

“This is not a victimless crime,” explained Wilkison.  “It makes the genuine products more expensive for consumers.  I think it makes it more difficult for companies to sell things here in the United States.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is assisting in the investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Police on Alert for Gas Thefts

Hillsborough County Sheriff”s Office(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Florida police are on high alert after they intervened this week to disrupt an attempted theft of gasoline at a Tampa, Fla., BP station, evidence of soaring prices and the safety risks thieves are willing to endure for a fast buck, authorities say.

A deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office first spotted the alleged thieves in action Tuesday at the station. A minivan was parked over the in-ground fuel tanks and, police later discovered, was siphoning gas into the make-shift storage vehicle, WFTS ABC Action News in Tampa reported.

The suspects escaped in a second getaway car as the deputy drove closer to the gas station, leaving several hundred gallons of gas still inside the van with 25 gallons spilled in the parking lot.

The national average for regular gas is $3.59 a gallon, up 40 cents from a year ago and 7 cents from last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Tuesday. The average is higher for the lower Atlantic region, at $3.63, which is why police say there is a growing profit margin in the black market for gas.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst, said at least one gas station near the Orlando airport was charging $5.79 a gallon.

Larry McKinnon, spokesman for the sheriff’s office at Hillsborough County who has worked with Florida law enforcement for 35 years, said he has seen about a dozen gas thefts a year, concentrated when gas prices increase.

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“It kind of ebbs and flows,” he said. “It will taper off for a while, and, you can bet your dollar, as the prices go up, we’ve told our patrol deputies to be on alert.”

Thieves rig their vehicles to make a fast escape. In the minivan that was left behind this week, there was a hole drilled in the bottom of the vehicle so a hose could pump gas from the station. The suspects appeared to have stuffed large tanks into a car. In other cases, McKinnon said, thieves have towed a tank behind a car, similar to a pest control vehicle.

“Of course, we know none of them were designed to carry fuel and they’re a deadly hazard. Fortunately, we haven’t had a crash yet,” he said. “But it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Craigslist Robberies By Appointment on Rise

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MILWAUKEE) -- Police nationwide are warning of a sharp rise in Internet-related crime called “robbery-by-appointment. In a typical case, somebody with something to sell goes online to find a buyer by using Craigslist or a similar service. The seller finds a buyer, and the two agree to meet in person to consummate the sale. But when they meet, the seller gets robbed -- and in some cases beaten up or worse-- by his “buyer.”

So common have these crimes become that in Oakland, Calif., police have created a special investigative unit devoted to combating them. Cops in one city are even suggesting people meet at station houses to complete their transactions.

In Washington State, one robbery-by-appointment ended in death, when a man who had a diamond ring to sell was shot dead by robbers who showed up, supposedly to buy it.

Experts say many of these robberies are happening in broad daylight and in neighborhoods believed to be safe. They recommend meeting in a busy public place as one way of decreasing the odds that you’ll be taken.

In Milwaukee, police are recommending that anybody worried about becoming a victim meet his buyer (or seller) at the safest place in town – the police station itself.  Six Craigslist-related robberies have occurred in one Milwaukee district in the past month, reports the Journal-Sentinel.

“If they don’t want to meet you at a safe place, if they don’t want to meet you at a police district, that should be a red flag, an indicator: Don’t do business with that individual,” police officer Lisa Staffold told the newspaper.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


100+ Arrested in NYC Identity Theft Ring

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thousands of unsuspecting Americans were victimized by an identity theft ring based out of New York City that resulted in millions of dollars in losses – and a number of arrests, announced Friday.

Authorities are calling it not only the largest, but the most sophisticated identity theft and credit card fraud case ever. The thieves employed bank tellers, store clerks and restaurant waiters to skim customers' personal information, used it to create fake credit cards and then sent crews on nationwide shopping sprees to buy high-end goods -- later sold online, or overseas.

The scams were based out of New York, but had ties to three other continents.  Most of the defendants are in custody but a couple dozen remain at-large. More than 100 people have been charged following a two-year investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newspaper Thefts on the Rise, Couponers to Blame

Glowimages/Getty Images(MOULTRIE, Ga.) -- Newspaper thefts are on the rise, thanks to extreme savers who want more coupons.

Moultrie, Ga., has seen a dramatic increase in thefts, especially of the Sunday edition that typically has more coupons than the weekday papers.

"There is like a coupon ring that they're doing. They want the coupons and get very obsessive with them," said newspaper carrier Michaelyn Blackwell who believes popular TV shows such as Extreme Couponing are to blame for the recent thefts.

Some thieves, she says, have started taking the entire newspaper vending machines that can each weigh as much as 100 pounds. Blackwell says she now chains the machines together to make them tougher to steal.

The report of rising newspaper thefts follows the arrest of an Arkansas woman on August 7, who stole approximately 185 newspapers, worth $231.25, to feed her coupon habit. Jamie VanSickler was charged with misdemeanor theft. She told officers she is part of a coupon club and that she did not know she was doing anything illegal, according to her statement on August 5. She claimed she was just trying to save money.

Extreme couponers behind the thefts who are preoccupied with price may want to consider the hefty cost of the crime. If caught stealing a newspaper, violators can face fines up to $1,000 over a paper that might have cost them 50 cents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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