In 1989, while on a 14-day vacation, I sat down and wrote my first nonfiction book, "The Moon Is Always Full," which also became my first published work. That book included a chapter on stupid criminals and had the same title as the column you're reading. It proved to be one of the most popular chapters in the book.
A few years later, I appeared in the pilot of a television series called "America's Dumbest Criminals." I had played a small part in putting the program together. The series also spawned a best-selling book by the same name — which, unfortunately — I didn't write.
People love to read and hear about stupid criminals. I think it makes them feel safer to understand that most of the bad guys are not rocket scientists — at least the ones we usually catch. And every time I think I have read or heard about the most stupid criminal who ever lived, somebody tells me a story to top the last one
Here are three stupid criminal stories of the year 2000 that came my way through one source or another. The names and locations have been omitted to protect the guilty and prevent frivolous lawsuits against yours truly.
Where's my discount?
* A brilliant and enterprising young man ended up in possession of a stolen credit card. Whether he stole it or not I don't know, but it fell into his hands and he decided to make good use of it. At one of those huge combination stores that sell everything from tires to groceries, the young man went on a several-hundred-dollar spending spree
At the check-out counter, he presented the stolen card, the clerk rang it up without question and the young man signed the name of the card's owner — probably after practicing until it looked like the genuine signature on the back. The scam fell through, however, when the young criminal genius used a store discount card with his own name and address on it
How big a discount should a person get while making fraudulent transactions?
* A man who most certainly should not be forgotten was a bright fellow who started up a methamphetamine lab in his home while he was off his day job with a back injury. During that time, he also sued his employer and won a worker's compensation judgment of more than 50 thousand dollars.
On the day of the settlement, he collected his check and took it to one of those sleazy companies that cash checks for a fee. He had to pay three or four percent for them to cash it but he didn't mind because the lawyer he was stiffing by avoiding a bank was supposed to have gotten a third of the money
On his way home, the small businessman stopped and bought a large quantity of prescription painkillers, his recreational drug of choice, stuffed a few hundred dollars in his jeans, and according to witnesses, put the rest of the money in a small canvas bag. He went home, maybe to celebrate his windfall, and promptly swallowed what turned out to be a lethal dose of the pills.
His significant other — whom he had also failed to tell of his monetary good fortune — came home sometime that day and called the police to report his death by overdose. The small, canvas bag was never seen again and, not surprisingly, the significant other left town soon afterwards. The money the meth dealer had stuffed in his jeans almost paid for the cost of his funeral, I was told.
Keep on truckin'
* My last nod of appreciation for stupidity in the field of criminal behavior goes a to a bar patron who found himself drunk, broke and stranded in a town about 20 miles from his home. Apparently, he decided that stealing a vehicle was his only option. So he stumbled outside to the large parking lot where he, no doubt, figured he would find a vehicle with the keys in it — and he did.
Not only were the keys in it but it was also running. He jumped in and pulled away in the big truck that had been delivering beer to the bar. Despite the distinct nature of his stolen vehicle, the drunken thief made it all the way back to his home town without being stopped. He might have gotten away altogether if he hadn't pulled into another bar and crashed into several cars before he hit the building.
I know that every cop and former cop out there has heard or experienced at least one stupid criminal story this past year and I'd like to hear them all. As a matter of fact, the person who e- mails me the funniest stupid criminal story from the year 2000 — sometime in the next two weeks — can have his or her choice, at no cost, of an autographed copy of any one of my books listed for sale on my web site (http://hometown.aol.com/tnbard/index.html).Oh, and I'll tell the story in my column and you can take credit or remain anonymous. It will be your choice.
David Hunter's column, "The Beat Goes On," appears exclusively on the Internet at PoliceOne.com. For information on purchasing Hunter's latest novels, "A Whiff of Garlic," and "The Dancing Savior," or where to obtain Hunter's other works visit his Web page: hometown.aol.com/tnbard/index.html. You can contact David Hunter directly by writing him at P.O. Box 1124, Powell, Tenn. 37849. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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