True Crime Thursday – Motorized Surfboard Fraud

Photo credit: Brent Storm – Unsplash

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

Cowabunga! was a popular exclamation by surfers in the 1960s. An earlier iteration, kawabunga, was coined on “The Howdy-Doody Show” in the 1950s. In the 1990s, the Ninja Turtles revived cowabunga’s popularity.

In 2016, Roberto Clark, 50, of Palm Bay, Florida, had a concept for motorized surfboards he called “Jetboards” that apparently caused some investors to holler “Cowabunga!”

Between 2016 and 2019, Clark convinced people he met in bars, restaurants, and adult entertainment establishments in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. to invest in his company, KRM Services. KRM was supposed to manufacture Jetboards to be sold at big profits to cruise lines and water sports companies. Clark had a patent, purchase orders, and signed, notarized contracts to prove substantial buyer interest. He collected more than $350,000 from 14 investors.

Only one problem: he never manufactured any Jetboards.

The patent, purchase orders, and buyer contracts were falsified.

Investors’ money went, not to build Jetboards, but to finance Clark’s luxurious lifestyle. According to court filings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, he spent: “at least $41,000 to restaurants and bars; at least $19,000 to hotels; at least $15,000 to family members; at least $8,000 to department and clothing stores; at least $5,000 to convenience and gas stores; at least $3,000 to grocery and liquor stores; at least $1,000 to gyms; at least $1,500 to spas and beauty salons; at least $1,000 to pet stores and groomers; and at least $200 to a bail bondsman.

That last expense might have been incurred in March, 2018, when the Fairfax County Police Department arrested Clark.

Yet he brazenly continued to solicit more investors as late as 2019. When suspicious victims demanded return of their money, Clark paid some of them…with checks that bounced.

Photo credit: Kurt Anderson – Unsplash

The Jetboard scam wiped out once and for all in January, 2021, when Clark was found guilty of multiple charges including securities fraud. He was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $400,000.

Here’s hoping his victims were compensated and hollered, “Cowabunga!”

~~~

No TKZer would ever invest in a company whose owner they met in a bar or adult establishment, right? Do you know anyone who has?

~~~

 

 

 

If you invest in Debbie Burke’s new thriller Flight to Forever, she absolutely guarantees she will yell: “Cowabunga!” Please check it out at this link.

+7

True Crime Thursday – COVID 19 Scams

Photo credit: Mika Baumeister – unsplash

By Debbie Burke

@burke_twitter

The pandemic has provided new opportunities to enrich scammers. For today’s True Crime Thursday, I’m highlighting two popular schemes that thieves developed to profit from COVID 19.

First scheme: Economic Impact Payments. 

Your phone rings and caller ID says it’s the IRS.

Gulp! Your heart speeds up.

The caller claims to be an IRS agent. He or she sounds authoritative and convincing, offering a name (fake) and ID badge number (also fake). They may even already know some personal information about you.

They claim you owe the IRS money and demand you make immediate payment.

But, being compassionate, understanding folks, they offer several options they’ll accept for payment–such as a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer…

Or

You can sign over your economic stimulus payment check and send it to them, endorsing it as “payment for past debts.”

If you don’t comply, the formerly compassionate, understanding caller becomes aggressive and threatens you with arrest.

Variation: They claim you’re owed a refund but they need personal information before they send it to you.

Reality: Scammers can easily spoof the supposed IRS number. They often impersonate IRS agents, law enforcement, or other officials to intimidate their targeted victim. 

The IRS may call you but their first contact is generally by mail.

They do not demand payment by pre-paid debit cards. They do not request credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If the caller becomes abusive, the IRS advises you to hang up immediately.

Variation: phishing by email or text – You receive an email, text, or message through social media, claiming to be from the IRS. The sender address appears similar to IRS.gov but may be IRSgov (no dot).

It claims you need to update your information or that you’re owed a refund. It instructs you to click on a link that takes you to an official-appearing IRS site. There, you are prompted to enter personal information like Social Security number, bank accounts, PINs, etc.

Reality: The IRS will never contact you by text or social media. They do however use email to contact you. Always study the sender’s address carefully.

If you click on a phony link and answer the questions, thieves have your personal information. They can then file fraudulent tax returns to obtain refunds.

Even worse, clicking on the link may install malware that gives criminals access to your computer where they can steal sensitive information like passwords.

If you have doubts that a call or email is legitimate, the IRS advises you contact them directly through the IRS.gov website.

Here’s a link to IRS scam warnings: https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/irs-warns-about-covid-19-economic-impact-payment-fraud

Another wrinkle in economic stimulus payments is causing confusion. Your second payment may come in a different form than your first payment did.

The first payment may have been direct-deposited into your bank account or you might have received a check from U.S. Treasury.

But the second payment may arrive by mail as a VISA debit card. Because the envelope does not look like the typical IRS check, many people think it’s advertising or a solicitation and toss it.

Here’s what it looks like (click to enlarge):

The return address on the envelope has a Dept. of Treasury logo and says Economic Impact Payment Card from a P.O. Box in Omaha, NE.

Even though it looks peculiar, the VISA card is valid. 

~~~

Second scheme: Vaccine scams

You receive a phone call from the Social Security Administration or Pfizer, the drug company manufacturing COVID 19 vaccines.

At least that’s what Caller ID says.

The caller invites you to sign up to receive the vaccine.You only need to give them your Social Security number, Medicare number, bank account, and credit card information.

Further, the caller claims you can be placed higher on the priority list to receive the vaccine if you pay a fee.

Reality: According to attorney Steve Weisman in a recent Saturday Evening Post article

“The truth is that the Social Security Administration is not calling anyone about getting the vaccine, and no one is being asked to pay a fee to be put on a priority list to receive the vaccine. This is just a scam to get your personal information and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.”

Vaccine scammers also employ email messages and texts, like those described above by the IRS, to trick the recipient into clicking on malicious links.

~~~

Yes, in fact, there is a special list that gives preferential attention to seniors. Unfortunately, it’s the Scammers’ Roster of Favorite Prey.

Please watch out for vulnerable friends and family who might be on that most-favored list.

~~~

TKZers: Have you been contacted by someone impersonating the IRS, Social Security Administration, or a drug manufacturer?

Do you know anyone who’s been defrauded by COVID 19 scams? Please share that experience.

~~~

 

 

Debbie Burke’s new thriller Flight to Forever features a pair of plucky senior outlaws on the lam. Please check out the book here.

 

+8

True Crime Thursday – How Not to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

Photo credit: TheKohser CC by SA-3

Happy Thanksgiving!

In case you haven’t yet put your turkey in the oven, here are a couple of new variations on cooking poultry—one legal, one illegal.

The legal technique:

Instant pots are the current go-to appliance for many meals but I hadn’t thought about trying to cram a turkey into one. According to this blog, apparently, it is doable.

Since today is True Crime Thursday, I’m compelled to also include the illegal technique:

This case involves chickens rather than turkeys. But I suspect, if enough alcohol is involved, someone will eventually try this with the larger bird.

Last August, Eric Romriell and Eric Roberts, both of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Dallas Roberts, of West Valley City, Utah, visited Yellowstone National Park. The three men are in their forties and fifties. Romriell is an ophthalmologist.

Photo credit: Clarence Alford-Pixabay

While there, they decided to cook dinner…by boiling two chickens in the hot springs at Shoshone Geyser Basin.

They were observed carrying cooking pots to a remote location. There, they put two whole raw chickens into a burlap sack and lowered them into the steaming water.

A park ranger responded to the location. When asked what their intention was, Eric Roberts answered, “Make dinner.”

The ranger probed further and inquired which one had come up with this idea. Roberts answered, “It was kind of joint thing.”

Hmm.

The article didn’t say but one guess is the “joint” idea was cooked up with the help of an unidentified adult beverage.

Earlier this November, the judge ordered fines of $540 and $1250 and banned the three would-be chefs from Yellowstone for two years.

No report what happened to the chicken dinner.

~~~

TKZers, what are your favorite culinary tips for Thanksgiving?

~~~

Today—and every day—I give thanks for the energetic, talented, and encouraging TKZ community. You make writing fun and I’m constantly learning.

Wishing everyone in the TKZ family a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

+8

True Crime Thursday – A Little Birdie Told Me

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

Photo credit: imtfi CC BY-SA2.0

The day is lovely and you’re out for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. Homes, stores, buildings, and traffic intersections are far away and so are security cams. You think you’re by yourself (except for the smartphone in your pocket that constantly broadcasts your location).

There, up in the blue sky, you spot a dove circling above you as it floats and dips on wind currents.

Except…it might not be a bird.

Surveillance drones masquerading as birds have been around for almost a decade (that we know of!).

In China, the Northwestern Polytechnical University Dove Program has flown to new heights. Weighing in at seven ounces, with a wing span of 20 inches, the Dove drone is indistinguishable in size from a real bird. It is also nearly silent and virtually undetectable, even by radar.

According to a 2018 article in Business Insider:

“Each of the drones has a built-in high-definition camera, a GPS antenna, a flight control system and data link with satellite communication capability.”

The “birds” are lifelike enough to fool real birds. The same article reports:

“…these robotic birds can go undetected in the presence of other animals, with some birds even flying alongside them.”

China is using Dove drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement.

According to the UK publication AI Daily:

“The AI [artificial intelligence] in the robotic bird allows it to fly completely unaided, whilst taking measurements allowing it to compensate for the wind and to avoid other objects. If the camera detects something, the bird can simultaneously interpret this data and it will lock onto anything it perceives to be ‘suspicious’.”

AI Daily goes on to say:

“Cameras will no longer just record video, they will autonomously analyse and interpret the footage live…

After a sufficient amount of this data has been inputted, [web platform] Ella’s AI will be able to autonomously detect criminal activity and will be designed to subsequently alert the police.”

In other words, a fake bird may soon make decisions whether or not someone is arrested for an alleged crime.

Hmmm.

~~~

TKZers: What plot can you conjure where a “bird” is watching?

Can you think of ways to trick such surveillance? (asking for a friend)

~~~

 

 

No crime? No murder? What the heck is Debbie Burke doing in her new novella? Check out Crowded Hearts for only $.99 at this link.

+9

True Crime Thursday – How to Murder Your Husband

by Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

This case sounds like an episode of Murder She Wrote.

Nancy Brophy Booking Photo

On June 2, 2018, Dan Brophy, 63, a chef and instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, was shot once in the back and once in the chest. Both shots went through the heart, killing him.

In September 2018, Dan’s wife, romance novelist Nancy Brophy, was charged with the murder of her husband of 27 years.

Nancy has been held without bail in Multnomah County Inverness Jail since her indictment. Here’s a link to her booking record.

In April 2020, her attorneys requested Nancy, now 70, be released due to danger from COVID 19. The judge denied the request.

Here is the State’s Memorandum in Support of a Denial of Bail.

The memorandum asserts the alleged motive is more than a million dollars in life insurance, policies which Nancy apparently sold to herself. She reportedly paid more than $16,000 in premiums to keep the policies current while falling $6000 behind in mortgage payments on the couple’s home.

Portland Monthly recounted the chronology of Dan’s murder on June 2, 2018:

[Nancy] had told police she was home when she learned something happened at the culinary institute the day her husband was killed. But a surveillance camera recorded her driving her Toyota minivan west on Jefferson Street, directly in front of the school, at 7:08 a.m.

At 7:21, Dan disarmed the school’s alarm. At 7:28, the surveillance camera again captured Nancy driving on Jefferson Street. At 7:30, Dan’s colleague arrived at OCI, and at 8, his body was discovered as students entered the kitchen.

 

The murder weapon is believed to be a Glock 9 mm handgun but it has not been found.

The state’s memorandum also asserts that Nancy owned a Glock 9 mm but a forensics expert did not think that particular weapon fired the fatal shots. However, before the murder, Nancy had purchased a different Glock barrel and parts on eBay, giving rise to speculation she swapped parts.

A search of Dan’s phone revealed a bookmarked article on their shared iTunes account entitled “10 Way to Cover Up a Murder.”

A short story written by Nancy entitled “How to Murder Your Husband” appeared on the blog SeeJanePublish in 2011. That site is not now publicly accessible.

The website Nancy Brophy Writer does not appear to have been updated since early 2018. The “About” page includes this passage:

I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project. As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night. For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes.

Nancy Brophy’s trial is scheduled to begin September 28, 2020. Stay tuned.

~~~

 

Debbie Burke’s new novella, Crowded Hearts, is unlike her other thrillers–no crime, no murder, but lots of suspense. Crowded Hearts will soon be released in ebook for FREE to say “thanks” to loyal readers of Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with a Heart.

Cover design by TKZ regular Brian Hoffman. 

+13

True Crime Thursday – Poor Choice for a Getaway Vehicle

by Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

Photo from Wikipedia

 

Not enough evidence exists to declare a new crime trend but, from time to time, thefts of motorized shopping carts make the news.

Battery-powered carts are intended for customers with physical disabilities. Yet some thieves—often under the influence—use them as getaway vehicles.

Since the top speed of the typical cart is two miles per hour, none has been involved in high-speed pursuits. So far, the success rate of clean getaways is zero.

But hope springs eternal.

In May, 2009, thefts of motorized shopping carts occurred in two separate incidents. A Florida man was caught riding a stolen cart not far from the store. Two South Carolina men attempted a similar caper. Because the carts were valued at $2500, all were arrested for felonies. If they had stolen regular, non-motorized carts instead, the charges would have been misdemeanors.

In September 2014, a 46-year-old woman from Fruitport Township, Michigan, couldn’t get a ride and didn’t want to walk. So, she put six bags of allegedly stolen clothes, worth $600, in a Walmart motorized cart and took off. She was apprehended two miles away by police who ran her through the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), along with the man accompanying her. Both had outstanding warrants.

In January 2015, a Eunice, Louisiana man, age 45, who claimed to have a broken foot loaded up a Walmart cart with a half-gallon of vodka, Mardi Gras cups, and other items and headed across the street to a truck stop parking lot. Surveillance video confirmed he had not paid for the items. When police arrested him, the party was cancelled.

In November 2019, a different Louisiana man, age 32, realized he was too drunk to drive his car and worried he might get a DWI. His solution: drive a Walmart motorized shopping cart instead. A Terrebonne Parish sheriff deputy spotted the scooter parked between two cars at a bar a half mile away. After further investigation, he arrested the suspect. The man was charged, not for DWI, but “unauthorized use of a moveable”, a felony.

The above cases might have had better success if they’d chosen a vehicle like Bonnie and Clyde’s V8 Ford for their getaways.

Bonnie Parker – public domain

Clyde Barrow – wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TKZers: What’s the most unusual getaway vehicle you’ve heard of? Was it successful?

+8

How To Speak Cop — Version 2.0

Code 3 to a 10-72. See a scrote in PSP jackrabbit, wall-it, turn a shiv, take the electric slide and a blast of Jesus Juice, then hagged-up and scrogged-out before jewelried, bunwagoned, shipped through the Sally Port, nutted & butted, then inked and blinked before bowing to the turn key and clinked in the cooler.

Huh? Say what? This time in plain-speak, please.

Okay. To someone who doesn’t speak cop, this jargon, lingo, acronym and code sounds foreign. It’s not necessarily a secret language, though. It’s just the way cop-talk has evolved over time. Let’s dissect the opening paragraph so it’s understandable to the GP (General Public).

Code 3 (responding with emergency equipment activated) to a 10-72 (serious crime in progress). See a scrote (criminal element) in PSP (Possession of Stolen Property) jackrabbit (make a run for it), wall-it (no place to go), turn a shiv (knife), take the electric slide (get Tasered) and a blast of Jesus Juice (OC pepper spray), then hagged-up (chewed by a police dog) and scrogged-out (physically controlled) before jewelried (handcuffed), bunwagoned (put in the prisoner van), shipped through the Sally Port (secure vehicle bay between the outside and the cell block), nutted & butted (strip searched), then inked and blinked (fingerprinted and photographed) before bowing to the turn key (received by the jail guard) and clinked in the cooler (locked in a cell).

See? That makes perfect sense once it’s explained. However, there’s a lot more to cop-speak than this snippet.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a Kill Zone post titled How To Speak Cop — Version 1.0. It was basic with stuff like 10-Codes, the phonetic alphabet and typical rank structures within police departments. It went over well (if you can believe the comments), and there seemed to be an appetite for a deeper drill into how LE (Law Enforcement) officers communicate. So here’s Version 2.0 on How To Speak Cop.

Inter and Intra Departmental Dysfunction

The biggest misconception the GP has of LE and other FR (First Responders) is they all get along. One big happy red, white & blue family. Right? Wrong.

Cops feud amongst themselves and with other ERs (Emergency Responders)—particularly the hydrant humpers or basement savers (firefighters). (Not that the hose draggers don’t have terms for the pigs). Internally, within the police structure, it starts with a disconnect between labor and management. The grunts and the carpet cops.

The white shirts (commissioned officers like the Chief Cumquat and his Brasshole commanders) are office bitches. They’re comma commies who push paper, not pursue pukes. Sure, the odd time a dinosaur rides-along and some geardo volunteers to Drive Miss Daisy but, for the most part, house mouses stay in their Ivory Tower  or Puzzle Palace and respond to Dear Chiefs.

Disconnect? It’s no wonder a PFL (Patrolman For Life) would pull an Upper Decker (sneak into the Chief’s executive washroom and drop a deuce [#2] in the toilet tank).

You’re probably wondering what a Dear Chief is. Every cop, at some point in their service, F’s up and has to write an account of their F-up. It’s usually a self-serving explanation for a momentary lapse in judgment. I found this Dear Chief letter online, and it’s too good not to share:

“Dear Chief, I recently purchased a Smith and Wesson Model 642 .38 caliber airweight subcompact revolver as a backup weapon. Last night before roll call I accidently shot a hole in the squad room’s avocado-colored Kenmore 20.9 cu. Ft. refrigerator while showing my weapon to a few officers. The ice maker sustained a kill shot to its motor, rendering it DRT. The energy star rating was a 3.5 and even though I placed a band aide over the .38 caliber perforation, it’s probably a lot less now. I went online and tried to order new parts but apparently they stopped making this model in 1973. In the meantime, I put a 60 quart ice chest with wheels and telescoping handle next to the fridge with four bags of ice in it.”

The problem with carpet cops is they have to get their breeding stock somewhere. It starts with cheese dicks in the trenches. You get guys like Lick Larry, the Milk Man, Gary The Gash and Pillow Face who are dump trucks. They’re hall monitors and eventually it’s a MUPPET who makes chief. MUPPET, by the way, is the acronym for Most Useless Police Person Ever Trained.

It’s not just the ladder rungs who dumpster fight. The rift extends to operational units like the goofs-in-suits (detectives) with the odd Dickless Tracy in the mix, the harness bulls (patrol division) and the traffic monkeys who are also known as road apes, boulevard baboons and the simians of speed.

On The Street

There are more cop terms for street people than I can count. Some are fair. Some are not. But there’s a zero sum game going on. Cops keep these low-lives from killing themselves and each other while the dirt bags keep cops employed. Here’s a random sample of names cops give to bottom feeders:

  • Scrote (Derivative of scrotum)
  • Puke
  • Gutter Snipe
  • Lurch
  • Hairbag
  • JAFA — Just Another F’n A-hole
  • Maggot
  • Scumbag
  • Oxygen Thief or Sucking Air Syndrome
  • Mumbzee
  • Jackleg Ratchet Ass
  • Golf Foxtrot Zulu (Giant F’n Zit)
  • Banjo Pickers, Mouth Breathers and Trailer Trash who live in a Cat Piss Palace

It can get dangerous on the street. Cops have all sorts of defensive and offensive terminology like their Sam Browne with Basket Weave, Tupperwear (Glock pistol), Hot Stick (loaded weapon), Bang Switch (trigger) and Booger Hook (trigger finger), Booya (shotgun), In The Pipe (chambered round), New York Reload (backup piece), and “Eat Some Lead, Barrel Sucker”.

Cops need vehicles on the street, and they give them lots of different names. We covered Bunwagon which is universal. So is PC which stands for police car, patrol car, police cruiser or something like that. Here are a few more vehicles according to cop-speak:

  • Ghost Car (unmarked patrol car)
  • Slick (marked car without Berries and Cherries or roof lights)
  • Ghetto Bird (police helicopter)
  • UC Unit (undercover car) with Ghost Plates (untraceable Markers)
  • Organ Donors (motorcycles)

A police specialty on the street is surveillance. Bigger departments have dedicated surveillance units that do nothing but follow crooks around. They get pretty good at it, and they’ve developed their own special lingo. Here’s a sample:

  • The Target (person being surveilled)
  • The Eye (person who has the Target in visual contact)
  • The Wheel (surveillance vehicle driver)
  • The Foot (passenger who can get out and follow at any time)
  • R-Bender (right turn)
  • L-Bender (left turn)
  • Fresh Ruby (new red light)
  • Stale Emerald (old green light)
  • Crowing (target is standing and looking around)
  • Rubbernecking (target keeps looking over their shoulder)
  • Taking Heat (target is being suspicious of a surveillance unit)
  • Burned (target has made the surveillance team)
  • Call Off The Dogs (surveillance is shut down)

Behind The Badge

Cop-speak has hundreds, if not thousands, of specific terms and labels. Some of it is quite derogatory and vulgar, so I’m not going to post that stuff here. Some is extremely racist… like me being called a peckerwood. That’s nowhere near as bad as some of the skin slurs, though.

There’s a great resource to check out if you really want an immersion into real cop-speak. It’s called policemag.com with a section on cop slang. Here’s a bit of what I found on their site:

  • Duck — An obvious criminal. Like, if it looks, walks and talks like one…
  • Kit Whore — An officer who is adorned with the latest gadgets
  • Form 1 — Toilet paper
  • Lieutenant’s Exam — One of those paper toilet seat covers
  • Ham Sandwich — Unregistered firearm used to plant on suspect
  • Lawn Ornament — Drunk passed out face-down on the grass
  • Loser Juice — Hand sanitizer used to clean up after arresting a scrote
  • Scrote Soap — Same thing. Usually brand name Purell
  • Mayflower Equipment — Old and outdated supplies like the shot fridge
  • Polyester Pig Pile — Three or more uniformed officers making an arrest
  • Blue Rooster — Police equivalent of military “Green Weenie” (Google it)
  • Sergeant-In-The-Trunk — GPS fleet monitoring system
  • Rubber Gun Squad — On administration leave during an internal investigation
  • Street Degree — Hitting the 10-year service mark in operational policing

I love this cop-speak definition from PoliceMag.com:

Methamphibians are in their own class. They may resemble humans in some way, shape or form, but they cold-blooded creatures with nocturnal habits. Their most common mode of transportation is a bicycle (usually stolen), pulling a homemade makeshift trailer fashioned from other stolen bike parts, shopping cart parts, baby strollers, and the like. Methamphibians normally stay awake for 3 to 5 days at a time, coming outside only at night to steal from humans, ingest (via snorting, slamming via a needle, eating, drinking or smoking) methamphetamine. After the 3-5 day cycle, they sleep for 2-3 days.”

I also love the Aqua Pig Award. It’s given to an officer who falls in the water while wearing a uniform with full gear attached including a force-issued IPhone 10 and a two thousand dollar encrypted radio. The award is usually handed out at Choir Practice.

So that’s the end of this shift. I’m going sign the form, pull the pin and head out to pasture with a rusty gun. What about you Kill Zoners? What cool cop-speaking terms can you add?

*   *   *

Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who went on to a second career as “Doctor Death” doing forensic investigations with the British Columbia Coroners Service. Now, Garry is a crime writer and a successful indie author with a popular blog at DyingWords.net.

Check out On The Floor — a new release as Book 5 in the Based-On-True-Crime Series by Garry Rodgers. “Savage… Shocking… Senseless… Who would order two seniors to lie on the floor of their gun store, then cold-bloodedly execute these defenseless people with gunshots to the back of their heads?”

On The Floor is available on Amazon, Nook and Kobo as EBooks. Print and audio forthcoming when the budget allows them.

+8

True Crime Thursday – Police Stop

Photo credit: dwights ghost, wikimedia creative commons

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

Today’s True Crime tale is set in Detroit, dateline 2009. This three minute video chronicles a harrowing police stop with charges that include speeding, grand theft auto, and murder.

As a bonus, it offers a master class in storytelling by author Dan Yashinsky of Toronto.

Here’s Dan!

 

TKZers: Did you learn any techniques from Dan’s video to use in your own work?

~~~

 

 

Last day for introductory price of $.99 for Debbie Burke’s new thriller, Dead Man’s Bluff. Here’s the buy link.

+4

True Crime Thursday – Scams That Target Writers

Public domain, Winsor McCay, Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, 1909

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

Like mosquitos in summer, scammers keep buzzing in with new tricks to suck the blood from writers. Here are three that recently hit my radar:

Scam #1 – We Pay You to Write!

A couple of months ago, several members of the Authors Guild received emails from individuals claiming to need articles or workbooks written for an upcoming seminar. The bait is a substantial fee and a promise of wider recognition through their organization. They may claim to have a disability, with the inference that if you write for them, you also enjoy the satisfaction of helping. Or…if you don’t write for their worthy cause, you should feel guilty. Con artists are masters at manipulation.

Here’s a sample invitation from “Paula Smith”:

Hello, My name is Paula, an academic consultant. I have a speech distorting condition called Apraxia. I got your contact details online and I need your service. Can you write an article on a specific topic for an upcoming workshop? The article is to be given as a handbook to the attendees of the workshop. I have a title for the article and have drafted an outline to guide you. Please get back to me for more information

(442) 278-5255

Paula

Fortunately, the author who received the solicitation investigated a little deeper and discovered “Paula’s” phone number had numerous complaints against it for fraud. A helpful resource to check out questionable phone numbers is callername.com.

More writers added their suspicions to the Authors Guild discussion group but weren’t sure how the scam worked.

Then AG member and travel writer Lan Sluder offered the following enlightening explanation:

This is a scam that is well known in the hospitality (lodging) industry. The target is usually smaller inns, hotels and B&Bs. Someone makes what seems a legitimate reservation, often for several rooms, and pays by check or credit card. There are various versions, but typically the inn owner is overpaid or part of the reservation is cancelled or changed and the scammer wants a refund. Much later, the original credit or check payment is found to be invalid, and the inn owner is out hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some of these scammers are pretty clever, and it’s not always easy to tell an authentic reservation from a fake one. Occasionally, hotel owners or reservations offices are fooled into thinking it is an actual guest reservation.

I’ve written a number of travel guides and other travel books that review hotels so I get a lot of these scam emails due to mistakes by the less sophisticated scammers.

A similar scam exists targeting attorneys, CPAs and small businesses of all kinds. I guess now the scammers are starting to target writers.

——————————
Lan Sluder
——————————

Another AG poster who’s a member of the American Translators Association added that their members have also been targeted and shared the story of one victim. The scammer “overpaid” then asked the translator to wire money for the refund. Unfortunately, she did, shortly before the scam check bounced and she was out $2000.

Ouch!

Scam #2 – Fake Marketing Offers

These scammers keep reinventing themselves with different aliases and websites. Be wary of anyone who calls out of the blue or sends an email with wording similar to this:

Dear Author,

Our expert book scouts discovered your fabulous novel and we are excited to offer you an amazing opportunity. Because we believe so strongly in the bestseller potential of your book, we want to invest [fill in outrageous amount of money] in your marketing and publicity at absolutely no cost to you. We will reserve a place of honor for your book at the upcoming [fill in prestigious book fair or festival]. Your success will be our reward.

Sincerely,

A Company That Believes in Your Fantastic Talent (smirking)

After a few more flattering emails, they swoop in for the kill shot:

We reaffirm you do not have to pay one penny for our fabulous marketing package because our faith in you is so strong. To be fair, we know you’ll want to contribute your part by paying the bargain registration fee of only [fill in hundreds to thousands of dollars].

Here’s a post from YA author Khristina Chess who was contacted by Readers Magnet. Interestingly, they claim to be accredited by the Better Business Bureau as of 2019. However this BBB link shows multiple complaints against them.

Here’s a list of companies that engage in practices that may technically be within the law but slide into slimy.

 

 

 

Before you engage any writing-related services, check them out on Writer Beware  whose mission is:  “Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls.”

A big thank you to Writer Beware for watching out for writers!

Scam #3 – Impersonating Agents and Editors

Earlier this year, intrepid Victoria Strauss covered cases of scammers who assume the identity of legitimate agents or editors then contact unsuspecting authors. Of course, struggling writers are understandably thrilled to have a big-name agent contact them. Just be sure the person is who they claim to be. Here’s Victoria’s post.

On July 16, agent Victoria Marini @LitAgentMarini tweeted the following warning after learning someone had co-opted her name:

“It has come to my attention that someone is impersonating me online, likely in an attempt to scam writers. I am not associated with WritersDesk LLC, nor do I sell videos, materials, editorial work, or any other good or service. Many thanks to @victoriastrauss.”

 

Protect yourself from true crimes against writers. Always verify the source.

 ~~~

TKZers: Have you been solicited by questionable people or companies regarding your writing? Please share your experience and outcome.

 ~~~

 

 

Check out a devious scam with a unique twist in Debbie Burke’s thriller, Stalking Midas, available at this link.

+11

True Crime Thursday – Murderpedia

by Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

Public Domain Review

Crime writers have—shall we say?—unusual research needs. We often joke that law enforcement could knock on our doors at any moment because of suspicious internet searches.

Recently, I ran across a site called Murderpedia. It claims to be the largest free database of serial killers and mass murderers around the world. It lists more than 5800 male murderers and more than 1000 female murderers going back hundreds of years in history.

It’s indexed alphabetically by both the killer’s name and by the country where the murder(s) occurred. Each entry chronicles the crime(s), method of death, and ultimate disposition of the case–hanging, firing squad, guillotine, life in prison without parole, etc. Additionally, there are photos, artists’ renderings, and illustrations to go with some stories.

At random, I chose a link to Bridget Durgan, an Irish housekeeper who was so horribly mistreated by her various employers that she vowed to kill them if she ever had the chance. In New Jersey in February, 1867, an opportunity arose. Durgan stabbed and clubbed her employer, Mrs. Mary Ellen Coriel, to death then set the Coriel house on fire, blaming the crime on robbers. Nobody believed her and she was found guilty at trial.

While in prison awaiting execution, Durgan revealed her sad life to the Reverend Mr. Brendan who published her story as a cautionary tale. The illustrated pamphlet was also likely sold to spectators at Durgan’s hanging.

Public Domain Review

Lurid pen and ink drawings show the mortally wounded Coriel still alive, lying on the floor near her baby, Mamey, and the wild-eyed Durgan standing over them. Durgan reportedly said she allowed Coriel to kiss her child goodbye before finishing her off.

Durgan was hanged in August, 1867.

After perusing the Murderpedia site for an hour (or three!), I was struck by the immense amount of work that had gone into researching and cataloging thousands of cases. Then I noticed the last update was in 2017.

What had happened to Murderpedia?

Down the rabbit hole I tumbled.

I found out that the curator/director was a Spanish criminologist and author named Juan Ignacio Blanco whose own story is nearly as strange as the cases he chronicled. In 1992, he investigated the triple murder of three teenage girls, known as the Alcasser case. He believed two men accused of the crimes were scapegoats who’d been set up by wealthy, politically-connected, Spanish power brokers to cover their own guilt and to divert attention from their other crimes, including pedophilia.

Blanco was branded a conspiracy theorist.

After he published a book about his findings, he was convicted of insulting and slandering officials in charge of investigating the case and served time in prison. His book was judicially seized in 1998 because it included autopsy photos of one victim without her family’s consent. Accusations swirled that Blanco and the father of another victim in the case had set up and operated a foundation that resulted in hefty profits to both of them.

Shortly before Blanco’s death from cancer at age 63, he appeared in a 2019 Netflix series that reexamined the Alcasser Murders.

Was Juan Ignacio Blanco a greedy opportunist who capitalized on a terrible tragedy or a courageous crusader against corruption seeking truth and justice?

Whatever he was, he left behind the vast library of Murderpedia, crammed with painstaking research that’s a fascinating resource for crime writers.

~~~

TKZers: What’s your favorite crime research rabbit hole?

~~~

 

 

If Hurricane Irma doesn’t kill Tawny Lindholm, a shady sports dealer will when she becomes the bargaining chip in a high-stakes gamble. The winner lives, the loser dies.   

Debbie Burke’s new thriller, Dead Man’s Bluff is now on sale at the introductory price of $.99. Here’s the link.

+9