Police Blotter: Thief's mobile lair; persuasive police dog; Drunk of the Week, and more

Posted on March 5, 2014 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The confession of a man arrested for credit card fraud shows how easy and widespread the crime has become. The 41-year-old Sausalito man promised his date a romantic day in the wine country February 21. Instead, he tried to pay a $276 bill at McCalou’s (for womens clothing and shoes) with a counterfeit card. After the card was rejected several times, the numbers were entered into the system manually, and the charge was approved. A sharp-eyed manager, though, recognized the man as having run the scam in the store several months ago. Detained by police, the man came clean. He showed them the fraud kit stashed in his (borrowed) Lexus: 500 blank credit cards; an embossing machine to imprint any name and number; lists with thousands of bank account numbers; and a notebook with websites giving scam advice, and the man’s own algorithmic system for predicting viable bank account numbers. “Everybody is doing it,” he told police. He was arrested for the fraudulent purchase, and being in possession of the embossing machine and related materials. The date was not involved. She was too much of a gossip to be trusted with his secrets, the suspect said.

Shoplifter sprint

A known shoplifter attracted more than her share of attention while wandering the aisles of Lucky on February 27. Thus multiple views of her stashing a pre-made food item in her bag, then opening a drink and taking a few swigs. When confronted by store management, she ran out the door, around the back of the store and through a hole in the fence into the park area, ending the brief chase. She was described as a sturdy 5’ 4” blond with blond/brown hair and sores on her face.

Big screen burglar

Broken, pried-open back door noted in the 600 block of Austin Avenue on February 25. The vacant, for-sale home was intact when last shown by a realtor, but determined missing during the 2 p.m. search was a 42” flat screen television, removed from its wall mount. Also stolen were two chairs and four metal bar stools. Total value of the haul: $1,452. No leads.

Drunk of the Week

A chatty woman, 62, worried her phone friend on February 23 when she said she was going to drive to the store at about 9:30 p.m. to return a movie. The friend in turn called police with her concerns that the woman should not be driving. Just then, an officer saw and stopped her white Toyota Prius on Studley Street. A sobriety test revealed, despite the “one glass of sherry” excuse, a robust blood alcohol level of .123. She was booked into the county jail.

Clean getaway

Grand theft, laundromat, on February 23 at Sonoma Marketplace. When a woman took her kids along on a laundry outing, she brought a “bag of iPads” to keep them occupied. The bag proved too great a temptation for a female thief, who ran off with the bag of e-goodies, valued at about $1,000.

Stolen card in use

Another credit card scam, this involving a black female using a stolen card to buy gift cards at Safeway and CVS on February 22. The purchases – three $300 cards – were made within a half-hour period about 6 p.m. The card had been stolen from a man in San Jose, who did not know it was missing until his bank called to inquire about the sudden Sonoma activity. Police suspect the woman is part of a stolen credit card ring out of Vallejo or the East Bay.

Police dog coaxes man from hiding place

Facing a police dog and surrounded by police officers, a man wanted on domestic abuse charges in Rhonert Park was arrested after emerging from a wall in his Sonoma workplace. Police came calling to a maintenance shop in the Pueblo Serena Mobile Home Park on February 22. The wanted man was clearly inside – officers could see him through a window; in fact, he was watching them on his own surveillance camera system. After a stand-off of sorts, officers, given a key by the manager, gave a final warning and entered. Faced down by officers and the city’s police dog, the man emerged from a hole in the sheetrock wall. He was arrested on the Rhonert Park charges of felony domestic violence, child endangerment and false imprisonment, plus resisting arrest for the Sonoma debacle.

Thin alibi

Two people parked in a strange car on El Castillo after dark on February 22 merited a police inquiry. The woman in the driver’s seat was on probation for a stolen property beef, which allowed officers to search the car. Found beneath a floor mat was a credit card, stolen from a Richmond woman two weeks ago. The suspect said she had no idea how the card ended up in her car. Unswayed by that vague explanation, police arrested the woman for misappropriation of found property, and probation violation.

The gift that keeps giving

On February 20, a man who has his wallet stolen earlier from his unlocked car on the 800 block of Second St. W. provided police with a list of transactions made with the hot credit card. One of them was for the purchase of a gift cards (a new form of money laundering, seemingly) at Safeway. An officer reviewing the surveillance video recognized the suspect, a 20-year-old Sonoma man. Once contacted, the man admitted to the transaction, but said he had found the credit card on the ground and, once he used it, threw it away somewhere. Authorities were skeptical, and arrested the man on felony burglary and credit card fraud.


A resident on the 300 block of Nicoli Lane returned from a mid-morning errand run on February 21 to find the drawers in several rooms of her unlocked home had been riffled. Despite the widespread dishevelment, only one item was missing in the burglary: an iPod, taken from a bathroom, valued at under $100. A neighbor told police of two men in black clothing loitering near the home that morning.

Stay local

A Sonoma woman with a history of boozing, 28, checked out of her mother’s house and into the Sonoma Hotel – with mom’s credit card. The planned week-long sojourn was shortened to one night when the tipped off the card holder about the impending charge. The young woman was found asleep in the room February 20, with open alcohol containers.

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