True Crime Thursday – John Bozeman’s Unsolved Homicide from 1867


John Bozeman

By Debbie Burke


Bozeman, Montana is known for Montana State University, world-class outdoor recreation, expensive homes (median price is $845,000), and the unsolved homicide of the city’s founder more than 150 years ago.

John Bozeman was a pioneer who blazed the Bozeman Trail as a shortcut from Wyoming to the Montana Territory gold fields, although he was unsuccessful at gold prospecting.

In 1867, he became a murder victim.

In the Montana Territory, tension existed between white settlers moving west and Native tribes who, despite treaties, were displaced.

In April, 1867, Bozeman and mill owner Thomas Cover were on their way to Fort C.F. Smith to secure a flour contract for Cover. They spent a night at a cattle ranch belonging to wealthy Nelson Story, Sr.

For unknown reasons, Bozeman was concerned for his safety and expressed his worry in a letter. That night, he shared a room with W.S. McKenzie and “begged” McKenzie to take his place on the journey, even offering his clothes and boots.

Thomas Cover

One possible reason for Bozeman’s fear is that he evidently had made advances on Cover’s wife, Mary, according to this article from The Sherman Room. 

However, the next day, Bozeman and Cover resumed their journey together. According to Cover, when they stopped for a meal near the Yellowstone River, five Native men approached.

A shootout ensued in which Bozeman was struck twice in the chest, killing him. Cover claimed he had been shot once in the shoulder from the rear. He also said Blackfeet men stole their horses. He escaped and returned to the ranch for help.

The next day, Nelson Story arrived at the ranch and sent a trusted guide to study the murder scene. Story examined Cover’s wound, noticed powder burns indicating a shot from close range, and was suspicious that the bullet had entered from the front, contrary to Cover’s claim.

The guide returned and said he’d found Bozeman’s body, along with his valuables, undermining Cover’s claim that theft was the motive for the murder. He found tracks of only Bozeman’s and Cover’s horses, with no indication of five Native men Cover claimed had shot them.

However, soldiers from Fort C.F. Smith later encountered a camp where five outcast Natives bragged that they had killed Bozeman and had his horse.

Shortly after Bozeman’s murder, Cover moved to California and, for a time, successfully raised navel oranges in San Bernardino. In 1884, while searching for gold in the desert between Los Angeles and Yuma, Cover disappeared and was never found.

Years later, Nelson Story’s son said his father told him Cover had killed Bozeman then shot himself in the shoulder to disguise his guilt.

Another version of the murder surfaced when a man named Thomas Kent claimed Nelson Story, Sr. hired him to kill Bozeman.

Hearsay, rumors, and gossip promoted various theories but none of the possible scenarios could be proven with evidence.

John Bozeman’s murder remains a fabled but unsolved mystery.

Renee Carlson’s well-researched article about the homicide was published in Distinctly Montana magazine. Here’s a link to her story.


TKZers: Any theories about this very cold case?



A young Native inmate shouldn’t have gone to prison. Now he’s dead and video evidence is overwhelming against a female guard who swears she’s innocent. Investigator Tawny Lindholm plunges into the sinister world of deep fakes where “proof” isn’t truth.

Available at Amazon and major online booksellers. 

True Crime Thursday – Vicious Vishing by Voice Cloning

Photo credit: Jason Rosewell, Unsplash

By Debbie Burke


Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

That saying has been attributed to sources like Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allen Poe. It’s appeared in song lyrics like Leon Haywood’s “Believe Half of What You See (and None of What You Hear)” and the third verse of the immortal Marvin Gaye classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

Today, those wise words are even truer because of Voice Cloning, a new tool created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the cyber-scammer’s toolkit.

Phishing and Vishing are scams where criminals contact victims, often posing as a bank, reputable business, government agency, hospital, law enforcement, or other entity in order to gain access to your personal and/or financial information.

Phishing contacts victims by email, urging you to open an infected attachment or click on a link that downloads malware. Phishing attacks are generally sophisticated and massive in scale, targeting thousands of businesses and individuals at a time using automation.

Reportedly 74% of organizations in the US have been successfully targeted by phishing attacks.

Vishing (AKA voice phishing) is when a scammer contacts the victim by phone, impersonating a law officer, banker, charity, etc. who convinces you to verbally share your confidential information. The caller ID is spoofed, making the call appear to come from a legitimate source like a bank, Social Security Administration, credit card company, etc.

Vishing requires a scammer to contact one victim at a time, to persuade them to give up sensitive personal and financial information on the phone, making it less efficient than phishing.

However, vishing can still be devastatingly effective, especially now thanks to Voice Cloning. AI can take a sample of someone’s voice and create speech that’s impossible to tell from the real person.

Voice cloning is a boon for scams like Family Emergency, Friend Stranded Overseas, or Grandchild in Trouble. Scammers harvest voice samples of your loved one from YouTube, TikTok, and other online sources.

They can also call the person to record their voice or even use their outgoing voicemail message.

In a few seconds, criminals can download enough of a person’s voice to create a convincing imitation.

Now when “Johnny” calls Grandma saying he was in a car accident and needs bail money, the voice is identical to the real Johnny. That triggers panic, and the victim is more likely to act without thinking. And lose money in the process.

“Johnny” will ask for gift cards, cryptocurrency, or want you to wire money. Once you do, the funds are instantly transferred to the scammer and the transaction can’t be reversed.

Your money is gone.

How do you protect yourself against a voice that sounds exactly like your loved one?

The FTC advises:

“Don’t trust the voice. Call the person who supposedly contacted you and verify the story. Use a phone number you know is theirs. If you can’t reach your loved one, try to get in touch with them through another family member or their friends.”

A simple low-tech safeguard is to have a password or code that only you and your family knows. If something about a call with a loved one sounds suspicious, ask them for the password.

But be careful how you select a code. Criminals often scour social media accounts for clues to possible passwords.

If you post a photo of “my dog Spot” and choose that for your password, it could be guessed.

Speaking of Spot, to wrap up this post on a light note, does anyone remember the old Cal Worthington TV commercials that always featured “My Dog Spot”?

The last Worthington family car dealership was sold in February, 2023. End of an era but Cal’s jingle lives on.


TKZers: Has someone you know been taken in by voice cloning?

Can you think of ways to use Voice Cloning in mystery, suspense, or thriller fiction?



Investigator Tawny Lindholm plunges into an alternate reality where video is fake but death is real.

Please check out my new thriller Deep Fake Double Down.

True Crime Thursday – Baby Formula Fraud


Photo credit – Pexels Public Domain

By Debbie Burke


When there’s a chance for profit, fraudsters never let a crisis go to waste.

One recent emergency was the 2022 shortage of infant formula, especially worrisome for parents of babies who have allergies or who need medical specialty formulas.

Vladislov Kotlyer, 43, of Staten Island, NY, saw the crisis as a profit opportunity. From March 2019 to October 2022, he collected $1.9 million from fraudulent claims to medical insurers and formula suppliers.

The Justice Department Criminal Division, the FBI, and US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York reported:

According to court filings, Kotlyar submitted forged prescriptions and medical records for specialty baby formula that was paid for by health insurers. Kotlyar obtained prescriptions and medical records for infants who were prescribed specialty baby formula and forged those records to obtain additional specialty baby formula. After receiving the specialty baby formula, Kotlyar fabricated issues with the shipments, including falsely claiming they were damaged or the incorrect formula in order to obtain additional formula at no additional cost. As part of the scheme, Kotlyar and his co-conspirators submitted more than $1.9 million in fraudulent claims to health insurers, including during a national shortage of baby formula.

On March 16, 2023, in federal court, Kotlyar pleaded guilty to fraud, agreed to forfeit $1 million, and pay more than $738,000 in restitution. He faces up to 20 years in prison for mail fraud. 

No word about what happened to the baby formula that he obtained as a result of his false claims.

The CDC cautions: “If you buy infant formula online, only purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies (not individual people or auction sites).”

TKZers: Anyone want to guess what happened to the extra formula?

Donated to an orphanage?

Sold out of a car trunk in a Walmart parking lot?

A really splashy gift for a baby shower?

Or something else?



True Crime Thursday – Wire Transfer Fraud

Photo credit: Tima Miroshnichenko-Pexels


By Debbie Burke


Recently a family member purchased a condo in Florida and ran into a disturbing glitch that could have cost him a lot of money.

In olden days, when you bought real estate, you delivered a cashiers check—on a physical piece of paper—to the escrow company. The escrow company then completed the transfer of title and you received a recorded deed to the property—also on a physical piece of paper.

Fast forward to the digital world of 2023. Physical pieces of paper have mostly been replaced with electronic records. In many real estate transactions, instead of a cashiers check, funds are sent via wire transfer. You make a request to your bank to shoot money through cyberspace to the escrow or title company. Once the money is received, the escrow closes, and a virtual deed is recorded that you can access online. There is no physical piece of paper unless you print it yourself.

Exchanging large sums of money without a physical, analog way to trace it sounds fraught with peril.

Turns out it is fraught with peril. Criminals know wire transfers are an excellent way to steal money. Fraud is rampant, costing an estimated $220 billion/year. According to a 2021 survey by American Land Title Association, ONE THIRD of transactions with title companies were targeted by fraudsters. In 71% of cases, full recovery of money was not possible.

Scary? You betcha.

So why use wire transfers when large amounts of money are at stake?

According to a source at the Florida title company, Florida is designated as a state with a high level of drug trafficking and money laundering. Because of that, the federal government wants financial institutions to use wire transfers to enable the government to track money laundering. The source couldn’t explain why a cashiers check couldn’t also be tracked since it leaves a paper trail.

When my relative said he preferred to pay by cashiers check, he was told that the title company would not accept a cashiers check, even though it is legal tender.

How does wire fraud happen?

In many cases, the thief contacts the buyer via email, posing as a real estate agent, title company, or bank official. The email appears genuine. The message says the escrow needs money sooner than anticipated, or the amount has been recalculated and the final amount is different (or some other excuse).

And here is the transaction number to wire the money to.

Of course, the transaction number doesn’t go to the escrow but rather to the thief.

It vanishes with no way to trace or recover the money.

According to Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of

“Can a Wire Transfer Be Reversed?

The short answer: Not usually.

Domestic transfers between accounts at the same bank usually happen within 24 hours. But with the rise of digital banking, wire transfers process almost instantly.

Fraudsters can quickly receive the money, move it into another account, and vanish before the victims have time to cancel or reverse the transfer.

You can only reverse a wire transfer if the sending bank notifies the receiving bank of your cancellation request before the receiving bank processes the transfer. Once the receiving bank accepts the funds, you cannot reverse the transaction.”

Here’s a link to the full article about wire transfer scams.

Victims are banks, title companies, escrow companies, and, of course, the poor consumer who thinks he’s just bought the home of his dreams.

The title officer assured my relative that all would be fine as long as he didn’t fall prey to bogus emails.

But…(there’s always a But)

His transaction ran into a different problem.


A few weeks before, when escrow opened, he had visited the title company in person and obtained a physical piece of paper with the wire instructions and the account number to send the money to. That way, he avoided the potential trap of bogus emails.

On closing day, he went to his bank in person and requested they wire the money from his account to the title company’s account, per the written instructions. The clerk entered all his information into the computer, a process that took 30+ minutes including verifying his identity and that he was indeed the owner of his account.

At last, she hit send and smiled. “All done!”

He requested a paper copy of the confirmation.

“Oh, you can access it online.”

He insisted on the paper copy.

Good thing.

A half hour later, he called the title company. No, they had NOT received the wire transfer. For the next two hours, he tried to call the bank but couldn’t get through constant busy signals.

Concerned, he returned to the bank. The clerk jumped up to greet him saying, “Oh, I’m so glad you came back! Our computers and phone systems crashed. I had no way to get hold of you because I couldn’t remember your name.”

His wire transfer had NOT gone through. It had vanished in cyberspace.

He spent the next two hours recreating the transaction with the clerk, but her computer kept freezing and wouldn’t accept the transfer. She called the bank fraud department, but was unable to speak with them because calls were repeatedly cut off. What the heck was going on? 

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska-Pexels

During that same time, other customers came into the bank complaining they couldn’t access their online accounts. More customers wanted to make deposits, but tellers couldn’t give receipts because their computers were down. All banking transactions ground to a halt.


Later, my relative learned there had been a cyberattack affecting a region from South Carolina to Florida. It had not specifically targeted individual banks but rather was a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. The perpetrators, believed to be located in China, had flooded the net with cyberjunk, overloading the information superhighway. Digital transactions were gridlocked in a virtual traffic jam on a virtual freeway.

Fortunately, my relative had his physical piece of paper, his only proof of the transaction.

The following morning, the wire transfer finally went through and escrow closed.

But what if he had trusted the assurances of the title company and bank? He could have lost significant money. If only the title company had accepted a physical cashiers check, he could have avoided a lot of worry.

Coincidentally, the day after his close call, I happened to overhear a real estate agent talking about a recent sale he’d handled, also in Florida. He’d received an email supposedly from escrow, requesting money be wired a day early. Fortunately, he called to double-check and learned they had not sent the email.

If he had instructed his clients to act on the bogus message, they would have lost their money to fraudsters.

In contrast, according to a retired attorney, California financial institutions do not use wire transfers because of the high likelihood of fraud. Real estate transactions in California are done with cashiers checks. 

Every day, we’re pushed farther into paperless banking. Every day more fraudsters hack accounts or otherwise compromise the security of financial transactions. 

Until the financial world develops better security, whenever possible, I’ll stick with paper checks and physical documentation.


TKZers: Have you or someone you know been a victim of banking cyberfraud? Was the money recovered?

Does your state handle real estate transactions with wire transfers or cashiers checks? 



Coming soon! DEEP FAKE, a new thriller by Debbie Burke. 

What you see with your own eyes may not be real. 

To be notified when DEEP FAKE is released, sign up HERE


True Crime Thursday – GoFundMe Scam

Photo credit – Marco Verch, CC 2.0


By Debbie Burke


In November, 2017, Katelyn McClure met a homeless veteran named Johnny Bobbitt when she ran out of gas on a Philadelphia highway. Bobbitt gave McClure his last twenty dollars. Grateful for his selfless generosity, McClure started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help the former Marine get back on his feet.

Their feel-good story went viral. Within three weeks, 14,000 people donated more than $400,000 to the campaign.

HEA (happily ever after), right?


Turns out the entire story was a scam concocted by McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico.  Although Bobbitt didn’t initiate the fraud, when donations skyrocketed, he joined their conspiracy.

In 2018, the plot thickened when Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico, claiming he had received only $75,000 from them out of the $400,000 raised for his benefit. McClure and D’Amico used the rest of the money on vacations, gambling, expensive handbags, and a BMW.

According to

D’Amico attempted to justify withholding the money from the veteran because of Bobbitt’s purported struggle with drug addiction, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2018 that he’d rather “burn it in front of him” and that giving him the money would be like “giving him a loaded gun.” Though the couple told the paper that they had paid for a hotel room, electronics, food, clothing and eventually a camper for the veteran, they declined to provide receipts.

The unusual lawsuit drew the attention of prosecutors in Burlington, NJ, the NJ Department of Justice, and federal authorities.

During the investigation, a text from McClure came to light. Less than an hour after kicking off the GoFundMe campaign, reports that McClure messaged a friend:

“Ok so wait the gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t,” she said, according to New Jersey prosecutor Scott A. Coffina. “I had to make something up to make people feel bad.”

“So shush about the made up stuff,” she reportedly added.

Digging deeper, investigators found a similar scenario in Bobbitt’s past from a Facebook post in 2012 where he claimed that he’d given his supper money to a woman in need, garnering sympathy and donations.

The GoFundMe scam unraveled. Ultimately, all three pleaded guilty to state and federal charges.

D’Amico, 43, pleaded guilty to misappropriation of funds. In 2022, he was sentenced to five years in prison on state charges, and 27 months for federal charges, sentences to be served concurrently.

In October, 2022, Bobbitt, 39, was sentenced to three years of probation for conspiracy to commit money laundering and ordered to pay $25,000 restitution. He was admitted to an addiction recovery program.

In January, 2023, McClure, 32, guilty of second-degree theft by deception, was sentenced to three years in state prison and is already serving time on a one year and one day sentence in federal prison. She was a former New Jersey state employee and is prohibited from holding any state job.

All were ordered to pay restitution to GoFundMe.

GoFundMe refunded all donations to contributors who were taken in by the fraudulent story.  

GoFundMe posts warnings on how to spot scams and frauds here.

Most people want to help others in need. Con artists prey on those generous, compassionate instincts.

Give from your heart but, first, investigate with your head.


TKZers: Do you check out people or organizations before you donate to them? How?

Have you heard of similar scams?


In Stalking Midas, a glamorous con artist takes advantage of an aging, addled millionaire who loves his nine rescue cats. She can’t allow investigator Tawny Lindholm to disrupt her profitable scam. After all, she’s killed before and each time it gets easier.

Buy at Amazon and major online booksellers.

True Crime Thursday – Thanksgiving Pie Survey


Debbie Burke


Photo credit: Dennis Wilkinson on Flickr

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving dinner without pie would be a True Crime.

So let’s take a pie poll. Which is the best: pumpkin, apple, pecan, sweet potato, mince, or something different? 

Please vote for your favorite pie and feel free to include the recipe, too! 

One of the many blessings I give thanks for is being part of the terrific Kill Zone community. 

Wishing you and yours a day filled with love, fellowship, and good food. 

True Crime Thursday – Tom Brady Super Bowl Rings

By Debbie Burke


7-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady


Hey, psst! Wanna buy a Tom Brady Super Bowl ring?

The sports memorabilia market is estimated at $12.2 billion for 2021 with 15% annual growth anticipated for the next decade.

Collectibles don’t get much bigger than Tom Brady Super Bowl rings.



Scott V. Spina, 25, of Roseland, NJ, figured out a slippery way to cash in on that market. In 2017, he purchased a Super Bowl LI ring and memorabilia from a former Patriots’ player identified as “TJ.” Spina paid with a bad check and immediately sold the ring for $63,000 to a broker of championship rings in Orange County, CA. “TJ” was out of luck–no ring and no money.

Along with the ring, Spina had received information that allowed additional, smaller rings to be purchased for family members and friends of players.

Spina then contacted the Ring Company and claimed to be the player he’d purchased the ring from. He ordered additional rings engraved with the name “Brady” that were supposedly gifts for Brady’s baby.

Next, Spina went back to the Orange County broker and made an agreement to sell him three rings engraved with the “Brady” name, supposedly obtained from Brady’s nephews, for $81,500, nearly three times what Spina paid for the rings.

The broker became suspicious of the nephew story and withdrew from the deal. That probably didn’t bother Spina because, on November 17, 2017, the same day he took delivery of the “nephew” rings, he sold them to an auction house for $100,000. Three months later, one of the family rings was sold at auction for $337,219.

The FBI Art Crime Team investigated and Spina was charged with one count of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

On August 29, 2022, Spina was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of $63,000 to “TJ,” the former Patriot player he bilked out of the original ring.


Risky plays can lead to being sacked.






In Stalking Midas, when investigator Tawny Lindholm uncovers fraud, a glamorous predator stalks her, ready to commit murder to protect her scam.

Buy at:


Major online booksellers.

True Crime Thursday – Assault with a Deadly…Alligator?

By Debbie Burke


In 1967, alligators were close to extinction in the US and placed on the Endangered Species List. Under federal and state protection, the reptile population rebounded enough that they were removed from the list in 1987.

Alligators have recovered nicely, thank you very much. Nowadays, many people consider them pests because they’re found in swimming pools, on golf courses, and in carports. In Florida, special fencing was installed along interstates to keep them from wandering onto freeways.

There’s even a long-running reality TV series called “Swamp People” about professional gator hunters.

Florida’s gator hunting season runs from August 15 to November 1 with more than 7000 permits issued. Over this past Labor Day weekend, a woman caught this shot on I-95 in Brevard County and the photo went viral. Apparently, this hunter successfully filled his tag.

Deep-fried alligator tail is featured at many restaurants—the texture is similar to gristly Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles) with a fishy overtone. Neither is on my list of favorite delicacies.

An alligator was even used as a deadly weapon, according to Palm Beach County prosecutors.

Photo from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

In October, 2015, Joshua James, in his early 20s, picked up a live, three-foot-long alligator at the side of the road and tossed it in the back seat of his truck. At 1:30 a.m., he ordered a drink at the Wendy’s drive-through in Loxahatchee, Florida. When the cashier momentarily turned away, James added an unexpected tip—he tossed the gator through the open drive-up window and drove off.

He wasn’t caught for several months. When arrested in February, 2016, he admitted throwing the gator and claims he didn’t realize anyone would take his prank seriously. Apparently, he knew someone who worked at the restaurant and thought they would be there at the time.

James was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do less than murder” and “unlawful possession of alligator or parts,” both misdemeanors. Bond was set at $6000 with the condition he stay away from any animals except his mother’s dog.

Here’s an interview with James after he made bail.

According to his mother, Linda James: “It was just a stupid prank that he did that’s now turning into this. He’s a prankster. He does stuff like this because he thinks it’s funny.”

When asked if she thought the Wendy’s employees saw it as a prank, she replied, “Well, I mean, how could you not think something like that was a prank?”

Judge Barry Cohen didn’t agree. At trial in May, 2016, he told James, “In my view there is absolutely no excuse for taking an animal, particularly an alligator, and throwing it through a window at a total stranger.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, “David Hitzig, executive director of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, testified that the alligator, while under four feet in length, would still be ‘very powerful’ with extremely strong jaws.”

James apologized for his “stupid prank.” 

Judge Cohen sentenced James to a year of probation, $500 fine, and 75 hours community service.

No one was hurt in the incident, including the alligator. It was not called to testify and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers released it into a canal.

As the woman who took the viral gator photo said, “This is Floriduh.” 


TKZers: Have you heard of unusual weapons used in commission of crimes? Please share.

True Crime Thursday – Investigative Genealogy Solves Cold Cases

Harry Edward Greenwell

By Debbie Burke


Between 1987 and 1990, three women were sexually assaulted and murdered and one more was raped and left for dead in what were dubbed the “Days Inn/I-65 Murders” in Indiana and Kentucky.

The victims were all hotel clerks working the night shift. Vicki Lucille Heath, 41, was sexually assaulted and murdered on February 21, 1987 and her body found behind a trash bin. Two more victims, Margaret Mary “Peggy” Gill, 24, and Jeanne Gilbert, 34, were both sexually assaulted and killed four hours apart on March 3, 1989 at two different Days Inns in Indiana.

On January 2, 1990, a 21-year-old victim was sexually assaulted and stabbed but survived. She gave information to investigators that led to a composite drawing of the attacker.

Composite of I-65 Killer

Ballistic evidence and DNA connected the cases and indicated the same person committed all four attacks.

But who was he?

For more than 30 years, the cases went unsolved despite physical evidence…until the advent of the relatively new field of Investigative Genealogy.

According to the FBI:

Investigative Genealogy and combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research and historical records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes.

This technique involves uploading a crime scene DNA profile to one or more genetic genealogy databases in an attempt to identify a criminal offender’s genetic relatives and locate the offender within their family tree. Utilizing this process, a match was made to [Harry Edward] Greenwell with a close family member. Through this match, it was determined that the probability of Greenwell being the person responsible for the attacks was more than 99 percent.

Harry Edward Greenwell, born in 1944, had a long, violent criminal history beginning in 1963 and spent time in and out of various prisons for armed robbery, sodomy, and burglary. Following his release in 1983, he went to work for a railroad and worked on tracks throughout the Midwest.

Greenwell was married, had a family, and was well-liked in his Iowa community, selling organic produce at the local farmers market.

He died of cancer at age 68 in 2013 without ever being connected to the murders…until investigative genealogy identified him as the killer with 99.99% probability, based on links between DNA evidence and information about a close relative on genealogy sites.

In 2022, the FBI and the Indiana State Police announced Greenwell was the I-65 Killer, solving the crimes. Additionally, he is being investigated for similar cold case crimes.

After 30+ years, families of the four victims at last have closure, although not justice.


TKZers: Have you heard of using Investigative Genealogy to solve cold cases? Do you know of any?



Discover vital links between genealogy and DNA in three baffling cases in Debbie Burke’s latest thriller, Until Proven Guilty.

Available at major booksellers at this link. 

True Crime Thursday – Federal Gas Relief


Photo credit: rock staar, unsplash

By Debbie Burke



Something for nothing is the bait that lures many people to fall for scams. Even more insidious are the ones that promise to solve a bona-fide problem. When there is pending legislation about that problem, the scam becomes even more convincing.

With skyrocketing gas prices, the stage is set for enterprising fraudsters who never let a good crisis go to waste.  

Attorney Steve Weisman, creator of, is consistently on the forefront of new scams that surface faster than lawn mushrooms after a rain. (His alerts have spawned several True Crime Thursday posts and he graciously agreed to be quoted again.)

The latest scam he highlighted is the Federal Fuel Relief Program.

Except there is no such program.

The FTC reports an uptick in calls, emails, and texts supposedly from government representatives who offer rebates or relief checks to soften the impact of high gas prices.

According to Steve: “All you need do, they tell you, is provide some personal and financial information in order to be eligible for the program.”

Sounds simple, right? Simple for scammers to steal your information to commit further fraud.

Why do people continue to fall for these tricks? Because it’s increasingly confusing to parse out actual facts from the news/rumor mill.

It’s even more difficult when some municipalities are in fact paying out such rebates, as described in this article on

The city of Chicago has already started issuing some of the 50,000 prepaid $150 gas cards and 100,000 prepaid $50 transit cards approved by the city council.

North Carolina and California have pending legislation for similar measures. Californians could qualify for up to $1050 in relief.

The proposed Gas Rebate Act of 2022 is currently being discussed in the U.S House of Representatives, potentially with payments of $100/month or higher to qualified households during every month that average gas prices are above $4/gallon.

Photo credit: boopathi-rajaa-nedunchezhiyan-unsplash

Whether these or other proposals pass is up in the air. Some end up only being hot air.

But people often assume they’ve gone into effect. Next thing they know, that friendly, helpful “government employee” calls up, offering to expedite the process. Just verify your Social Security number and bank account number so they can direct-deposit the rebate.

Steve’s tagline is “Trust me, you can’t trust anybody.” That includes the caller ID that claims the IRS or Social Security is on the line or a link in an official-looking email or text that takes you to a fraudulent site masquerading as a government agency.

Scammers continue to refine their tactics and grow ever more sophisticated and convincing with their frauds.

Warn family and friends, particularly seniors who are prime targets, NEVER to give out personal information when someone calls, emails, or texts, without first verifying the sender is legitimate.

The Federal Fuel Relief Program is pure flatulence. The only relief is to hang up or hit delete.


TKZers: What’s the latest scam you or someone you know has been targeted by?

Feel free to share horror stories. The more we know, the less likely we are to be victimized.



Please check out my thriller Stalking Midas about a glamorous con artist who targets an addled millionaire with nine feral cats.


Major online bookstores