Several checks go missing from a local business. It’s not the sort of low-level crime that would necessarily land at the top of Ret. Detective David’s list, but this is a small town and the son of the owners is a felon so police bring him in for questioning. As Detective David peels back the layers of the onion, a complex, criminal conspiracy leads the investigation all the way to the Mexican border.
Special Guest: “Classic” Retired Detective David
When Detective David started out in law enforcement in 2002, his agency was so small they doubled as both police officers and firefighters, carrying their dual-purpose gear in the trunk of their patrol cars. After three years of doing double duty, David was promoted to detective. He has also served as a Patrol Sergeant and was elected Under Sheriff of his county in 2011. In 2013, David transferred back to detectives and finished out his career as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, until he retired in 2018.
Yeardley [00:00:00] Hey, Small Town Fam. How are you? How are you doing? I hope you’re all well and keeping safe. We have a treat for you today. The first time we sat down with our guest in this episode, Classic Retired Detective David, we had an inkling that he would become an instant fan favorite. Turns out, we were right. This incredible case starts out with a hunch classic David had. Then, like pulling that stray strand on a sweater, little by little, stitch by stitch, the whole thing starts to unravel. By the end, you’d never know that that pile of yarn had ever been a sweater at all. Please settle in for A Single Thread.
Yeardley [00:00:49] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So, I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:01:14] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:01:15] And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:01:16] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant in his police department.
Dave [00:01:25] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:40] So, we ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley [00:01:56] Today on Small Town Dicks is very big day. The band is all together. I have Detective Dave.
Dave [00:02:04] Good afternoon.
Yeardley [00:02:04] So good to see you.
Dave [00:02:06] It’s good to be here.
Yeardley [00:02:08] And I have Detective Dan.
Dan [00:02:09] Glad to be here.
Yeardley [00:02:10] Glad to have you. We are so pleased to welcome back one of our new favorite guests, who actually has a really fantastic moniker. He is officially retired Detective David, but we like to call him “Classic Retired Detective David” because we have so many Daves associated with this podcast. Welcome, sir. Thank you for coming back.
David [00:02:33] Great to be here.
Yeardley [00:02:34] Thank you.
Dave [00:02:35] Got to say something about the name David just screams honor and nobility.
David [00:02:39] And just straight-up cool.
Dave [00:02:41] Yeah.
Yeardley [00:02:42] Sure.
Dave [00:02:42] Law enforcement monsters.
Yeardley [00:02:44] I have a lot of evidence to support that–
Yeardley [00:02:47] –that description. So, Detective David, tell us how this case came to you.
David [00:02:53] This case, basically, we pulled a thread. I was called down to a local business. It was a custom countertops tile business. It was owned and operated by two people that I’d come to know over some previous interactions.
Yeardley [00:03:08] Law enforcement interactions?
David [00:03:09] That’s correct. Their names were Tom and Jackie. The interactions that we had were Tom’s son, Junior, he had recently paroled out of prison and was causing them no end of grief. Now, Tom is a true rehabilitated ex-convict, has done an amazing job getting his life together, cleaning up his act and a very successful businessman.
Yeardley [00:03:36] Can I ask what he had gone to prison for?
David [00:03:39] It was for obstructing justice in concealing Junior’s involvement in a homicide. That’s a whole another case.
Yeardley [00:03:48] That’s serious.
David [00:03:49] He didn’t want to give his kid up. It gets even more serious. Junior murdered his own mother.
Yeardley [00:03:55] Ah. Okay. But Tom is married to Jackie.
David [00:03:59] Tom is married to Jackie now.
Yeardley [00:04:01] Jackie is the second wife?
David [00:04:02] Third.
Yeardley [00:04:03] Okay.
David [00:04:04] Junior and Tom’s second wife conspired to kill Junior’s mother. Tom discovered later on that Junior was involved in the murder of his ex-wife.
Yeardley [00:04:15] That’s brutal.
Dave [00:04:17] It gives you a glimpse into what his bandwidth is, on what Junior is capable of.
David [00:04:21] Yes. You’ll understand why Junior was a suspect in this case and why we spent a lot of time examining his activities.
Dave [00:04:31] So, you get sent to this countering tile business to speak with Tom and Jackie?
David [00:04:36] Hmm-mm. Patrol officers had already responded down there and we’re taking an initial incident report. When I get there, the patrol officer briefs me, so there’s no evidence or signs of forced entry. You’re not going to find any evidence here because this burglary had to have occurred at least two weeks prior to us being called. I spoke with Tom and Jackie. I had that kind of relationship where I could just walk in and they’d pretty much tell me, whatever was going on.
Immediately, they pointed a finger, we’re just certain that it was Tom’s son, Junior, involved. They discovered that their business had been burglarized when they received six of their business checks that had been cashed in a neighboring jurisdiction at the bank. All of these checks or kept ordinarily, in a filing cabinet at the very bottom buried under some paperwork, things like that. The checks were taken out of the last book in the stack of checks. They were certain that they had not written these checks. They were out of sequence, obviously. The thing that stood out to them and made them just certainly it was Junior was, there was no indication that anybody had broken into the business, but Junior could easily have copied a key to the business because he lived with them from time to time.
The signature at the bottom of the checks was identical to Jackie’s signature. Identical. I’d never seen such a perfect forgery. I questioned her extensively, “Are you sure you didn’t write this check?” She said, “No, I’m absolutely certain I didn’t write the check. It’s not the first time that Junior has forged my signature.”
Yeardley [00:06:11] Were these checks made out to cash?
David [00:06:13] They were made out to cash. All were in the amounts between $975 and $995.
Yeardley [00:06:20] Okay.
Dan [00:06:21] So, right off the top, the amount, a specific amount like that, and we have thresholds in my state, and I’m assuming it’s the same in yours. Thresholds regarding crimes. A forgery 1 is anything over $1,000, forgery 2 is anything below one’s a B felony, and one’s A misdemeanor, depending on the amount.
David [00:06:45] That was initially what I suspected that these were lower-grade-type deals. Now, we had been dealing with Junior quite a bit since Junior paroled.
Yeardley [00:06:54] And how old is Junior?
David [00:06:55] At that time, I think he was approximately 27.
Dave [00:06:59] And he’s on parole for?
David [00:07:01] For homicide.
Dave [00:07:02] I know we’re not talking about that case, which is just a jaw-dropper unto itself. But how many years did he serve for that homicide?
David [00:07:09] He was a juvenile at the time that the crime occurred, but he was sentenced to 14 years of which he had served eight before paroling.
Dave [00:07:20] You’re telling me he didn’t get rehabilitated?
David [00:07:22] He did not.
Dave [00:07:23] Okay.
David [00:07:25] I don’t think anything has changed since I left there.
Dave [00:07:27] Is this a case where Tom and Jackie are going through their books, and all of a sudden, they see these withdrawals from the account and they’re like, “Wait a minute.” Okay, that’s the two-week delay. Now, they start looking, and the place hasn’t been ransacked. It’s a very specific place where the checks are, and once they become aware of it, that’s time to call the police.
David [00:07:49] Jackie had actually just checked the mail. The bank had sent copies of these checks. She was pretty thorough about checking it, especially account records and things like that. We had little xerox copies of the checks like the miniaturized ones, but there was enough detail left on those checks that you could see that signature was just spot on.
Yeardley [00:08:08] That is unbelievable. You asked Tom and Jackie about their shop, like nothing else had been disturbed or seemed out of place?
David [00:08:17] Yeah, the standard questions. Did you see anything unusual? Anything out of place in there? Was anything else disturbed? They said, “No, nothing’s been out of place.” Again, everything is pointing to Junior because Junior knew where the checks were, he would know right where to go to. Now, as I stated before, Junior, was a problem in my jurisdiction and in every neighboring jurisdiction right around us. He was always found at the scene of some type of crime, but it was always somebody else that was actually caught committing the crime. He was always there, but no direct evidence was ever tied to him. He was very good at persuading other people to do things.
According to Tom and Jackie, he had stolen quite a bit of money from them, was stealing jewelry from them. He had pawned several items, or actually persuaded someone else to pawn several items that they had reported stolen. He was keeping the jails full, but he just wasn’t occupying the jail.
Dave [00:09:17] He’s pretty good. He gives that layer of insulation between him and prosecution.
Yeardley [00:09:22] Were there drugs involved? Is that why he was stealing these things?
David [00:09:26] Yes, very, very heavy opiate addict. He was constantly having to feed it.
Dave [00:09:30] Pills or heroin.
David [00:09:32] Yes.
Dave [00:09:32] Both. Yes, I love those answers.
David [00:09:35] Yeah, I think at that time, heroin had not floated back through there. We were dealing with things like, oxy cotton, Percocet.
Dave [00:09:43] He’s after high-grade pharmaceuticals that are predictable doses, and they are worth a lot of money on the street per pill.
David [00:09:53] He was very well skilled at using things like Dremel tools, things like that, to shave the time-release codings off of the pills, so that when he would ingest them, he would get the direct high without having to wait.
Yeardley [00:10:06] I don’t understand.
Dave [00:10:08] Some of these pills, because they’re supposed to stretch out your pain relief over X amount of hours, it’s controlled-release based on the enteric or other coatings of the pill. Is that accurate?
David [00:10:19] Absolutely.
Yeardley [00:10:21] He would buff off the coding and then just get the hit?
Dave [00:10:25] You get rid of the stuff that’s interrupting the blood-brain barrier clogging the synapses, you get the pure form of what you’re trying to take because the goal is to get the high.
Yeardley [00:10:35] Yes. Okay.
David [00:10:36] He had that habit often. Just as he was a thorn in our side, in our jurisdiction, neighboring jurisdictions certainly had had all they could stand with him. So pretty much we’ve got a spotlight on him. We’ve got pretty good indications that he’s probably involved in this burglary. I had no hesitation in calling my colleague over in the next jurisdiction, was happy to inform him that Junior is in the spotlight on a possible burglary of a business. And this is significant. There’s only a C felony in my jurisdiction, that’s the only crime that I’ve got to pursue, which is a very low-grade felony. I think the maximum you can get for time for a C felony was maybe two years. The checks, like I said, had been cashed over in the neighboring jurisdiction. Now, the cashing of each one of these checks in that area was a D felony.
Yeardley [00:11:27] So, even lower?
David [00:11:28] Correct, but you had a couple of different crimes going on. You had forgery, forgery of the signatures. Then, you had the amounts of the checks, while they were still low-grade felonies, there were a lot of them.
Dave [00:11:40] You can aggregate all that stuff.
Yeardley [00:11:42] I’m curious. When I cash a check for cash from my account, I’m the only one you can cash that check because all it says on it is cash and has my signature. If I gave it to Detective Dan or Dave, even if you go to my bank, they’re not going to cash that for you. They’re like, “Your name has to be on it.” I’m curious how Junior got around that?
David [00:12:03] You’ve got a very responsible bank.
Yeardley [00:12:06] [laughs]
Dave [00:12:06] I was just going to say it depends on where you’re taking it to get cash if you’ve got relationships.
David [00:12:11] They went to the actual bank over in the neighboring jurisdiction, that was Tom and Jackie’s bank, and they cashed the checks. Now, one of the things that I noticed on these little duplicate copies was you could see where the bank had required the people to cash the check to put an actual thumbprint on these checks, which means that they didn’t recognize who was cashing checks and they needed something other than the identifications that they were being presented to cash the checks.
Yeardley [00:12:39] Fascinating. I’ve never heard of that. But that’s cool.
David [00:12:42] I started to become a little bit skeptical, I was thinking, “Well, Junior, has put other people up to cash in a bunch of checks, he’s going to get some folks sent up again.” My colleague goes to the bank, and he gets them to turn over the surveillance video. He also requested the original checks, that’s when things got a little strange with the bank. We started getting a lot of pushback from the bank. The bank didn’t want to turn over those checks. I didn’t know why.
But the surveillance video was brought to my office and my colleague and I, we sit down and watched it. In the video, you can see six Hispanic males, each of them going up to the counter and getting cash for these checks. There’s a seventh Hispanic male that’s standing just inside the main entrance of the bank, but no pictures of Junior. We’re like, “Who are these guys?” We had never seen these suspects before. No indication that they were living anywhere in the area, or whether they were passing through or anything like that. But we were certain that they had to know something because they went directly to Tom and Jackie’s branch and cash those checks. Somebody had to be guiding them. Well, we don’t have evidence on Junior, there’s still a whole lot of indication that Junior is involved in this.
Dan [00:13:58] Is it the same teller each time?
David [00:14:00] That incident, right there, yes, because they only had one teller on, so she also found her way into the spotlight.
Dan [00:14:07] I was going to say like, “Are any flags going up for you right now? Or is this not suspicious to you at all?”
Dave [00:14:14] I just want to make sure that I’m clear on this. All seven people, six of them with checks are in there at the same time lined up waiting to cash them.
David [00:14:22] That’s correct.
Yeardley [00:14:22] From the same account, all that just say cash on them.
David [00:14:25] That’scorrect. It was on a Friday, end of the day, which is not unusual to see people doing work, yard work, construction work, something for folks, they get paid and go straight to the bank as soon as they’re finished for the week. I can see why they didn’t really stand out too much with the teller but teller did, and this was really the only thing that shaded her spotlight a little bit was the fact that she required each of them to put a thumbprint on those checks.
Dave [00:14:52] Ah, yeah. Okay, that’s reasonable in retrospect, I’m looking at it going, this contracting crew just finished up their job and they were each given a check for work performed, okay.
Yeardley [00:15:02] If she’s alone in the bank, or she’s the only teller, maybe she’s like, “I don’t feel like I could take all six of them on. I’m going to give a little insurance to myself.”
Dave [00:15:12] Yeah, and we do that in banks here in our state, that there’s a little thumbprint that you have to put on if you’re not a member of that bank. It’s just an extra layer of accountability.
David [00:15:22] That’s a good point that she’s certainly looking a little bit suspicious. Everybody’s a perp until they’re not. Definitely, we put some attention on her, but we watched the video, and we pulled video from every surrounding business because, yes, we are investigating the forgeries, the burglaries, the guys, we’re just seeing our opportunity to get rid of Junior and send him back to prison. I mean, he was generating so much work.
Dave [00:15:48] Please tell me Junior’s got a van around the block and that he’s waiting there and they all pile in, right?
Yeardley [00:15:53] Yeah. [chuckles]
David [00:15:55] Obviously, we would never target Junior, but this thing had Junior all over it.
Dan [00:15:59] Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
David [00:16:01] Yeah. After checking every other lead to see who else might be involved in this to include the teller, and clearing her and everything else, still, there was one lead that had not been pursued was the actual thumbprint on these checks. I contacted the loss prevention office for the bank. I was stalled a couple of times on this. Eventually, I had to get the district attorney’s office to call down there and basically threaten them to get the checks back. It was later explained to me that most of your banks are insured by FDIC.
Yeardley [00:16:34] The FDIC is basically the government entity that guarantees your money when you put it in a bank.
David [00:16:41] That’s right.
Yeardley [00:16:42] I just looked it up. It stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
David [00:16:46] Yeah. If the amount of loss or amount of money that’s lost in a fraud or a theft or a forged check or something like that, doesn’t exceed $1,000, then that bank can file a claim with FDIC without ever having to report it to law enforcement. If they do report it to law enforcement, insurance company is not going to reimburse the bank for that money until that investigation has been concluded. So, the bank is not getting their money back. Banks are not incentivized to report every little loss.
Yeardley [00:17:16] Basically, to get back less than $6,000, they didn’t want to cooperate with law enforcement.
David [00:17:23] Correct. You had to look at each one of these checks as an individual crime, you couldn’t consolidate them. To them, it wasn’t $6000, it was $975, $988, somewhere in that range, because that’s where you would have to prosecute it and, believe me, the banks knew that.
Yeardley [00:17:40] But your bank, like less than $1,000, that makes me mad.
Dave [00:17:45] Well, that’s why you have six different people go in and do that because if it’s two guys doing three checks piece, you can aggregate those if it’s the same suspect, get a separate amount if it’s separate suspects.
David [00:18:00] Well, it was when I was given that information that a lightbulb started going off with me. It started occurring to me that the folks that cash those checks were very, very well educated in banking, in classification of crimes, and also jurisdictional boundaries. If you looked at it from that perspective, they committed a C felony in one jurisdiction. Well, yeah, it’s a felony and you want to investigate it, you’re not going to spend a great deal of time and money to run somebody down on a C felony. Plus, the victims of the burglary had been reimbursed by the bank. Their monetary loss was basically absorbed by the bank. But it was the neighboring county, the other jurisdiction where the checks were cashed. Probably they wouldn’t have pursued beyond the limits of the county line. What hurt them is we suspected Junior. Junior was worth going just about to the opposite side of the country to get rid of. If we had direct evidence and were certain that we could pick him up, we might even get in a boat and row out to an island.
Yeardley [00:19:03] [laughs]
David [00:19:04] He was that much trouble.
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David [00:20:43] When the district attorney called the president of the security branch of the bank, and demanded the actual checks, it was at that time, the security director called me directly and said, “Okay, I’m sending the checks to you with the actual thumbprints on them. Just to let you know that another jurisdiction had had the exact same crime, almost to a tee at one of their locally owned businesses.” Same MO. No evidence of any type of break-in. Their first indication that they had been broken into was the copies of return checks. The crime that occurred about two weeks prior, so the trail is cold again. Ultimately, they provided me with the lead investigator’s contact information from that jurisdiction.
Once I spoke with him, we found out that the checks were cashed in a different judicial district from where the business was broken into. In every location where a crime occurred again, we’re looking at C and D felonies. All of a sudden, things are really looking a lot more complex.
Yeardley [00:21:50] What’s the distinction between C and D felonies?
Dan [00:21:53] So, it’s simply dollar amount. The higher the dollar amount, the higher degree of felony or misdemeanor that’s going to be.
Yeardley [00:22:00] Okay. It has nothing to do with where the check is cashed?
Dan [00:22:04] Correct.
David [00:22:05] Exactly.
Yeardley [00:22:06] Okay.
David [00:22:07] I remember when we sent all of the checks that I received off to our crime lab, of course, these things take a lot of time, especially when you’re talking about a property crime, these labs get overwhelmed. You guys, I’m sure deal with the same thing.
Dan [00:22:20] It’s about the least important thing to them for a property crime to–
Dave [00:22:24] Run latents on a check.
Dan [00:22:26] Yeah.
Dave [00:22:27] That is not going to be a prioritized type situation to run latents on a check that is a C or D felony.
Yeardley [00:22:35] When you say latents, are you talking about fingerprints, just fingerprints? And basically, the lab doesn’t care about running fingerprints on these small amount checks?
David [00:22:47] That’s correct. This case is starting to look a lot more organized. We’re dealing with something that’s sweeping across the state. It’d be four jurisdictions now involved, because you had the burglary jurisdiction and where they cashed a check. It was at this time that I contacted the bank security director, and I said, “How many times has your bank been hit like this?” She said, “Maybe three, four times.” I said, “From where?” It started in the eastern part of the state and moved all the way towards the western part.
Dan [00:23:18] This security person you’re talking with at the bank, they’re reviewing video also?
David [00:23:22] Yes.
Dan [00:23:22] Same people?
David [00:23:23] Yes.
Yeardley [00:23:24] Same six Hispanic guys, could be your construction crew, cashing the checks one after the other?
David [00:23:30] At least one person that cashed the checks from my crime was seen in one of these other videos. While we’re waiting on these latent print results to come back in, I simply googled Hispanics, stolen checks, just put a Google search in. Then all of a sudden, surveillance photos from several news channels from across, not only my state, but in multiple states across our region, you could see the faces of several of people involved in the checks that were cashed in our area.
Yeardley [00:24:03] No kidding.
Dave [00:24:05] It’s happening here, too. We’ve got a crew that’s been going around hitting all of the states around, our area, and all the agencies are back and forth. “Hey, be on the lookout.” It’s brilliant.
David [00:24:18] It is absolutely, really frustrating because, again, all of these are low-level felonies, nobody’s really pursuing. They’re just passing the information off. I’m sure they’re passing it off to the banks, but the banks aren’t really doing much to stop it.
Dave [00:24:31] You get crews like that, that go to Apple Stores and take MacBooks, they just kind of swarm. Same thing at cell phone places where there’s iPhones or whatever, like the latest and greatest. They’ll sweep through and we get these notifications from state agencies that say, “Hey, these people have hit the following jurisdictions.” You look and it’s on the same interstate and that gives the direction and it’s, “Oh, that was the last city they hit. This is probably going to be the next one.” Then, you can predict it. All these stores talk to each other too. They’re like, “Hey, we got hit again.”
Dan [00:25:08] In our state, we’ve actually addressed that through some laws, organized retail theft, things like that, that actually have a little more teeth in them, where we can prosecute these people where it’s not just prosecuting one person, you can prosecute the whole crew and charge them each with the same thing, and get bigger prison sentences for them.
Yeardley [00:25:28] Sort of like, if you’re the driver in a murder, you also get charged with murder sometimes, depending on the state.
Dave [00:25:35] You’re all conspiring together and it just gives you a little bit more teeth on the punishment and deterrence side. You’re not de-incentivizing people from this. I got caught the 1 time out of 15 that I’ve done it, the pay is too good. They’re not going to change their behavior.
Yeardley [00:25:49] Right. Interesting. Now, you see a very distinct pattern going across the state of this crew, cashing these forged checks. They’re not all Jackie’s signature. These are different businesses they’re being robbed.
David [00:26:01] It was always the exact signature of the business that was broken into.
Yeardley [00:26:06] That’s crazy, somebody is really good.
David [00:26:09] What they were doing, were stealing the carbon copied checks, they would steal one of those and could perfectly mirror that signature. All of this falls under federal jurisdiction. This is exactly why the FBI, Secret Service exists. But because of the amounts that are involved in this per jurisdiction, they wouldn’t touch it.
Yeardley [00:26:28] Because the amounts are too small.
David [00:26:30] That’s correct. While we’ve got judicial districts on the state level, they have judicial districts on the federal level. The only way that they would touch this is if the amount in their federal jurisdiction met or exceeded a certain amount. I think at that time it was $27,000.
Yeardley [00:26:48] Oh, that’s a lot, though.
David [00:26:50] But couldn’t get them to touch it. Yes, there’s definitely a pattern emerging. Where I see these news reports based on my google search, one consistent thing in the surveillance photos, is the one guy standing at the door. It’s almost like he’s supervising the cashing of these checks.
Yeardley [00:27:08] But you can’t see his face or you can?
David [00:27:09] You can see enough of his face to know that it’s the same guy that was involved in the crime that occurred in my jurisdiction.
Dan [00:27:16] Oh, he’s like the crew foreman.
Dave [00:27:17] Yeah, he drives the crummy around, picks up the logging crew, and they go out to their job site, and he’s supervising.
Yeardley [00:27:23] Did you say that crummy?
Dan [00:27:24] Yeah, it’s a logging term for the crew truck that takes all the crew up to the logging site.
Yeardley [00:27:31] Oh, crummy. Is this full of crumbs?
Dave [00:27:33] You Hollywood people, I tell you.
Yeardley [00:27:36] I know, we live in a bubble. (laughs)
Dave [00:27:39] Speaking of vehicles. Most banks have some cameras that point outside in the parking lot.
David [00:27:45] The first thing that you will see on any external video would be all of them walking up there together. They were being led out outside of the parking lot or outside of the perspective of the video cameras. That was every time. This is a disciplined crew. I started calling around to these agencies. These detectives were every bit as frustrated as I was. At this point, we use the ROCIC, which is Regional Organized Crime Information Center. There are several of these set up across the country. There’s one in our area. I reached out and I sent a bulletin up to them describing the facts of our case and the cases that we knew around our area. It wasn’t long. I was receiving calls from dozens of states for crimes. As I got to looking at historical reports with the same MO, this crew had been operating for five or six years. I stopped counting at $12 million. That’s just in my region of the country, that’s just in my region.
This adds to the frustration because we see the supervisor in several of these surveillance videos. So, we know that this guy, ultimately when we catch him, he’s going to be somebody they want.
Yeardley [00:29:00] Somebody the FBI wants.
David [00:29:01] Correct. You can be sure that he’s been on their radar, they just haven’t identified him yet. Or, he’s somebody known to them, but couldn’t get him to touch that case with a 10-foot pole.
Yeardley [00:29:12] David, you are still waiting for the report on the latent prints to come back. Meanwhile, your investigation just continues to progress?
David [00:29:21] Right, but before these prints even came back, I was very discouraged based on my conversations with the other detectives in the other jurisdictions because when they had the opportunity to run prints, everything came back, no prints on file, no history with these prints at all. So, I didn’t expect much.
Dan [00:29:38] That’s why these offenders or these people who are cashing these checks, they’re not worried about putting their print on there because they know their prints are not on file anywhere.
Yeardley [00:29:46] Shit!
David [00:29:47] Except for one. This would be Oscar. Oscar was his name. Eventually, all of the checks were returned to me from our lab and only one person, Oscar, was identified. He had crossed the border from Mexico illegally and was captured by immigration, arrested, documented, fingerprinted, and then had been deported back to Mexico on one other occasion. That’s the only lead we had, that’s the only name that we had. Of course, we focus in on him.
Ultimately, in the back of our minds, we are all just certain that eventually, we’re going to find out that Junior knows Oscar. Junior is still a driving motivation for us. This is where ROCIC helped us, is they reached out to all surrounding law enforcement agencies in our region with Oscar’s name that’s been identified by these prints. Eventually, we got back one police report where he had been arrested and they had actually booked him at the police department and printed him at the police department. That arrest had occurred about three months before the crime occurred in my jurisdiction. This was fresh. This was new. I mean, things are starting to tip to the good guys’ side.
Yeardley [00:31:02] What was he arrested for?
David [00:31:03] He was involved in a domestic dispute with a young lady. I think it was verbal, but he was arrested on disorderly conduct. The wonderful thing about that arrest was, he was in a car, and they impounded the car. The car was actually registered, and it was registered in Oscar’s name. Now, we got a name, we’ve got a car to look for, and we’ve got an indication that he might actually reside within striking range of my jurisdiction.
Yeardley [00:31:39] Hey, Detective Dan.
Dan [00:31:41] Hey.
Yeardley [00:31:41] Hey. What do you like to do on your downtime?
Dan [00:31:43] I mean, besides play golf? When I got a few free minutes, I sit down at my sewing machine and banging out a mask.
Yeardley [00:31:49] You know what I like to do?
Dan [00:31:51] What?
Yeardley [00:31:51] I like to play Best Fiends.
Dan [00:31:53] I do know that
Yeardley [00:31:54] [chuckles] My fiends and I have quite a few, because they’re bugs. They had a little fiends giving for Thanksgiving. Yeah, no slugs invited.
Dan [00:32:04] Turkey?
Yeardley [00:32:05] It looked like they were having pie.
Dan [00:32:07] Well, that’s good. I like pie.
Yeardley [00:32:08] I know. Well, fiend pumpkin pie. You want to tell the people what Best Fiends is?
Dan [00:32:13] Yeah, Best Fiends is a match-three casual mobile puzzle game.
Yeardley [00:32:17] In other words, it’s awesome.
Dan [00:32:18] And it’s free to download.
Yeardley [00:32:19] It is free to download.
Dan [00:32:21] You know what else is cool about it?
Yeardley [00:32:22] What?
Dan [00:32:23] No WiFi.
Yeardley [00:32:23] That’s right. You don’t need WiFi to play. You can play when you’re in line anywhere. Or if your WiFi is down, you can still play. You can’t check your email, but friends, you can play Best Fiends.
Dan [00:32:37] I can play Best Fiends when I’m waiting at the yarn store. What level are you on?
Yeardley [00:32:40] I’m in the high 700s.
Dan [00:32:42] It’s a lot. It’s more than several.
Yeardley [00:32:44] I have a lot of little bug fiends that are my buds, that have gear.
Dan [00:32:48] Gear?
Yeardley [00:32:48] Yeah, they have clothes. Changes of clothes, headwear. I love my fiends. Small Town fam, Best Fiends has over 100 million downloads. It’s a five-star rated mobile puzzle game. It’s a must-play.
Dan [00:33:02] Download Best Fiends free today on the Apple App Store or Google Play. That’s friends without the out the R. Best Fiends.
Yeardley [00:33:21] Okay, so Oscar has been booked on a disorderly conduct charge. We now know what he drives and at least have a name.
David [00:33:31] That’s right.
Dan [00:33:32] Is it a big enough car to hold six or seven people?
David [00:33:35] No. We didn’t see any vehicles ever from outside, so we didn’t know what to look for. But, again, things were starting to smile on us. This was a relatively recent purchase, and it just so happened, it was purchased in a city that was about two cities over from my jurisdiction.
Yeardley [00:33:49] He’s close.
David [00:33:51] He is at some point resided pretty close, more than likely. That leads us to a couple of locations. The car’s registered to an address in yet another county. My partner and I, the two of us at that time, basically, we were the entire investigative division for our department. We notified the neighboring jurisdiction that we would be performing surveillance and looking for this one individual. Now his face and his features are so easy to pick out., almost look like a bullfrog, very distinctive. He was certainly involved in our case, and it was his face that we would see again and again in the surveillance photos from the other jurisdictions in our state. We only saw him in one out of state, but clearly it was him, no denying it.
So, we went to the address where this car was registered to. We’re setting up, just kind of watching. Well, there’s no cars there. No indications that anybody’s at home. It was a pretty nice house. The neighbors, a young couple, were outside working in their yard. Of course, they spotted us and we were concerned that they were going to blow our cover, so we just pulled into their driveway and we get to talking to them. We tell them what we’re looking for, and we showed them a picture of Oscar. They said, “Yeah, we know him. He caused a lot of problems over here with the girls next door.” When she said next door, it’s the house we were surveilling. I said, “It doesn’t look like anybody lives there.” She said, “Oh, you would think that by looking at it, but there’s at least 10 or 15 girls living in that house now.” “By girls, what do you mean? Are you talking about young children?” She said, “No, no, these are teenage to young adult women, all of them Hispanic.” I said, “Are they the only ones that live there?” She said, “No, later this afternoon, you’ll see that all of the men will come home.” Looking at the size of this house, it might have had maybe three or four bedrooms in it.
As we’re talking more and more, I said, “Do you have a lot of problems there? Are there disturbances there a lot? “No, there was the disturbance with him that one night,” and they described his car to the tee.
Yeardley [00:35:55] Oscar’s car?
David [00:35:56] That’s correct. It was during a party where all of the occupants of that residence had been outside, they’ve been barbecuing. It was really the first time they’d ever seen everybody outside. The noise was disturbing to pretty much the entire neighborhood. There was a lot of trash left over out in the yard after it was over. They thought about calling law enforcement to put an end into it, but they knew the actual owner of that property. They decided to call him. His name is Ray. Ray, as it turns out, he owned that property and he owns several other properties in that county.
Yeardley [00:36:33] But hedidn’t live in this house with all these girls.
David [00:36:36] Correct. Ray was approximately 27 years old. He owned five or six residences in that county, and two businesses, one of which was construction. I think if I recall correctly, he had some interest in a couple of restaurants that were fairly local to where that house was located.
Yeardley [00:36:55] Ray’s quite entrepreneurial.
David [00:36:57] He is. We actually contacted him. We spoke with him. We showed him the picture.
Yeardley [00:37:02] Oscar’s picture from his booking photo?
David [00:37:05] Yes, ma’am. Because Ray didn’t match anybody that we’d seen in surveillance videos. We just told him what we had. He said, “No, I’ve never seen Oscar. I don’t know him. I’m not familiar with any disturbances over there. I don’t know anything about Oscar’s car.” He’d never seen it. We decided we just watched for a little bit longer. We watched the house. Sure enough, the men came home, all went inside. Only then did you see all of these ladies come outside, and they’re with the men. We’re starting to see this for what it is.
Yeardley [00:37:32] And what is that?
David [00:37:33] It’s starting to look more and more like a human trafficking temporary drop house for these people.
Yeardley [00:37:38] For these girls?
David [00:37:39] For these girls and these guys.
Yeardley [00:37:41] Are the men being trafficked?
David [00:37:42] I was ignorant of this at the time, but what we came to discover was they were paying back the costs incurred smuggling or transporting them across the border by working for different businesses, construction companies, restaurants, things like that, at different locations.
Yeardley [00:38:03] The men were, got it.
David [00:38:04] These undocumented immigrants would be required to work off their debt working for these different people. After we spoke with Ray, we went back, talked to the neighbors again, we asked them, “When you talk to Ray, were there any more problems at that house?” They said, there hadn’t been a peep since. Everything’s been really quiet. Ray really has things under control, I guess they don’t want to get evicted. Then that brought up the subject of a U-Haul that would show up approximately every 30 days. Later, we discovered at every 30 days, they would bring in new people, and then it would transport the other people out of that house on to another location. That wasn’t something that we ordinarily investigated, but we had certainly stumbled upon something here.
We notified ICE. They got involved in that aspect of it. Basically, we had to hand that off. We continued our pursuit for Oscar because he’s really the only one that we have identified that was tied to the crime we’re investigating.
Yeardley [00:38:58] Because Oscar’s car is registered to the house where all of these undocumented immigrants are being held, you assumed that he was part of this human trafficking ring at some point, but by the time you show up there, he hasn’t been there for a while. His car’s not there or anything.
David [00:39:14] Yeah. Oscar is in the wind at this point. The recent local arrests that he’d had three months prior, basically got him kicked out of the crew because he had just brought heat down on them. He got arrested, he got photographed, he’d been fingerprinted. And apparently, we later discovered he had lied to them and told him he had never been fingerprinted in the United States, when in fact, he had been caught at the border and fingerprinted.
Dan [00:39:38] He’s worthless to the crew.
David [00:39:40] Right, but he’s a magnet. He’s a cop magnet at that point. At the point where we discover this house, we had no idea that Oscar has basically put a spotlight on a pretty serious crew like this. But Ray certainly didn’t know anything about it. Later, we learned that ICE and the DEA busted Ray for all sorts of human trafficking charges, and caught him with somewhere in the range of $20 million right in the middle of an exchange of cocaine and cash, and seized all of that. So, that was good hit.
Yeardley [00:40:12] Wow!
Dan [00:40:13] I do want to point out like, I know there’s some sensitivity about ICE and what they do. Part of what ICE does is, these people who are in this house, they’re victims.
David [00:40:24] Yes.
Dan [00:40:25] They are victims of these coyotes. I mean, a lot of it is cartel.
David [00:40:29] Well, you said it right there.
Dan [00:40:30] The cartel has a hand in all of this. They’re indentured servants. They don’t have protections, like they should. They’re doing illegal, not very safe labor.
Yeardley [00:40:40] Do they ever pay off their debt?
Dan [00:40:42] Their debts are significant. I’m sure they do at some point, but these people are being so taken advantage of and put in such a horrible spot. That’s why you want the federal government to step in and save these people.
Dave [00:40:57] I’ve worked with our Customs and Border Patrol people. ICE on some of these cases, especially in my realm where I had an offender that I was worried was going down south to Mexico. They are incredibly helpful. US Marshals can’t say enough about the work they do.
David [00:41:16] And it’s such a dangerous job.
Yeardley [00:41:18] Can we go back just for a second? Detective David, what’s with the U-Haul full of people showing up every 30 days and swapping them out with the people who already live in the house? I don’t–? What is that?
David [00:41:32] The reason for the exchange of personnel, if you will, every 30 days is anytime that you apply for a new position anywhere, you’ve got to fill out an I-9 form declaring your citizenship in the US or your legal standing to work in the United States. That I-9 has to be filled out within 30 days of you starting your employment. They would leave these folks working in these different restaurants, the construction company, things like that, for just shy of those 30 days before that I-9 is required. Then, they would move them on to another location and maybe working for somebody else.
The thing you guys touched on it about these victims, what do you think these ladies were being required to do? Because they weren’t going out and working at these businesses. They didn’t leave that house until the next load of people were brought in there. Based on what I was told and what we saw, only the men were going out and actually working at these other businesses.
Dave [00:42:30] The course of nature of just that association, the women are being required to do things that we saw Jeffrey Epstein doing to women, that kind of stuff. They’re victims.
David [00:42:40] Yeah.
Yeardley [00:42:42] Allsexual in nature, or sexual assault.
Dave [00:42:44] Yeah. They’re terrified of the cartel.
David [00:42:47] Yes.
Dave [00:42:48] They are absolutely terrified because the cartel has a reputation for being brutal.
Yeardley [00:42:53] Yeah, they’re ruthless.
Dave [00:42:54] They are.
David [00:42:56] We’re really going to touch on to that. Basically, at this point, the picture is becoming clear to me that when we got on to this crew of check forgers, that we’ve gotten just about mid-level in the middle of a cartel network. They were two different streams of money coming in that were feeding them. One was this crew that had basically been pilfering up to $10, $12 million over a period of several years, and were kicking that money up to the cartel. This crew came into contact with Ray’s operation of human trafficking. We were about mid-level on a pretty significant little, I guess, you’d call it a pyramid where the money’s getting pushed up. Ultimately, we discovered that the ringleader was located one state in north of us in a rural little town and he’d been receiving the proceeds from these two different ventures all of this time and other illegal ventures.
Anyway, we continued our search for Oscar. We now have his car. We have his description. Eventually, once we received the actual official DMV printout from his tag, we found out that car was on a lease. We knew that Oscar was not legal. There’s a certain type of car dealer that will sell a car or lease a car to undocumented immigrants. That’s usually somebody that requires the purchaser to pay them by the week, one of those we tote the note kind of deals. If they want to stay in that business very long or are smart, they will conceal a GPS tracker in that car, especially if they figured that this person they’re leasing the car to is going to cross that border. They want to be able to recover it.
Dan [00:44:36] Or default, not make the payment, and the repo happens fast, like within a couple days.
David [00:44:43] The two things that we did is, we got that tag, put on NCIC, so that it would hit anytime it passed by anywhere that had a tag reader.
Yeardley [00:44:52] What’s NCIC?
Dan [00:44:53] NCIC is the National Crime Information Center.
Yeardley [00:44:57] Oh, got it.
David [00:44:58] That’s correct. We were hoping we run across Oscar that way, or at least the car. Then, we went to the car dealer and got to talking to him. I had to make an agreement with him. I had to promise him that no matter where I found that car, that I would bring that car back to him once we apprehended Oscar.
Yeardley [00:45:14] Is that what you had to promise in order for him to cooperate with you?
David [00:45:17] Yes, ma’am, because I had nothing else to compel him. He and I, we made that deal. That’s when I started getting regular updates about where this car was located. Well, he was always located in and around South Texas, Northern Mexico, but he wasn’t hitting any tag readers. He’s getting back and forth somehow. While we’re tracking his movements, there are still banks and businesses being burglarized and checks being forged in other parts of the country and surveillance photos from those banks are showing the supervisor of the forgery crew is still standing there with these people when they’re passing the checks. Now, we’re getting the idea that Oscar has been kicked out of the crew.
Yeardley [00:45:58] Oscar has been kicked out of the burglary/check forging crew, too?
David [00:46:03] Yes, ma’am.
Yeardley [00:46:03] Good grief. Oscar has some serious job retention issues, but I digress, please.
David [00:46:11] Oscar is making a living some other way. It involves transporting something back and forth. We tracked him on this GPS system for a good two months. It seemed like every time he would hit a tag reader or something, we were hoping that border patrol would actually stop and detain him. A lot of times the tag would hit the tag reader, but the information that it was a wanted car would not come back to the actual border agents that are looking at it for up to 30 minutes, and by this time, this guy would be gone.
Yeardley [00:46:42] Why the delay?
David [00:46:43] Just networks. One agency’s not talking to another or nobody’s picking up on the fact that we’re really, really, really looking for this guy. Keep in mind, the only charge that I have on him is that C felony. The actual breaking into the business in my jurisdiction and stealing those checks. Then, we put a warrant on him in my jurisdiction, and then my colleague in the next jurisdiction where the checks were cashed, he had two D felony warrants on him for the forgery and for passing that check for $985 or something.
Dan [00:47:17] You can put a warrant on somebody, and Dave and I have dealt with this. Usually, Dave’s crimes are nationwide extraditable.
Dave [00:47:24] I get the nationwide extradition warrants. It’s kind of nice.
Dan [00:47:27] When you have a warrant for somebody for a low-level theft or a low-level forgery, they’re not going to be extraditable for maybe even a different part of my state, much less multiple states away. You can have a warrant and law enforcement when they have contact, say they run into Oscar on a traffic stop, they’ll get a return that he’s got a warrant out of so and so county in this state, but they won’t arrest him on it because it’s not extraditable. It’s not a high enough level crime to be nationally or regionally extraditable.
Dave [00:47:58] Right. They’ll say it’s unserviceable. Lots of warrants, usually property crime type stuff, is only surrounding states or only within the state. We have even warrants that are only serviceable within a county.
Yeardley [00:48:12] Wow.
Dave [00:48:12] Yeah.
David [00:48:13] There are a lot of costs involved in extraditing somebody as well, transportation and housing and everything else. We’ve got to prioritize things based on the scale and the crime. I mean, it makes sense. It’s frustrating, but it makes sense. But what we couldn’t get across or the border patrol would not understand why is that this guy was part of a larger network, that would have been the responsibility of certain federal agency.
David [00:48:37] You can see my frustration building up. I’ll never forget this. I made quite a few contacts with US Marshal Service, their fugitive enforcement detail in our area. They had other fugitive details in South Texas and quite a few other areas. They said they would do their best to pick him up if somebody can just hold him long enough for them to get him. I remember it was about 6 o’clock one evening when I get alerted from our dispatchers that a tag reader has gone off on Oscar’s car. I call back, I said, “Have they detained him?” “Negative.” They let him move on, and hit on the tag didn’t get to him in time, and they’d already released him. This had gone on so many times that I’ve literally raked every piece of paper, photograph, the entire case file off of my desk. I was walking out the door and my friend from the Fugitive Task Force in our area, called me on my cell and he says, “I’ve got good news for you. Just so happened, the other Fugitive Task Force was in that area. We picked up on the hit as well. I contacted them.” While they did not capture Oscar in the United States, they did have the Mexican federal police detain him just on the other side inside of Mexico. I said, “Well, what about the car?” “They got the car as well. They’ve got him detained and he was in a Mexican federal police station, just south of the border.” I mean, the sigh of relief and just the yelp that came out of me. It’s only my warrants that are holding this guy, and he’s actually being held in Mexico. Our tiny little agency, we rented a big old truck and a U-Haul trailer, and we headed down south.
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Yeardley [00:52:24] You and your partner are now driving from your state to Mexico to pick Oscar up on this class C felony?
David [00:52:32] Yep. My friend with the Fugitive Task Force had contacted, made arrangements. We were actually met at the border by a ranger and one US Marshal from down there because of that Ranger status with the Mexican police and federal authorities, he was allowed to come in and out of there at will. They all knew him. He escorted us into this facility. Now keep in mind, my partner and I had driven for somewhere around 20 hours to get down there. Both of us are a little bit punch drunk, really tired. In fact, do you guys remember when the big fertilizer plant in West Texas exploded?
Dan [00:53:09] Yeah.
Yeardley [00:53:10] Yeah.
David [00:53:11] We were southbound heading to Mexico on the interstate less than a mile from that. The shockwave almost blew our truck off the road. I mean, it was huge.
Yeardley [00:53:20] Really?
David [00:53:20] I think the final figure was like 15 people were killed in this. It was an arson that set this thing up. We’d been on the road maybe 10 hours at a time, had been wiped out. That shockwave just comes blasting at the truck and damn near ran us off. I was like, “God, what was that?” That’s exactly when that happened.
Yeardley [00:53:35] No kidding.
Dan [00:53:36] Crazy.
Yeardley [00:53:37] What happens when you get to the detention center where Oscar’s actually being held for you?
David [00:53:42] I had instructed my partner. I said, “Listen, I’m going to go in. I’m going to interview him and see if this guy’s willing to cooperate, but the Mexicans are going to turn the car back over to us.” We had a search warrant for this vehicle, but we could not execute that search warrant until it was back in our jurisdiction, which means we could bring it back up there, but we couldn’t search it out. We knew that Oscar was running back and forth across that border. We figured we had a pretty good idea of what he was transporting.
Yeardley [00:54:06] What was that?
David [00:54:07] More than likely it was going to be narcotics, but we didn’t know that because we couldn’t search the car.
Dave [00:54:13] So, he’s transporting drugs north, and he’s transporting money back to Mexico?
David [00:54:18] That’s right. I told my partner, I said, “Listen, I know we can’t legally serve the search warrant. However, we have got to cross back over into the United States with this car. I would rather not be detained at that border and trying to explain what’s going on. If there’s drugs in that car, I want to know before we move.” My partner is, “Okay.”
Yeardley [00:54:39] Now, is the ranger who accompanied you down to Mexico, not going to escort you back across the border so there’ll be no questions asked?
David [00:54:47] This ranger was so credible to them, that all he had to do was give the word. He took us down there. He walked in with me when we walked into the detention facility, and he let them know that we’re good people, and we are not to be stopped.
Dave [00:55:02] But coming back in, you’ve got to go through the checkpoint and the ranger can’t grease the skids for you.
David [00:55:07] He had other business in North Mexico and he had to move on, but he did send word, but he has no control over ICE.
Yeardley [00:55:07] Okay, yeah, that was my question. He wasn’t going to grease the wheels on the way back into the United States.
David [00:55:19] Correct. I had a contact with ICE, but I couldn’t get him on the phone. We’ve already discussed some of the inner agency communication issues. Unless you know somebody that’s standing at that checkpoint at that time, there’s a good chance that things aren’t going to go well.
Dave [00:55:36] What’s in the trunk? Um, don’t know.
David [00:55:38] Right. I trusted my partner. I said, “Just get the car hooked up. We’re not going to be here long.”
Yeardley [00:55:44] By hooked up, you mean, what, hooked up to a trailer or something so you can tow it back?
David [00:55:49] Yep. We walked inside, US Marshal and the Ranger, they had Oscar set off in another room. At the same time, they brought another what I assume was a pretty high-level criminal and made sure to parade him in front of the room that Oscar was sitting in with us, sitting in there with law enforcement.
Yeardley [00:56:14] Why is that?
David [00:56:15] I can’t say why. I just know that it was very effective because initially, Oscar did not want to cooperate. He could not speak any English. Then, the US Marshal that was sitting there with us with very fluent Spanish and he said, it really won’t matter if you cooperate or not, because you saw who just walked by this door. He saw that you were sitting in this room with all of us law enforcement officers.
Yeardley [00:56:41] I see, and that guy might think, “Oh, Oscar’s a snitch.” Now we have it out for him.
David [00:56:45] That’s right. Again, I’m just making that assumption. I don’t know that to be sure.
Dan [00:56:50] People who are within contact to the cartel at any level, it is a reality that it might cost you your life, and it’s terrible. But that’s why it’s so important to break up these rings because they victimize so many people.
Dave [00:57:04] Yeah, he can’t go back into the population after that. He’s got to leave that facility.
David [00:57:09] Instantly, he could speak perfect English.
Yeardley [00:57:12] Oscar could?
David [00:57:13] Absolutely. He said, “I will absolutely cooperate with you if you guarantee me that you’re going to extradite me immediately.” I said, “Well, I’m not going to transport you.” But we did make arrangements with Marshal that was sitting there and he was going to take him on out of there. Having that assurance that he’s going to cooperate, I left the facility and I walk out and I get in the truck with my partner who has done a fantastic job of getting that car rigged up and ready to roll, and we start back northbound. I think the temperature outside that day was somewhere around 100 to 110 degrees. They’ve done quite a few improvements to the highways down there, so there was fresh blacktop asphalt, just as you approach the border, very smooth, very wide, luxurious lanes to drive in. They had a complete turnout of border patrol agents and their dogs at this checkpoint. As we’re pulling up, again, I’m still very sleepy, my partner’s very sleepy, but I’m starting to think about what could possibly be in that car. I look at my partner and I said, “Hey, you did check that car out, right?” He’s like, “Well, what do you mean?” I said, “Did you happen to look in the obvious places to see if perhaps there’s narcotics in that car?” “Well, no, the search warrant, we can’t do anything until we get back home.”
I’m already envisioning it, being laid out at gunpoint on that hot egg frying asphalt with two big German Shepherds breathing in my face for the three or four hours that it’s going to take for them to sort out that we’re cops and we had basically been given verbal permission by a ranger to operate in Mexico and go back to the United States as part of a case and that any narcotics found in that vehicle we were unaware of because of the legal requirements of that search warrant. Very difficult. I could just see it. I could see us making the news, I could see word traveling all the way back to my department.
As you can imagine, I’m sweating, and I’m cussing. I am absolutely cussing my partner out. I said, “You had one job, buddy. You had one job.”
Yeardley [00:59:25] Right. Hang on, how can your partner have searched the car if you’re not allowed to exercise the search warrant until you get back into the United States?
Dan [00:59:35] I don’t know what the case law is on that regarding doing a cursory search of the car to make sure there’s not contraband, it’s going to get you in trouble. I think any court any prosecutor, any person in law enforcement, you got a signed warrant in your hand when you’re crossing the border and say, “Hey, look, I haven’t been able to search this car, because I got the search warrant. I had wait till I got back to the United States to execute the search warrant.”
Yeardley [00:59:59] But you could look in the windows and see if there’s anything on the seat at least without opening the car doors or the trunk or anything like that?
Dan [01:00:07] You could, but at the border, sometimes those searches are a little more, intimate.
Yeardley [01:00:15] A little more involved?
Dan [01:00:16] Yeah. They have a lot of specialized equipment, dogs.
Yeardley [01:00:20] Right. You’re saying basically, if you had the warrant in hand–
Dan [01:00:24] You’re probably going to be okay, might extend your stay at the border for a little longer than you want it to be there.
Yeardley [01:00:29] Sure. I get it. Okay.
David [01:00:32] Right. My partner, he and I had quite a few adventures together. I make fun of him now about this, and he’ll never live it down. But, in his defense, and this will be the only time I ever defend it, he was very tired. He just completely missed out on that.
Yeardley [01:00:47] What would have happened if he actually had searched the car even to that extent, and what do you do if you discover the drugs? What happens?
David [01:00:55] What we would have done is we would have notified the Mexican authorities that were there and turned the narcotics or contraband over to them because it really wasn’t any evidence relevant to the crime that I was investigating, and I certainly didn’t want to be detained at the border with a large amount of narcotics that I wasn’t even sure was in there.
Dave [01:01:18] Where you guys aren’t when you went into Mexico?
David [01:01:20] We were armed up until we met with the rangers, but we did have the firearms in our vehicle.
Dave [01:01:26] It adds a little spice to the pucker factor. If you are detained, you’ve got guns, drugs, and cash.
Yeardley [01:01:33] (chuckles) And you say that’s your bad? Sure, dude.
David [01:01:36] Yeah. We’re sweating. I’m absolutely terrified. We pull up to the border where the agents are standing and we’re holding our badges. We’re wearing like t-shirts, we’re unshaven. We look like we’d been on the road for a good 30 something hours because we had, and we’re looking shady, we’re looking very suspicious. But we had badges, we held them up and we held up some paperwork. The guy never stopped us, didn’t ask me to put window down or anything and just waved us right on through.
Yeardley [01:02:07] Oh, yes! (giggles)
David [01:02:09] Yeah. I guess I can say that I have successfully smuggled drugs into the United States. Just as we get to the US side of the border, my contact with ICE that I’ve been trying to call for hours and wasn’t be able to get in touch with (unintelligible) “Hey, I see you’re back in the US.” “Well, how would you know that?” “Because the car we’re towing just triggered the tag reader again. Plus, I called down and told them to let you through.” I said, “Well, you could have let me know that.” He said, “Well I tried to call you or whatever, apparently, we weren’t getting any signal.” But he had already notified them. “Hey, they’re coming back through with this stuff. Just let them go.”
Yeardley [01:02:47] Oh, my God!
David [01:02:49] I think we drove for another two or three hours, we stayed the night. One of us had to be up, guarding the vehicle that we’re dragging, because it’s evidence.
Dave [01:02:56] Never outside of your custody and control, right?
David [01:02:59] That’s correct. Somebody had to have eyes on it. We had to be able to testify to that because there was a good chance that we were going to find some of the implements of the forgeries and the burglaries, whatever they were using to forge the signatures, there was definitely some computer components and some other indications that this was something that could definitely be transported in a car that they were using to forge the signatures. After getting a few hours’ sleep, we just continued traveling on, it took us another 17 hours to get back to our tiny little department and our tiny little impound lot that had maybe three cars in it.
I remember backing the trailer into this impound lot, and just immediately searching that car. The first thing I did is I opened it up and I popped its center console and the thing almost exploded because there was a vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana right on the top, about a 10-pound bag. Then, we found several other bricks or kilo packages of cocaine, and a pretty significant sized bundle of money inside the car. I mean, I’m telling you, I was absolutely mortified. I was like, “Look what we could have been busted for.”
David [01:04:06] We did find some of the fake IDs that were being presented at these banks in the car, but they were all limited to Oscar. They were all his, all of the different identifications that he used.
Yeardley [01:04:16] Did he use his own name or same picture, different names?
David [01:04:20] Same picture, different name, different identifiers. It might even be different states on the various IDs. I think we found three or four in there. After all of the evidence was seized out of that and all of the narcotics were properly disposed of, and the money was put in a legal place for the money to be at. I never investigated narcotics and I never touched money. But once we get all of that back, the guy that was giving me all the GPS data, the actual owner of the car, we did get the car back to him. Ultimately, Oscar was more than willing to cooperate once he got back into our jurisdiction and provided us the information to get identifications and ultimately, locations for the other members of the crew, particularly the guy that’s seen supervising them, while they’re cashing the checks. They were caught three states away. Once he was identified, it turned out, just as we knew it would, he was wanted by that federal agency and had been wanted for some time.
Yeardley [01:05:18] The supervisor was?
David [01:05:19] The supervisor of the forgery crew.
Yeardley [01:05:22] They couldn’t pick him up because they didn’t know who he was. They just knew they needed him.
David [01:05:26] That’s right. Ultimately, we’d discovered that Oscar was on the run, and the narcotics and things that he was transferring back and forth across the border was for another whole entirely different cartel than the one that was up here that was receiving the proceeds from the human trafficking and the forgery. Basically, when Oscar was arrested in one of the neighboring jurisdictions, he had brought down a huge spotlight on himself and Ray’s operation. And because we were looking for him, word got back down to their crew, they did discover that he had been detained by ICE and had been fingerprinted in the past. So, Oscar went south and made new friends to keep from being killed, and that’s why he hit the road. And Ray’s operation continued doing what they did.
Yeardley [01:06:17] Wow. So, Dan, and Dave, you called it right out of the gate. All roads led back to the cartel.
David [01:06:24] Yes, ma’am.
Yeardley [01:06:25] This is the question then. In as far as you did end up with the drugs crossing back into the United States, and it had been Oscar’s car, was he then brought up on drug charges as well?
David [01:06:35] No, ma’am, because we didn’t catch him transporting those drugs.
Dave [01:06:39] Oscar, does he give information about this house?
Yeardley [01:06:42] The drop house?
Dave [01:06:43] The drop house? Does he give information about that?
David [01:06:46] He did recall being there and he remembered creating a disturbance with one of the women. Apparently, he had grown quite fond of one of these ladies, but he didn’t talk about that very much as much as assisting them when they brought people in or moved people out, he would help them.
Dave [01:07:04] Gotcha.
Yeardley [01:07:04] What about Junior? (chuckles)
David [01:07:09] Junior, while all of this was going on, was involved in a burglary of a pharmacy where he was actually caught inside. His parole was violated, and I think he might be getting out of prison this year.
Yeardley [01:07:22] But he was not involved in the original stealing of checks from Tom and Jackie, even though he had previously forged Jackie’s signature?
David [01:07:31] I showed every photograph of Junior to Oscar. In fact, I did this in Mexico. When I first walked in, I said, “Do you know this man?” “No.” He didn’t know him. I said, “Well, how are you guys getting into these businesses? How are you finding these things?” Oscar said that one member of the crew would go in, make contact during the business day, and would just basically make conversation as if they’re going to make an order. They paid very close attention to how the office was arranged, and they did their surveillance work, their pre-operational work, they figured out how to work these locks, and how to get in and out of there without anybody seeing anything. He said there were one or two members of that crew that were very, very good at that.
Dave [01:08:15] They pay particular attention not to create a mess and disturb things, so these go undetected until finally two weeks later, they’re counties or states away.
David [01:08:26] That’s right.
Yeardley [01:08:27] They must have observed that these offices didn’t have burglar alarms.
David [01:08:30] Correct, or surveillance video. Just about every business that was burglarized was usually family owned, a small business, small operation. They didn’t have a lot of money to spend on those kind of things. They weren’t the 800-pound gorilla employer. This crew of Czech forgers were very smart. Like I said, they knew the prosecutional, jurisdictional lines. They knew the amounts that were reportable to the federal government. They knew how to get in and out of businesses, just like he said, without anybody knowing. The first indication that anybody had that a crime had been committed, would be two weeks after the fact when the checks were circulated back out to the owners. It was very well organized. It was impressive because we spent a lot of money, went all the way down into Mexico, risked going to jail for trafficking narcotics, and everything else on a C felony.
Dave [01:09:24] Wereyou guys able to break up this human trafficking type stuff and go after the guy who lives a state north of you?
David [01:09:30] As a result of this investigation, we did disrupt that human trafficking ring and turned them over to ICE. They got them two states over from us, which one of them informed on the actual cartel ringleaders that was one state north of us.
Yeardley [01:09:47] So, you got Ray also?
David [01:09:49] Ray was caught by ICE when we turned over the suspicious house and the things that were going on. We had turned that over to ICE. We had not even had apprehended Oscar by the time I was notified that ICE had caught Ray with the narcotics and also on the Human Trafficking Charges.
Yeardley [01:10:08] Was Ray documented as well?
David [01:10:10] He was here on one of the special classifications of a work visa, but he owned property. That’s what I couldn’t understand. He owned property and he owned these businesses. I’m not as articulate on immigration laws and work codes and all of that, but they had him wrapped up probably six to eight months before we got Oscar.
Yeardley [01:10:28] Wow. I mean, that really is– Oh, look, I have a little thread on my sweater. You pull it and the whole thing unravels.
David [01:10:35] Yeah, it was a pretty big operation. Were it not for our suspecting Junior, it might still be a sweater.
Yeardley [01:10:42] [laughs] It might still be a whole sweater.
David [01:10:45] Junior was the motivation that took us beyond city limits, regional limits, because we were just certain we were going to get rid of Junior. Junior continued terrorizing all of our jurisdictions up until he got caught breaking into a pharmacy.
Dave [01:11:00] So from initial intake on your end to the arrest of Oscar, how long are we talking?
David [01:11:07] Eighteen months before we put hands on Oscar, and then it was another six months before he was put on trial. Again, because this was a state case, we had multiple jurisdictions wanting to prosecute Oscar, whereas had he been caught by a federal agency, it would have been one charge as part of one conspiracy, everything else.
Yeardley [01:11:29] What did Oscar get? What was his sentence?
David [01:11:31] Oscar just finished up his seven years that he received from my jurisdiction. He is being transported over one state to serve another seven-year sentence. After that’s finished, he has a 15-year sentence waiting on him in yet another state.
Yeardley [01:11:45] Good grief!
Dan [01:11:46] Got to pay the piper.
Dave [01:11:48] He’s probably begging for the feds to pick it up.
David [01:11:50] Yeah.
Yeardley [01:11:51] Why?
Dave [01:11:51] He’s going to get a package deal that envelops all three of the sentences that he’s given. He just gets one lash from the federal government and it’s this many years and he would have been out probably or close to.
Yeardley [01:12:04] Because it would have been shorter aggregate.
Dave [01:12:07] Yeah, but now you’ve got these different jurisdictions were like, “Okay, so you gave them your pound of flesh. We get ours now. You got one waiting after us, too.”
Yeardley [01:12:16] Wow. Detective David, or as we like to call you, Classic Retired Detective David, thank you so much for joining us.
David [01:12:24] Thank you, guys, for having me.
Yeardley [01:12:25] We’re so happy to have you.
Dan [01:12:27] Thank you.
Dave [01:12:27] Thank you.
Yeardley: [01:12:32] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate produces are Erin Gaynor and The Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. And our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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Yeardley [01:13:45] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country.
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Dave [01:13:58] So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
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