08/03/2007

Tex. men pose as police, steal poker machines

Steve Thompson
The Dallas Morning News 

NORTH TEXAS — Two men posing as police officers have stolen gaming machines from convenience stores across North Texas. They walked into stores, told clerks the machines were illegal and pretended to confiscate them, police say.

Dallas police filed a theft charge against one of the suspects in the scheme on Tuesday night but have asked that his name be withheld to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing investigation. The man was arrested on an outstanding theft warrant out of Collin County.

John LeBlanc was working the register at the Mobil gas station at Garland Road and Lochwood Boulevard in the White Rock area when the impostors showed up on July 22. He was busy with customers when the impostors told him that because his video poker machines paid out real money, they were illegal and would be confiscated.

"They started playing with my mind," Mr. LeBlanc said. One of the men carried handcuffs, acted very authoritative, wore a T-shirt with a police logo and fiddled with some sort of radio.

Video poker machines, also known as eight-liners, are illegal when they pay out cash.

Mr. LeBlanc gave the impostor his boss's phone number. "I was stupid enough to let him use the telephone," the 46-year-old said. The intruder pulled the plug from the wall. Then his partner, who had a dolly, began hauling the machines toward their pickup.

Mr. LeBlanc said he realized something was wrong and tried to stop the men, but one tried to handcuff him.

"I yanked my hands away and called the police," Mr. LeBlanc said. "I should have called the police much earlier."

The police arrived a few minutes after the man and his partner left.

"He made a fool out of me," Mr. LeBlanc said.

But Dallas police say Mr. LeBlanc is not alone in falling for the ruse. The same men probably robbed game machines from seven other stores across Dallas, Lewisville Arlington and Crandall, said Detective Craig Johnson. "Probably a whole lot more."

The string of thefts may have begun in 2006, the detective said. "He's smooth, slick, whatever you want to call it," the detective said of the man they arrested. Police have not made any other arrests.

Detective Johnson said the machines might be worth as much as several thousand dollars if in good condition. He said he's not sure what the culprits are doing with them. "This is not something you can get rid of real quick," the detective said.

The man who has been arrested was being held Wednesday in the county jail on the Dallas theft charge, as well as the Collin County charge and a charge of impersonating a peace officer out of Kaufman County.

Copyright 2007 The Dallas Morning News

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