Police Beat: A dead man’s credit card, offering and agreeing, and a stolen iPhone

These (not so) smooth criminals should stick to their day jobs

Sometimes the “perfect crime” doesn't quite play out as intended. Here are some criminals who could use some practice.
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Sometimes the “perfect crime” doesn't quite play out as intended. Here are some criminals who could use some practice.

Editor’s note: Compiled from reports to Tacoma police and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Jan. 31: The man said his uncle gave him permission to use the credit card. He said he didn’t know his uncle was dead.

The call began with a traffic stop in the town of South Prairie, a rural spot in East Pierce County. A sheriff’s deputy noticed a black 1980s-era Honda Accord stopped at an intersection. The driver turned, and the car pumped out billows of white smoke thick enough to stop traffic.

The deputy followed the car and pulled it over. The driver and a passenger stepped out and started walking away.

The deputy stopped the driver, who looked around as if he might run. Cuffed, he gave a name.

The deputy checked records and found nothing. He checked the license plate on the Accord and got no hits.

Did the man have any identification? He said he didn’t. He said he’d never been arrested.

Then he said he was going to jail.

Why was that?

The man, 23, said he had a warrant for his arrest.

So why did he claim he’d never been arrested? What was his real name?

The man gave a new name. This one had records attached: an active arrest warrant from the state Department of Corrections, and another from Pierce County District Court.

The deputy looked at the man’s wallet and found a credit card with yet a different name.

What was this?

The man said the card belonged to his uncle.

The deputy happened to know the uncle’s name, along with another fact: The uncle had died in November. Was the man aware of that?

The man said he didn’t know. He said his uncle gave him the credit card in September.

The deputy booked the man into the Pierce County Jail on the arrest warrants and suspicion of making false statements to a law enforcement officer.

Jan. 28: In Tacoma, a jumbled stretch of Pacific Avenue South is well known for strategic loitering.

A small contingent of Tacoma officers were working the area. One wore civilian clothes. Others watched from nearby as he walked through the 9200 block.

Not far away, a woman walked back and forth. She wore sunglasses, a black jacket and black stockings.

She spotted a car in a parking lot, approached it and spoke to the driver. She reached for the door, and tried to open it, but it was locked. The car pulled away. She repeated the move with another car and driver.

The officer in civilian clothes set the trap. He walked toward the woman. She noticed.

“Hi,” she said. “What are you looking for?”

“Company,” the officer replied.

“Where do we go then?”

The officer and the woman agreed that they didn’t want to get arrested. She took out a piece of paper and started writing.

The officer indicated that oral sex would do. He said he had $30.

“Yeah, we can work with that,” the woman said. She handed him the piece of paper. It listed her name and a phone number. She told the officer to call when he had a place to go.

That was all it took. The officer alerted his colleagues. They drove up to the woman, emergency lights flashing. They cuffed her.

The woman, 33, gave her name and date of birth.

Had she been selling sex?

The woman said no, just walking.

Officers booked her into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of engaging in prostitution.

Jan. 29: When it comes to cell phone thefts at school, the usual suspect is a kid, not a dad — but there are exceptions.

The dispatch call came from Ford Middle School in Midland. A campus safety officer reported that a parent had her phone stolen.

A sheriff’s deputy drove to the scene, spoke to the officer, and took a look at surveillance video from the parking lot.

The footage showed a woman stepping out of a Dodge Durango to pick up a student. The woman had closed the car door, but it didn’t shut properly.

A few moments later, the footage revealed another car, a white sedan with racing stripes, pulling into the lot. Two people stepped out: a man and a woman.

They walked past the Durango. The man paused at the driver’s door, reached in, grabbed the phone and shoved it into his back pocket.

The resource officer said the woman in the white car was the parent of a student. She wasn’t sure who the man was.

The deputy spoke to the woman whose phone had been stolen. She said she didn’t realize her door didn’t close. She noticed the phone was missing and reported it to the main office. She said it was a red iPhone with a clear case. She had tried to use an app to track it down, but the phone appeared to be turned off.

The deputy spoke to the resource officer again, and obtained a home address for the student whose mother drove the white car.

He drove to the 10200 block of 4th Avenue Court East and spotted a white sedan with black stripes in a driveway. He knocked on the door.

A man answered. He matched the man seen in surveillance footage.

Had he gone to the school today to pick up the student? The man said he didn’t.

What was his relationship to the student?

The man said he was the stepfather.

The deputy spoke to the woman who owned the white car.

Had she gone to the school today?

Yes, she said — they both did, for a student disciplinary conference.

The deputy told the man he was under arrest. He asked if the man had taken the phone.

The man said yes, and pulled it out of his back pocket. The deputy booked him into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of vehicle prowling and second-degree theft.

News Tribune investigative reporter Sean Robinson won the 2016 Ted Natt First Amendment award for ongoing scrutiny of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s office. Since 2000, he has produced award-winning coverage related to criminal justice, government accountability and public disclosure.