Lawman arrested in strip-search investigation

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by nycflasher, Jul 9, 2004.

  1. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    This is one strange story:

    Correctional officer arrested in Florida

    Jeff Lehr
    Globe Staff Writer
    7/8/04

    Investigators had a hunch early on that a strip-search con artist might be a policeman.

    After all, he usually posed as a lawman when cajoling and threatening numerous fast-food restaurant managers into forcing employees and sometimes even customers to disrobe, and into performing sex acts, all in the interest of a supposed investigation.

    It turns out that the alleged perpetrator, David R. Stewart, 38, was a correctional officer at a privately run county jail and a former auxiliary officer with a Florida sheriff's department. He's also the father of five children.

    Stewart's suspected 10-year run of unsolved telephone hoaxes nationwide, possibly including one May 26 at the Sonic Drive-In on Seventh Street in Joplin, finally came to an end with his arrest last Thursday in Florida on a fugitive warrant issued in Kentucky.

    "We're still tracking down phone records," said Detective Michael Gayman of the Joplin Police Department. "But, from all appearances, it looks like (Stewart) could be our guy."

    Police in Mount Washington, Ky., are seeking his extradition to face a charge of solicitation to commit sodomy. Stewart is accused of calling a McDonald's restaurant in Mount Washington on April 9, and persuading a manager and others to strip-search a female employee and perform sex acts on her.

    Stewart, who is being held in Florida without bond, reportedly did not admit to perpetrating the hoax as suspected on more than 70 fast-food restaurants nationwide since the mid-1990s. But, he did tell investigators "he was happy the whole thing was over," according to Lt. Ray Rogers of the West Bridgewater Police Department in Massachusetts.

    "He's going to be a busy boy because he has at least five other states he's probably going to be extradited to," Rogers said.

    Man's pants telling clue

    Police in Florida, Kentucky and Massachusetts teamed up to make the arrest. But it was two members of a Massachusetts crime task force, Rogers said, who did most of the legwork involved. They were Detective Sgts. Scott Saccoach of the Abington Police Department and Victor Flaherty of the West Bridgewater Police Department.

    Saccoach and Flaherty worked the case together as members of a multi-department task force serving the urban area south of Boston. On a single day in February, a male caller had persuaded managers of four Wendy's restaurants in Abington, West Bridgewater, Whitman and Wareham to strip-search employees.

    A couple of those calls were traced to a public telephone in Panama City, Fla., Rogers said. The detectives soon learned that the calls had been placed using an AT&T phone card.

    Armed with the phone-card number, they determined that the card had been sold at one of two Wal-Mart stores in the Panama City area. They then obtained those stores' video surveillance tapes.

    Rogers said the detectives spent about five days analyzing the tapes in a video lab in Massachusetts before coming up with an image of the man who had purchased the card.

    "They had to look frame by frame," Rogers said. "It was meticulous stuff."

    The next step was to get the photograph enhanced and to take it to Florida last week to see if any Panama City-area officers might recognize the man. None did, but Panama City Detective Andrea Bratson recognized the man's pants as those of a correctional officer.

    The officers showed the photograph to Kevin Watson, warden of the Bay County Correctional Department, who identified the purchaser of the card as a correctional officer employed by Corrections Corp. of America, a private company that operates Bay County's jail.

    The Massachusetts detectives waited and questioned Stewart when he arrived for work that day last week.

    "But a search warrant was obtained on his home," Rogers said. "Based upon what was found in his home, authorities in Kentucky felt they had enough to get a warrant for his arrest."

    The search warrant was served last Wednesday at Stewart's home in Fountain, Fla. Police magazines and calling cards were seized. He was arrested the next day when Kentucky authorities were the first to obtain a warrant based on the materials seized.

    In the Kentucky case, authorities have charged another man who allegedly participated in the strip-search of the female employee and sexual acts performed on her. Walt Nix, 42, a boyfriend of an employee of the McDonald's in Mount Washington, was arrested the night of the alleged hoax on charges of sodomy and assault.

    The hoax has resulted in criminal charges being filed against restaurant managers and others, and numerous lawsuits over the years.

    Joplin suspect

    Rogers said the motivation for the hoax remains uncertain. Investigators have theorized that the caller is "a control freak" who derives a kind of thrill from getting others to do what he tells them to do.

    Stewart has not provided investigators with a confession.

    "He didn't admit to any crime, but he did want to know if he had hurt anybody," Rogers said. "And, he also told investigators he was happy the whole thing was over."

    The potential for more charges against Stewart in numerous other jurisdictions is going to boil down to the availability of telephone records.

    Gayman, with the Joplin Police Department, told the Globe on Wednesday that Stewart is the prime suspect in the Sonic Drive-In hoax in May.

    In that case, a male caller posing as a Joplin police officer persuaded a 16-year-old female manager to strip-search a 21-year-old male cook in the women's restroom of the restaurant on the premise that he was suspected of having stolen an elderly female customer's purse while she was in the restaurant.

    The caller further instructed the manager to perform an oral-sex act on the cook and threatened her with arrest if she did not do so, according to police. After she had completed the act, he reportedly instructed her to hand the phone over to the cook, then told the cook that he actually was not the suspect in the theft.

    The caller told the cook that the manager was the real suspect, and that everything he had had them do up to that point was intended as a test of her innocence or guilt. He then instructed the cook to conduct a strip-search of the manager, which he did before the two were interrupted by a second manager who had been called to the scene when other employees became concerned with what was transpiring in the restroom, according to police.

    Similar calls were placed to the Country Kitchen in Joplin and to two fast-food establishments in Springfield on the same day. The caller to the Country Kitchen was unsuccessful in getting the manager to conduct a strip-search of an employee. But the caller apparently was successful in at least one of the Springfield calls.

    Gayman has been working with detectives in Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona and Kentucky in recent weeks.

    Joplin police have said in recent weeks that the call to the Sonic Drive-In probably would not be traceable. Police have had difficulty tracing such calls locally in the past. But Gayman said he has had "a little more luck" with phone records in this instance than in the past.

    "I know that one of the calls made here came from a pay phone on the East Coast," he said.

    He said he had not yet determined the exact location of the pay phone. He declined to say whether the call from the East Coast was the one placed to the Sonic Drive-In or to the Country Kitchen.

    Also in question is what charge authorities might pursue against the caller to the Sonic if they obtain sufficient evidence to file a charge.

    Gayman said he discussed the case with the Jasper County prosecutor's office on Wednesday, and prosecutors are looking into the matter from a legal standpoint.

    Springfield police said they also are interested in the Florida arrest.

    "Right now, we don't know if it is the same guy," said department spokesman Matt Brown. "If we can get to the point where we determine it is, we will look into seeking prosecution against him."

    Springfield police have not identified the restaurants involved there. They also have not commented on whether the caller was successful in getting strip-searches performed. But a police report on one of the incidents acknowledges the involvement of a female sexual-assault victim.

    Lee Ann Bratten, communications director for Sonic Drive-Ins, said the company fully supports all police departments' efforts in the strip-search scam investigations.

    "We would wish police well in their search, and I am glad they caught somebody," Bratten said.

    source
     
  2. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    what chick is dumb enough to think "well, the guy on the phone said he's a cop, and I HAVE to suck that dude's wang, because he MIGHT be a criminal!"

    :-/

    wow.
     
  3. NewGuy
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    NewGuy Guest

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    two words:

    Fast food.
     
  4. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    I'm sorry, call me insensitive, but this is a hoot. Unbelievable that anyone could be THIS stupid.
     
  5. insein
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    insein Senior Member

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    Thats like something you read on a porn site. Too funny. :D
     
  6. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    Yeah, man. When reading the article, I was thinking the same thing!

    I might have to try that one next time I'm pulled over by a female officer: "Um, I think I know how to prove I'm not a criminal, miss, I mean officer...":rolleyes:
     
  7. tim_duncan2000
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    tim_duncan2000 Active Member

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    I also found this funny:
    It would have been funnier if that was the cook's name.
     
  8. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    AHA! and all this time I was under the mistaken impression that you only researched current events.

    :teeth:
     
  9. insein
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    insein Senior Member

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    They are current, lol. They get updated every couple of hours. :D
     

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