If you study unusual credit card crimes long enough, it doesn't take long before you notice certain patterns. Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, in that order, seem to be the favorite places for criminals to shop with stolen cards, according to my unscientific observations. Surveillance video is a law enforcement's best friend when it comes to credit card crimes. And credit card capers often seem typical, except for one really unusual element that sets them apart from the rest.
With that in mind, here's our monthly round-up of the latest and not-so greatest in unusual credit card crimes.
Typical credit card crime: Johnny Anthony Cervantes, of Victoria, Texas, is, at the time of this writing, still at large and wanted by the police for allegedly stealing and using a credit card.
Cervantes allegedly took a wallet left carelessly on the hood of a car, and used a credit card from that wallet to make $76 in purchases at a convenience store, according to a Victoria Advocate news report.
In any case, so far, pretty typical crime.
What makes this different: The car and wallet belonged to a police officer. In fact, at least one card in the wallet belongs to the Victoria Police Officers Association. If you're going to steal from somebody, helping yourself to money that belongs to local law enforcement isn't really the sort of thing that's going to make you a successful career criminal. Probably the only dumber move you could make would be to steal from the FBI.
It isn't clear from the Victoria Advocate's account whether the car was a marked police car -- let's assume for Cervantes' sake that it wasn't. Nevertheless, if he looked through the wallet, according to the Victoria Advocate, he would have found enough forms of ID that he should have recognized what he had.
On the other hand, according to the surveillance video (see? very handy tool for the authorities), Cervantes looked drunk, which might explain why he didn't notice.
Speaking of drunk, just as an aside, I have to bring up a story I read in a police blotter. No credit cards involved in this story, but a 20-year-old Ohio man was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct a few weeks ago for playing music and video games too loudly -- it was after 3 a.m. He resisted arrest and lobbed obscenities at the officers -- and after being cuffed, asked about the job opportunities available at the police department.
Typical credit card crime: Two women went on a shopping spree at a Target in Easton, Ohio. They paid using a card they stole from a woman's purse as she ate dinner at an area restaurant. About as banal as can be, as these sorts of crimes go.
What makes this different: The women racked up $20,530 in charges on this shopping spree. That's an impressive credit line. I kind of wish the victim and I were friends.
Typical credit card crime: Credit cards vanished from two Denver-area hospitals. Unfortunately, this isn't all that unusual. You're taking a chance leaving your purse or wallet in open view while in public -- even at a seemingly safe place like a school or church.
What makes this different: These crimes aren't isolated incidents. Two hospitals were struck, a day apart, and three women were apparently involved in these crimes. Authorities believe that they've fingered two women in surveillance video, who are seen wearing hospital masks, wandering the halls, looking like they belong there… a third woman has been spotted in, yet, again, surveillance video, using the stolen credit cards. No word yet on where the third woman went shopping, but my money is on Wal-Mart or Target.