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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crime For Dummies: Tips To Avoid Committing Stupid Crimes

What were these dumb criminals thinking? They could use a crime guide after botching these jobs. Here are some tips they could have used.

As you watched George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean's Eleven, did you think, Hey, that's not a bad lifestyle; how do I get that job? If you did, then this article is for you. Because if you think the average criminal ends up with all that dough, not to mention Julia Roberts, then you really are a dolt, and you desperately need these cautionary -- and true -- tales.

Stupid Criminals
Don't try this at home!

Pick the Right Equipment!

Bringing a weapon to a crime causes more grief than it's worth. But if you do decide to arm yourself, it ought to be with something that will actually scare someone.

Earlier this year, 19-year-old Justin MacGilfrey allegedly entered a Daytona Beach, Florida, store, pointed his index finger -- yes, his index finger! -- at the clerk, cocked his thumb, and demanded all the money in the register.

The clerk assumed it was a joke. But MacGilfrey, who has pleaded not guilty to robbery, was serious. After determining the finger wasn't loaded, the clerk emerged from behind the register. That's when the finger-slinger holstered his digit and ran from the store. He was later arrested and, presumably, fingerprinted.

Remember! The police don't care for criminal types. So don't initiate a relationship.

• Phillip Williams was an unhappy consumer. So he stopped two Tampa, Florida, police officers, handed over his crack pipe, and asked if they wouldn't mind testing the crack cocaine that he'd bought earlier, just to make sure it was the real deal. Good news! It was. Bad news! They arrested him.

• A 17-year-old suspected arsonist approached a car in Lambertville, Michigan, intending to siphon gas from it. What he forgot to do was ask permission from the detective sitting in the front seat.

The Alias

The best criminals all have colorful aliases. Names like Jimmy Nostrils and Joe Bananas really liven up a criminal's résumé. Look what happens if you don't have one prepared.

• When Sheboygan, Wisconsin, police pulled over a car for not having proper registration, a passenger did what many criminals do -- he supplied the cops with an alias. Bad move. Turns out, that particular alias was wanted for vehicular homicide.

• Steve Lent was pulled over in Peekskill, New York, for a traffic violation. Since there was already an outstanding warrant for his arrest, police say, he passed himself off as his brother, Christopher. Too bad he didn't remember there was an arrest warrant out for Christopher too.

Remember! Whether your crime calls for aliases or an elaborate fraud, do your homework.

• Alexander D. Smith walked into an Augusta, Georgia, bank and tried to open an account with a $1 million bill. Great idea -- except there is no such thing as a $1 million bill.

• Two machete-wielding men barged into a Sydney, Australia, bar demanding money. Because they didn't know the club was hosting a bikers' meeting, one ended up in the hospital, the other hog-tied with electrical wire.

Make the Cops Work for a Living

In general, broadcasting one's whereabouts is a bad idea.

Convicted of receiving stolen property, James Wombles, 37, had to wear an ankle bracelet as part of his parole. The bracelet came complete with a GPS monitoring system that let cops track his every move. Over the course of a few weeks, the Riverside, Ohio, man allegedly broke into six homes. You know where this is going -- just as the cops knew where Wombles was going. Following the signals from his bracelet, they tracked him to his car, where they found him sitting on the stolen booty.

Remember! There are these people called lawyers. They help people who have been arrested. If you are ever arrested, get a lawyer, and let him or her do all the talking for you.

• When Ellis Cleveland was arrested in Honolulu, a detective informed him he was suspected of robbing four banks. “Four?” responded Cleveland, according to the detective's affidavit. “I didn't do four; I only robbed three banks.”

Lie Low

Publicity is great for starlets. But criminals really should shun the spotlight. Robert Echeverria, 32, scammed a Rialto, California, Del Taco by calling up and pretending he was a local CEO whose order had been botched.

Echeverria was so pleased with the $15 in free eats, he and two friends shot a short movie called How to Scam Del Taco and posted it on YouTube. It proved popular, especially among cops, who watched it and promptly arrested the would-be executive.

Remember! Try not to focus attention on yourself.

• Consumers in northern Alabama became suspicious when they received recorded messages urging them to go to a website where they could “update” their bank account records. How did victims know it was just a “phishing” expedition? Their caller IDs read “This is a scam.”

Have a Plan

If the past few years have taught us anything, it's this: No matter what venture you undertake, have an exit strategy.

Receiving a report of a man banging on a door at 3:30 in the morning, police responded to a mini-mart in Ossining, New York. When officers arrived, they chased Blake Leak, 23, through the streets and down an embankment. It looked bleak for Leak, until both cops took a tumble. Seizing the opportunity, he sought refuge on the grounds of a large building.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a well-known local landmark, the Sing Sing maximum security prison, where he was nabbed by a guard.

Remember! Make a plan, and don't deviate from it.

• Scottish shoplifter Aron Morrison was picked up after pinching a bottle of vodka from a liquor store.

It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to find Morrison, especially since he'd left his name and phone number with the clerk after asking her out on a date.

Beware of Witnesses

Good criminals arrange it so no one is aware that a crime has taken place. Last year a German psychologist was accused of taking advantage of three of his patients. He had sex with one, named Kathrin; convinced another, Finja, to buy him some shoes and shirts; and conned the third, Leonie, into cleaning his house and paying for his vacations. This all came to light when a fourth patient, Monika, became suspicious and called the police. Why would she do that when the three victims hadn't? Because the four are one person: Kathrin, Finja, and Leonie are Monika's multiple personalities. When Monika confronted the psychologist, he refused to discuss the matter, saying it would violate therapist-client confidentiality, something he owed all his clients, including alter egos.

Remember! Don't leave incriminating evidence at the crime scene.

• A convenience-store robber in Des Moines, Iowa, got away with $115 but left his coat. Inside: his W-2 tax form.

• A Target store in Augusta, Georgia, agreed to take back a printer from a dissatisfied customer. Then the clerk noticed some property the customer had left in the machine: counterfeit bills.

• After getting into an argument with a woman at a bus stop, Justin John Boudin of St. Paul, Minnesota, punched her in the face. He then attacked a Good Samaritan with a folder, which fell to the ground when Boudin fled. But cops tracked him down, thanks to what was inside that folder: his anger-management homework.