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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random Acts of Crime: Snapshots 5

February 2012
Hope Mills, North Carolina

     Evangeline Lucca was either in a hurry or having a serious BigMac Attack when she drove directly up the the McDonald's pick-up window ahead of a line of vehicles in the drive-thru lane. (Cutting off people waiting for McDonald's goodies is like snatching food from the jaws of a starving dog. Not recommended.) With her 3-year-old daughter in the car, the 37-year-old woman wouldn't budge after McDonald employees refused to serve her. Someone, perhaps envisioning a riot, or a McMurder, called the police.

     When confronted by deputies with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, Lucca, apparently unwilling to let a couple of cops move her to the back of the line, wouldn't budge for them either. But unlike McDonalds employees, these guys carry taser guns. A deputy administered the voltage, and the hungry, impatient suspect found herself in another line. One that led directly to the county jail. A child protection officer took the little girl into custody as well. Although charged with second degree trespass, Lucca should have been charged with first degree stupid.

February 2012
Chicago, Illinois

     Burglars broke into a Lincoln Park jewelry store by cutting through a wall shared by a sushi restaurant next door. The thieves cut the hole right behind the safe in a small area not covered by security cameras and the motion detecting intrusion alarm. Using a powerful saw, the burglars cut into the safe and removed the gems. To cool the saw blade as it cut into the money chest, the intruders used a bucket of ice-cold beer. Based on the M.O. of this heist, the thieves were operating with inside information. If I were on the case, I'd be checking out former employees, and asking current ones to take polygraph tests.

February 2012
Armada, Michigan

     In March 2011, 25-year-old Mallorie Wilson-Strat waited in a car parked in front of a house in Armada where two men she had hired were supposedly murdering Wilson-Stat's boyfriend's estranged wife. The killing of the 32-year-old murder for hire target didn't happen because the hit men got cold feet and fled the scene. An earlier attempt to murder this woman, orchestrated by Wilson-Stat, had also failed. On her third try, the mastermind hired an undercover cop to do the job.

     In February 2012, following a three-day trial at the County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens, Michigan, the jury found Wilson-Stat guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, solicitation of murder, and aiding and abetting a home invasion. The would-be victim's estranged husband, Kevin Sears, testified that he had not put his girlfriend up to the murder of his estranged wife.

     At her upcoming sentence hearing in March, the convicted woman's attorney will argue that his client was a puppet being manipulated by her boyfriend, Kevin Spears (who has not been charged.) According to the lawyer, she did it--tried to kill a woman three times--for love. The minimum sentence in Michigan for the crimes Wilson-Stat committed is 15 years in prison. The maximum is life. I'm pulling for that one.

February 2012
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

     In November 2010, district judge Kelly Ballentine received a pair of parking tickets and a summons regarding the expired registration on her BMW. The fines totaled $268.50. Rather than pay up like the rest of us, Judge Ballentine accessed the online magisterial district judicial system and fixed her own tickets. The 43-year-old judge had been elected to the bench in 2006. (In Pennsylvania, anyone can be a district judge, all you have to do is run for the office and get enough votes.) Charged with conflict of interest, public records tampering, and obstruction of justice, Ballentine is free on $25,000 bail. (I'd like to hack into the system and raise that to $1 million.) If convicted on all counts, she could be sentenced up to seven years in prison. (That won't happen. I'd be surprised if she gets any prison time.) On paid administrative leave, Judge Ballentine could face disciplinary action imposed by the state supreme court. (Not long ago, a pair of central Pennsylvania judges were convicted of taking kick-backs from a private prison for every kid they sentenced to the facility.)

February 2012
Los Angeles, California

     In Los Angeles, people who are physically disabled can be issued blue placards that allow them to park free all day. The problem is, hundreds of motorists are using cards issued to other people, depriving the city of angels needed revenue. This month, undercover officers with the Los Angeles Department of transportation, ran a sting operation that revealed how badly the system is being abused. Illegal parkers caught in the crackdown were fined between $250 and $1,000. A few could end up in jail for up to six months. (One nice thing about jail--parking is not a problem.) When caught, most of the fraudulent parking card users were not ashamed or remorseful. They were furious.

February 2012
Pasadena, California

     On Sunday night, February 12, Pasadena police were called to the apartment Marston Hefner shared with his girlfriend, Claire Sinclair. Officers took the 21-year-old Hefner into custody when they discovered that his girlfriend had been injured. On Monday, after being charged with domestic assault, Hefner was released on $20,000 bail. Sinclair, that day, acquired an emergency restraining order against Mr. Hefner.

     None of this would have been an event worthy of media attention had the suspect not been the son of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Adding icing to this celebrity journalism cake, the 20-year-old alleged victim was 2011's Playmate of the year. (I predict, for Claire Sinclair, a spot on next year's "Celebrity Apprentice.") Two days after Hefner's release from jail (From young Hef we might see a prison memoir based on his hellish incarceration.), Sinclair told reporters she would not press charges if Marston admitted that he had hit her more than once, and sought psychiatric help. (Too many stories like this one and I'll be looking for a shrink myself.)

February 2012
Ozark, Missouri

     Edward Maher, a 36-year-old armored car driver, on January 22, 1993, drove his money truck to a remote spot near Felixstowe on England's east coast, loaded $1.5 million (U.S.) in bills and coins into his car, and disappeared. "Fast Eddie," as he became known in England, fled to America with his 3-year-old son Lee, his wife Deborah, and the money. After living in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Edward, using the name Michael King, moved his family, in 2006, to Ozark, Missouri, a town of 18,000 in the southwest corner of the state.

     In 2010, the broadband technician with a cable company called Suddelink, was $35,000 in debt, driving an old car, and living with his wife and son in a drab housing complex. That year, he filed for personnel bankruptcy. In 201l, things got better for Michael King when he won $100,000 from a scratch lottery ticket. That year, Michael's 23-year-old son Lee, married an Ozark girl named Jessica. That's when life took a wrong turn for England's "Fast Eddie."

     Lee King, who liked to tell people he had been a decorated military officer, also told his friends that his father had been an infamous English armor car thief who had been on the lamb for twenty years. This story sounded so fantastic, nobody believed him. But when Lee told his new wife the story, Jessica went online to check it out, and sure enough, it was true. When Edward Maher, AKA Michael King, learned that his son had spilled the beans to his new wife, he threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Fearing for her life, that's exactly what she did.

     In February, FBI agents arrested Maher at his home in Ozark. He is currently in federal custody for, as an illegal immigrant, possessing a firearm. He will eventually be extradited back to England where he can still be prosecuted for the armored car heist. Because they are not U.S. citizens, his wife and son will be going back with him. (I find it interesting that in America, an illegal immigrant can file for bankruptcy, get a driver's license, and possess a social security card. I'd also like to know how Maher converted all that money to U.S. currency, then made it to America.) 

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