Criminal Investigations

Here is a very interesting site both for analysis and facts.

Sociology of crime.  This is my field of study.

Prof. Baker’s Homepage

Department of Sociology, Ithaca College


homicide hq
Image by teejayhanton via Flickr

From the Forensic Examiner, Examination of Red Collar Criminals

The Arrogant Chameleons: Exposing Fraud-Detection Homicide

By Frank S. Perri, JD, MBA, CPA, and Terrance G. Lichtenwald, PhD

This study is the second in a series devoted to understanding red-collar criminals.  The first study, “Fraud Detection Homicide: A Proposed FBI Criminal Classification” (Perri & Lichtenwald, 2007) advanced the proposition that there is a sub-group of white-collar criminals who are capable of vicious and brutal violence against individuals whom they believe have detected their white-collar crimes.  The sub-group is referred to as red-collar criminals.

This study examines why red-collar criminals are not capable of committing violence against their victims without exposing both their white-collar crime and the violent crime.  The descriptive data suggests that the evidence trail left by the red-collar criminal both illustrates the red-collar criminal’s failure in avoiding detection and reveals his or her motive for the murder. Further, the findings related to red-collar criminals correlate with the behavioral traits of psychopathy.

The authors analyze the law enforcement interrogation of Christopher Porco and offer suggestions as to how investigators should approach interviews with psychopathic defendants. The transcript is a critical tableau demonstrating that traditional methods of interrogation may not suffice when it comes to the interrogatation of red collar criminals and that an alternative approach may be required.

The story of Timothy Wicks is a story of friendship, betrayal, and murder. His friend, Dennis Gaede, worked various jobs—including tax preparer. While preparing Timothy Wicks’ taxes, using information Wicks had disclosed for his return, Gaede fraudulently obtained Wicks’ identity.  With this information, Gaede left his home in Milwaukee and moved to North Dakota with his wife, Diana Fruge, and his new identity—representing himself as Timothy Wicks in the hopes of avoiding a felony sentencing in Wisconsin.

Gaede stayed in contact with the real Timothy Wicks, and shortly after moving to North Dakota, Wicks contacted Gaede and confided in him that someone was fraudulently using his identity and committing credit card fraud.  As fraud detection closed in, threatening to expose Gaede’s new identify, Gaede lured Wicks to North Dakota from Wisconsin with the promise that they could play together in a band.  While Wicks was staying with Gaede and Fruge, in their home, Gaede shot Wicks.

Fruge later testified that after Gaede shot Wicks, he suffocated Wicks, who was still breathing, by putting a garbage bag over his head (Barton, 2006).  Subsequently they decapitated Wicks and cut off his hands to prevent identification of the body.  Then Gaede and his wife dumped the naked body over the side of a bridge in Michigan, and they dumped the victim’s head, which was later discovered, in a river in Wisconsin.  After the murder, they emptied out Wicks’s bank account and used the $17,000 to buy a vehicle.  However, Wicks was eventually identified through dental records.

Shortly after the murder, Gaede stopped showing up for work and his employer discovered money missing from the business where Gaede worked as bookkeeper and office manager.

When the employer confronted him about the fraud, Gaede failed to give an explanation for the financial anomalies.  The employer contacted the authorities about his bookkeeper, referring to him as Timothy Wicks, and was informed by police that the real Timothy Wicks was dead. Eventually, Gaede was found guilty of murder and the prosecution argued that the fraud detection initiated by Wicks himself had been the motive for Gaede to kill him (Barton, 2007).

A unique aspect of this study is that it builds upon findings drawn from homicide cases where white-collar criminals became violent and turned into red-collar criminals when their victims detected their fraudulent behavior.  In a previous study of fraud-detection homicide, Perri and Lichtenwald (2007) examined the available data from 27 criminal cases, organizing the data into a matrix referred to as Perri’s Red-Collar Matrix (the Perri-RCM). Here, the authors analyze case-specific murder evidence derived from the previous study for identifiable psychological traits or behavioral tendencies typical of identified red-collar criminals. The hypothesis is that identification of psychological traits and/or tendencies of red-collar criminals might be beneficial in proposing an explanation of how red-collar criminals, who have engaged primarily in white-collar crime, come to believe they are able to successfully engage in murder and escape detection.

Further, if there is a set of behavioral tendencies, then awareness of that set might be of benefit to forensic examiners during their interviews and investigations of future red-collar crimes.

The Arrogant Chameleon Syndrome: A Behavioral Profile
A chameleon is a reptile that has the ability to change color to match its surroundings in order to avoid detection.  White-collar criminals thrive on being able to avoid detection in order to carry out their fraud schemes; they have the ability, like a chameleon, to adapt to a given environment. What happens, then, when white-collar criminals attempt to become violent criminals?  Do they have the ability, like the chameleon, to change their complexion to avoid detection? Or do they fail—exposing their true colors because their white-collar criminal skill set is inadequate when applied to violent criminal acts?

The murder case data reveals certain behavioral traits that explain why red-collar criminals think their white-collar crime skill set can be duplicated as violent criminals.  The behavioral traits are the effect of their psychopathic characteristics (Perri & Lichtenwald, 2007).  Although psychopaths try to “blend in,” the deficits in their psychopathic natures, i.e., grandiosity, poor impulsive controls, etc., hinder their ability to accurately foresee the consequences of their behavior.  Psychopaths have difficulty projecting into the future, which is to say they have trouble understanding how their actions play out in (real) life, and they also have deficits in reflecting upon their past; “[t]hey are prisoners of the present” (Meloy, 2000).  The red-collar criminal’s inability to think through a plan that would take into account the potential risks of being caught, and the evidence trail left behind, is another hallmark of their behavior (Meloy, 2000).

The descriptive data is consistent with Dr. Hare’s conclusion that because of these deficits, the red-collar criminal’s self-perceived reality is distorted (Hare, 1993).  Put another way, as Edelgard Wulfert, forensic psychologist and professor at the University of New York at Albany, stated, “A psychopath invents reality to conform to his needs” (Grondahl, 2006). The red-collar criminal’s grandiose belief that having committed murder, he or she will somehow avoid detection is proven false.  In fact, the data reflects the exact opposite.  The egocentrism characteristic of these chameleons produces an overconfident view of their ability to avoid detection, thus they do not bother to conceal incriminating evidence.

To read more, including the NC story of Robert Petrick and Janine Sutphen, click here

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7 responses to “Criminal Investigations


    We all watch Law and Order, Criminal Intent, especially the tv show set in Miami, where not only does every police officer have the ability to work in the lab, but Miami Dade has a lab that the FBI must envy (and they can write on the walls). All the officers work in the field, and in the lab and solve every crime scientifically.

    Televison makes us think every police department has state of the art facilities. I guess police work is work searching for the “Dark Heart of Man”. Apparently science does not solve the crime.

    From MSNBC

    Report: Crime labs seriously deficient
    National Academy of Science says only DNA evidence is dependable
    By Pete Williams
    Justice correspondent
    NBC News
    updated 1:05 p.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 18, 2009

    WASHINGTON — The nation’s crime labs are so seriously deficient that criminals are allowed to go free, the wrong people are sometimes convicted, and only a radical shakeup can improve the results, according to a long-awaited report out Wednesday.

    The National Academy of Sciences says with the single exception of DNA, no other crime scene evidence is dependable enough to allow police officers to testify in court, as they often do, that it’s “a match” to a specific person.

    This is true, the report says, of analysis of hair, fibers, bites, and tool marks — all of which have been long used to obtain convictions. Subsequent DNA testing, it says, shows that some of these analyses produce erroneous results.

    “The fact is that many forensic tests — such as those used to infer the source of toolmarks or bite marks — have never been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny,” the report says, adding that even fingerprints are subject to varying interpretations.

    The root of the problem is the lack of strict standards, the report concludes. It calls on Congress to establish a national institute of forensic science to accredit crime labs, require that analysts be certified, and establish uniform standards for analyzing crime scene evidence.

    What’s more, the report says nearly all crime labs are run by police or prosecutors, which exert pressure to come up with specific conclusions. The labs should be removed from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutors, it says

    The National Academy of Sciences was directed by Congress to assess the quality and needs of the nation’s crime laboratories. Wednesday’s report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward,” is the work of a panel of 17 experts, including scientists and lawyers, co-chaired by a federal judge.

    In short, the report says the nation’s 389 publicly funded crime labs are underfunded, underequipped, and so unconnected to scientific standards that testimony in court about their results is often vastly overstated.

    Just giving the labs more money, the panel concludes says, will not solve the problem.

    “The forensic science community lacks the necessary governance structure to pull itself up from its current weaknesses,” it says.

    © 2009 Reprints

    MSN Privacy . Legal
    © 2009

  2. Below is information about what the FBI investigates

    What We Investigate

    The very heart of FBI operations lies in our investigations—which serve, as our mission states, “to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the criminal laws of the United States.” We currently have jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal law, and you can find the major ones below, grouped within our three national security priorities and our five criminal priorities. Also visit our Intelligence program site, which underpins and informs all our investigative programs.

    National Security Priorities

    Criminal Priorities

    1. Counterterrorism
    • International Terrorism
    • Domestic Terrorism
    • Weapons of Mass Destruction

    2. Counterintelligence
    • Counterespionage
    • Counterproliferation
    • Economic Espionage

    3. Cyber Crime
    • Computer Intrusions
    • Online Predators
    • Piracy/Intellectual Property Theft
    • Internet Fraud

    4. Public Corruption
    • Government Fraud
    • Election Fraud
    • Foreign Corrupt Practices

    5. Civil Rights
    • Hate Crime
    • Human Trafficking
    • Color of Law
    • Freedom of Access to Clinics

    6. Organized Crime
    • Italian Mafia/LCN
    • Eurasian
    • Balkan
    • Middle Eastern
    • Asian
    • African
    • Sports Bribery

    7. White-Collar Crime
    • Antitrust
    • Bankruptcy Fraud
    • Corporate/Securities Fraud
    • Health Care Fraud
    • Identity Theft
    • Insurance Fraud
    • Money Laundering
    • Mortgage Fraud
    • Telemarketing Fraud
    • More White-Collar Frauds

    8. Major Thefts/Violent Crime
    • Art Theft
    • Cargo Theft
    • Crimes Against Children
    • Cruise Ship Crime
    • Indian Country Crime
    • Jewelry and Gems Theft
    • Retail Theft
    • Vehicle Theft
    • Violent Gangs

    Privacy Policy | | White House is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice.

  3. The cost of Innocence

    Innocent suspect was treated as if guilty
    Part 2: Picking up the pieces

    By Brad Zinn/staff • • February 21, 2009

    STAUNTON — Although William “Bill” Thomas Jr. would be found not guilty of murder in one of the 1967 High’s Ice Cream slayings, the albatross of an outstanding murder warrant that was allowed to stand for nearly 42 years would take its toll on his family and business dealings.

    There were people he would avoid, restaurants he could not enter, all because of the publicity generated by the High’s slayings. Authorities in Texas and West Virginia even questioned him in connection with other slayings.

    Thomas, whose finances would fluctuate, periodically hired a private investigator to look into the High’s killings.

    “Sometimes I could afford it, sometimes I couldn’t,” he said.

    As 2008 came to a close, Thomas knew police were hot on the trail of 60-year-old Sharron Diane Crawford Smith, a former High’s part-time worker who eventually admitted to killing two female clerks at the store the night of April 11, 1967. Still, when Thomas’ daughter called him with news of Smith’s confession and arrest, he said, “It still was quite a shock. I never had anything hit me like that.”

    The rest of the story continues here

  4. From the New York Times

    Tips for the Sophisticated Fugitive
    Associated Press

    Published: March 21, 2009

    The Bernie Madoffs of the world — not just the Ponzi schemer himself but the rogue accountants, lawyers and hedge funders — walk meekly into federal courts with their rictus faces and ashen complexions and the expectation of long prison sentences, and a bystander can’t help but wonder:

    Why not take the ill-gotten money and run?

    A touch of plastic surgery and a discreet payoff might purchase a sun-tanned life on an Indian Ocean archipelago, a number of which have no extradition treaties with the United States. Even a down-market move, manning an outboard motor for a skiff full of Somali pirates, seems preferable to a life term in a maximum-security federal prison.

    Yet as more plutocrats face criminal investigations, few seem to view flight as an option. Perhaps it is a failure of nerve. Or perhaps, in this age of Facebook and “America’s Most Wanted,” the globe suffers a shortage of corners where a rogue might comfortably hide.

    (A caveat: “comfortably hide” is the key point. North Korea, the lesser ’stans or the tribal lands of western Pakistan sit beyond the law’s reach, but the lifestyle lacks four-star quality.)

    Vic O’Boyski, a retired supervisory United States marshal, considers himself a philosopher of flight. He’s seen the world shrink. The F.B.I. places attachés in embassies, law enforcement wizards work up computer mock-ups of aging faces, and forensic accountants track off-shore accounts. He reserves professional respect for those who take fleeing seriously.

    “No phone calls, no letters, no Facebook, access to money — look, it’s tough,” he says. “If you don’t have an escape plan, you’ve got a problem.”

    Once, the fugitive lifestyle was simpler. In 1972, Robert Vesco, the stock scammer and maker of illegal campaign contributions to President Richard Nixon, landed in Costa Rica, donated $2.1 million to a company that just happened to be founded by the president, and waited until (miracle!) Costa Rica passed a law barring his extradition. Today, Costa Rica is a popular vacation destination for budget travelers and decidedly unwelcome to scalawags seeking to avoid extradition.

    Casting farther back, when Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York faced whispers of bribe taking in 1932, he packed up his curiously large mayoral fortune and repaired to the French Riviera, remaining in Europe until the whispers ceased.

    Now the world is more circumscribed. The United States has extradition treaties everywhere in the Western Hemisphere, and much of Europe, a 2007 report said.

    The most successful fugitives tend to be high-end career criminals rather than financiers; James “Whitey” Bolger Jr., boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston, disappeared in 1999 and has not been seen since, although sightings are reported from Taormina, Sicily, (unlikely) to Dublin, Ireland (much more likely). “He puts on a pea cap and picks up his shillelagh and he’s just one of a thousand old Irish guys,” Mr. O’Boyski says.

    Political fugitives are slippery. They tend to commit crimes — a bombing, a bank robbery — and recede into everyday life. So Sara Jane Olson, the former Symbionese Liberation Army bank robber paroled last week after seven years in prison, hid in plain sight for 26 years as a middle-class mom in Minnesota.

    White-collar fugitives are less impressive; they’re sharks in a boardroom but pedestrian on the lam. Joe Judge, a retired F.B.I. agent, could not hide his disgust at learning that three fugitives had been holed up at the Breakers, the deluxe hotel and spa in Palm Beach, Fla.

    “They’re helpless,” Mr. Judge said. “They’re just not good fugitives.”

    Many white-collar suspects are convinced they’re too smart to be convicted: just let them testify, they think, they’ll persuade jurors.

    “It’s funny how many don’t understand their problem,” says Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Columbia University. “I could never figure out why suspects stuck around.”

    Some do run. In 1983, while he was a prosecutor, Rudolph W. Giuliani indicted the commodities trader Marc Rich, who sought refuge in Switzerland. Mr. Rich, perhaps with the help of his wife’s campaign donations, would experience his own miracle in 2001, as President Bill Clinton pardoned him hours before leaving office.

    Two more loom as exemplars of the plutocrat on the run.

    In 2006, a federal jury indicted Jacob (Kobi) Alexander, an Israeli-American business wunderkind, on charges of wire and securities fraud. Mr. Alexander and his family flew to Namibia, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.

    The fugitive more or less tried to buy Namibia. He sponsored scholarships and built low-income solar-powered buildings, and he lived in a spectacular home in Windhoek. Last summer, according to The Wall Street Journal, he apparently felt confident enough to throw a four-day bar mitzvah for his son — and charter a jet to fly in 200 friends from New York City.

    Then there’s Sholam Weiss, whose run is the stuff of hallucinatory poetry. A plumbing supplier from Brooklyn, he proved brilliant at financial fraud. In 1999, while on trial in Florida on charges he defrauded a large insurance company, he took off for Brazil, where he acquired a girlfriend and once was spotted cavorting with 10 prostitutes, 5 dressed up as parochial-school girls.

    Mr. Judge, the F.B.I. agent, became worried that Mr. Weiss was trying to impregnate a Brazilian; the country’s law bars extradition if a fugitive has a child. “We were,” he recalls, “fighting not just extradition but ovulation.”

    Alas, this fugitive tale comes wrapped in cautionary cloth. Mr. Weiss was arrested, although not until he fled Brazil for Austria. In his absence, an angry federal judge handed down a tough sentence, as might be discerned by Mr. Weiss’s release date: Nov. 23, 2754.
    More Articles in Week in Review » A version of this article appeared in print on March 22, 2009, on page WK5 of the New York edition.
    Read the complete New York Times Electronic Edition on computer, just as it appears in print.

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