Forensic Fingerprint Technique Reveals Forgers and Counterfeiters

For more than a century, fingerprints have been crucial to the investigation of crime and are still responsible for more identifications than DNA evidence. Now, a University of Huddersfield researcher is responsible for breakthroughs that will make fingerprinting a more valuable forensic tool than ever. Fraudsters are among the offenders who will be easier to detect, thanks to the work of Dr. Benjamin Jones.

He headed a team that has discovered a technique for taking fingerprints from laser-printed paper and — crucially — detecting whether or not the mark was made before or after it was printed on.

An award-winning article describing the new technique explains that “in cases such as fraud or counterfeiting it can be imperative to know whether a fingerprint has been deposited before or after the paper is printed with compromising material, and therefore be able to assess whether a suspect is associated with the printed evidence.”

In a project that received £170,000 funding from The Leverhulme Trust, Jones and his team discovered that a scientific technique known as secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) — which analyses surfaces at the microscale — can provide a detailed chemical map of the layers on laser-printed paper — including fingerprints — and the order in which they were deposited. This means, for example, that a suspect could no longer claim that he or she had handled a piece of blank paper when simply refilling a photocopier or printer.

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Organized retail crime taking off in Canada

From a bland Toronto office filled with large television monitors, Sean Sportun keeps an eye on 560 Mac’s stores in Canada.

The live video streams randomly from the locations. Most of it shows honest customers at counters, plunking down merchandise, paying and leaving.

Then Sportun, manager of security and loss prevention for the convenience store chain for central Canada, loads a recorded clip. It shows a slim woman in a head scarf, sweater and floor-length skirt, sneaking into the back room of a Mac’s in Parry Sound.

The store’s walk-in safe is open and the woman heads straight for it. She stuffs merchandise into laundry-sized bags concealed beneath her skirt. The bags are latched onto a belt around her waist.
There is a name for her garment: It’s called a booster skirt.

After stuffing the bags to capacity, she hobbles out of the backroom. She is no longer slim.

Her skirt has ballooned out and she knocks merchandise onto the floor in her wake.

Stepping out of the back room, she is engulfed by accomplices who shield her from view of the lone clerk as they exit.

At the counter, the clerk is distracted by two more gang members asking about products hanging on the wall behind her. They make a small purchase and leave.

The clerk, sensing that something has gone wrong, darts into the back room to urgently replay the surveillance tape. She calls police.

Total take: $30,000 of tobacco products in five minutes.

That next day the gang was at work in the GTA. They were arrested at a Winners in Thornhill after police were alerted by Sportun.

“They work off the highways. They’re very transient. They will jump from place to place, from province to province, wherever they feel they can get the biggest bang for their buck,” says Sportun.

“For the most part, these folks are really good at what they do. They train for it.”

The Mac’s incident was an example of sophisticated, organized retail crime — the kind that is costing Canadian retailers an estimated $4.67 billion a year.

According to a social media campaign last year, consumers paid 20 per cent more for goods as a result of retail theft.

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Feds: Gang lured schoolgirls to sex trade

SAN DIEGO — A federal indictment unsealed Thursday accuses San Diego gang members of running a cross-country sex-trafficking ring that preyed on teenage girls from East County schools and used violence and drugs to coerce them into prostitution.

Twenty-two gang members and associates are charged with a racketeering conspiracy for their alleged roles in what was described as a lucrative operation, authorities announced Thursday. Most were arrested in a series of predawn raids.

About 100 victims, some as young as 12, were identified during the two-year investigation, officials said. Some girls were ensnared by promises of money and a lavish lifestyle, while others were forced through violence or threats to sell sex, according to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. Vulnerable victims, such as runaways and girls from broken homes, were ideal candidates for recruitment, the court records state.

In one instance, according to the indictment, two defendants discussed on Facebook beating up a prostituted victim who got pregnant to get rid of the baby. Another victim had her jaw broken, the document states.

“These are girls who have their lives ahead of them, they look forward to this beautiful full life,” Duffy said.

“But those who exploit those dreams, they’re stealing the souls of these children and these young girls, and they’re doing so by crushing them with false promises, crushing them with physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual slavery — the kind of sexual slavery that leaves scars for a lifetime.”

The girls were recruited through social media, at parties and at various middle and high schools in the East County. On at least one occasion, Duffy said, a pimp tried to enroll an older, more experienced prostitute into a school to recruit younger victims.

The investigation, led by the Sheriff’s Department and dubbed “Operation Stolen Souls,” was kicked off by the rescue of a few sex-trafficking victims found attending an alternative school.

Investigators said school officials and parents helped by reporting red flags: girls coming to school with unexplained expensive items, frequent absences, bruising or other injuries, relationships with known gang members. At least one parent even reported seeing a daughter offering sex for money on a website, an official said.

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Package Theft Spree Tracked Through Rented Trailer

A woman who allegedly drove a U-Haul truck around a San Diego neighborhood stealing mailed packages from peoples’ doorsteps was arrested after surveillance cameras identified the rented truck, police said today.

Martha Lampley, 37, began cruising the East County neighborhoods starting on Nov. 21, swiping packages until she was arrested on Nov. 29, the San Diego County Sheriff’s department told ABC News.

Lampley was tracked down when one of her alleged victims gave police a home surveillance video of a theft and footage included a U-Haul trailer in the background. Police were able to identify the rented vehicle and trace it back to Lampley, police said.

“One of the deputies did a great job using the video to identify the suspect,” said Lt. Chris May. “She was using a rented U-haul truck to drive through the neighborhoods to commit the thefts.”

The truck ID led officers to Lampley’s storage unit where some of the stolen packages were found, authorities said.

“Yesterday we returned packages to several of the victims. Many of the packages were still unopened with the delivery and packaging labels with the victim’s information,” said May.

The spokesman said similar thefts involving a U-Haul trailer were reported elsewhere in Southern California.

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Credit card thieves take gas in ‘pump and dump’ scheme

Lilburn, Georgia (CNN)-The man in the white shirt was pumping gas into an ordinary-looking white van. But he was no ordinary customer.

For one, it took him a long time at the pump. And then there were the stolen credit cards police say he took out of his wallet. In the 17 minutes he was at the pump, he used two cards to pump 95 gallons of diesel fuel.

What happened at this gas station outside Atlanta is part of a crime wave around the country, police say. It’s called “pump and dump.” Thieves use stolen credit cards to get gas and then sell it at cut-rate prices to truckers and gas stations that are part of the scheme.

Authorities say it’s a multi-million dollar crime with a quick payoff.

The criminals look as if they are pumping gas like any other customer. But their vehicles are vans, trucks and SUVs fitted with hidden tanks that can hold several hundred gallons. The hidden tanks range from sophisticated contraptions to a simple plastic or metal container inside the vehicle.

“It’s a very lucrative way to make money. It runs below the radar,” said U.S. Secret Service Agent Steve Scarince, who supervises the agency’s Los Angeles Fraud Task Force, and tracks the crime around the country.

Scarince said the gas theft rings in the Los Angeles area typically resell the stolen gas to gas stations for a fraction of the usual cost. The stations then sell it on — at full price — to the public. In other parts of the country, police have arrested thieves who resell the stolen gas to independent truckers or who use it themselves.

The crime typically starts with the thieves stealing credit card information or buying stolen numbers online. They then use those cards to buy gas.

But catching and prosecuting them can be a lengthy process.

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JFK Bag Handlers Arrested

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Seven John F. Kennedy International Airport baggage handlers were arrested Wednesday, on allegations that they stole out of travelers’ luggage.

As Dick Brennan reported, CBS2 got an exclusive look at the loot that baggage handlers were allegedly taking for themselves. The items included cellphones, iPads, laptops, jewelry and other items worth a grand total of more than $20,000.

The items were taken from travelers’ checked luggage between March 2012 and June 2014, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Wednesday.

“The defendants have been caught red handed and will now face the consequences of their alleged illegal acts,” said Brown.

“The defendants — who were hired to handle the baggage of those traveling in and out of Kennedy Airport — are alleged to have stolen computers, cell phones and other items from checked luggage with many of them selling the pilfered items to a pawn shop or to a ‘fence’ who was actually an undercover police officer,” Brown said.

The suspects are identified as Khaleed Maynard, 28, Sheldon Theodore, 22, and Ryan Phillips, 35, who worked for Swissport at Terminal 4; Levi Miller, 47, Romero Hendricks, 30, and Tihafade Esdaile, 29, who were employed by Aircraft Services International Group at Terminal 4; and Keston Austin, 31, who worked for G.S.I. at Terminal 7.

Each of the suspects face grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property charges, Brown said.

For many travelers, the news was a wake-up call.

“I probably wouldn’t put my jewelry in my checked bag,” said traveler Kristie Cummings. “I hope it’s still there.”

The baggage handlers who were arrested were all working for subcontractors for airlines at JFK.

The items were allegedly taken from the suitcases of passengers traveling through Terminals 4 and 7 going to or coming from Japan, Hawaii, Johannesburg, London, Bangkok, Dubai, Milan as well as cities within the United States.

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A password is not enough to protect your personal information – a second level of security is needed to block thieves from hacking your email or social media accounts. In the cyber world, you’re a target.

“Your Twitter, LinkedIn account, Facebook, your email accounts – that’s where the bad guys are going because they follow where the most people are, so they are trying to hack you by getting into those systems,” said Kristin Judge, National Cyber Security Alliance.

Step 1, like this Google email account, is your password, but now, two-step authentication goes beyond just a password to make sure it’s really you and not just someone with your password.

This public service message is the latest push by the National Cyber Security Alliance, which held a conference in Chicago on Friday.

“Two-step protection is out there, consumers don’t know about it. Google has been doing it since 2011, what good is it? Consumers really need to understand it, they need that extra security,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO, Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

“The message today is to add an extra layer of protection to your online accounts,” said Judge.

You can add two-step authentication on online accounts like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo! Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

On Facebook, you start by going to “security settings” and down to “login approvals.” You’ll put in your phone number, click on the box to require a security code. That code will be texted to your phone, along with a password, you’ll need that code to log-on to your Facebook account. Kristin Judge with the Security Alliance uses two-point authentication on Gmail.

“It’s going to say to me, enter the code that comes to your phone. I didn’t ask it to send me the code, it just knows,” Judge said.

Again, you input the code as a second security step. This isn’t well-known, yet, but Chicagoans are learning.

“I’m going to tell everybody now, that it’s something need to look into and start doing it for their personal protection,” said Tony Quintana, a private investigator.

You don’t have to do two-step authentication repeatedly on devices that you use all the time, like your phone and iPad. But if a criminal somewhere tried to log on to your computer, they couldn’t – they would need a text message with the second step

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Agent: Retail theft connected to bigger crimes

PANAMA CITY — The people stealing bras and baby formula might seem relatively harmless compared to abusive spouses or drug dealers, but sometimes their ill-gotten gains reach the Middle East and wind up financing a terror attack.

That might be what happened in a sprawling case investigated over several years by Special Agent Scott Springer with the Department of Homeland Security. The investigation led to dozens of arrests and seizures, and the conspirators at several points plotted to kill Springer, he said.

Imagine Detective Jimmy McNulty, the fictional protagonist in the television series “The Wire,” explaining to students the techniques he and other officers used to investigate Stringer Bell and Marlo Stanfield. Substitute stolen baby formula for cocaine and heroin and you’ve got a pretty good picture of Springer’s investigation.

But it’s not just baby formula. Organized rings of thieves steal prescription drugs, over the counter medications, razor blades, computer equipment and guns and sell through “fences,” stores that pass off the stolen merchandise as legitimate.

Organized thieves have been known to hijack truckloads of merchandise, Springer said, but they often operate on a smaller scale. For example, Panama City Police last year arrested five women from Georgia at Pier Park on charges of stealing thousands of dollars from stores like Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works.

“They don’t all steal that stuff and go home and wear it,” Springer said.

Springer’s investigation led to charges against a ringleader of an international criminal organization and the leaders of four cells with ties to Islamic radicals, he said.

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Beacons Pop up in Stores Ahead of Holidays

From American Eagle to Apple Stores, beacons are popping up everywhere. Are they a shopper’s best friend or another pesky Big Brother monitoring our every move?

The square or rectangular devices, smaller than a smartphone, can hang on a wall or be placed on a machine and communicate with your phone via Bluetooth signals. Accessed through apps you download to your smartphone, beacon technology can do everything from guide you to the correct airport terminal to turn on your coffee maker as you sleepily enter the kitchen. In retail, beacons aim to entice you to spend money. As you enter a store, your smartphone might light up with a sale alert. Stand in the dress section for a while and a coupon may pop up for something on a nearby hanger.

“The most important thing a shopper might need to get access to when they go into a store are ratings and reviews, coupons and promotions,” said Erik McMillan, CEO of Shelfbucks, which is working with video game retailer GameStop and others on its beacon marketing. Beacons give customers that research right there in the store ? when they have their wallets and are looking to buy.

Macy’s Inc. has installed beacons in all of its 840 department stores; other chains such as Kohl’s are testing them in some locations. McMillan likens beacons to the early days of retail websites in the 1990s when “all of a sudden it got to the point that ‘you can’t not have a website’.” He predicts the technology will skyrocket from the 50,000 beacons in use now to between 5 million and 10 million next year.

The vast majority of shopping is still done in stores. E-commerce is fast-growing but accounts for only about 9 percent of total retail sales, according to Forrester Research. Beacons merge in-store shopping with mobile access to information ? and data shows they work.

Between July and September, 30 percent of shoppers who received a “push-ad” from an in-store beacon used that offer to buy something, according to a survey by Swirl, a marketing technology company that has worked with retailers such as Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Alex and Ani, Kenneth Cole and Timberland to deploy beacons. Sixty percent of shoppers opened beacon-sent messages, and over half of those surveyed said they would do more holiday shopping at the stores as a result of their beacon experience.

Graham Uffelman, a 45-year-old New Yorker, said he bought Bluetooth headphones at Best Buy because of a deal he got via the Shopkick beacon marketing app.

“The app knew I was in the store and actually suggested a product I wanted,” he said. “The experience was great but also a little unnerving in the sense that the store knew who I was and that I was present in their location. It felt a little Big Brother-like.”

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Michigan man targets the elderly in $46.5M Ponzi scheme

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A western Michigan man convicted of operating a $46.5 million Ponzi scheme that targeted elderly investors was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Wednesday.

David McQueen, 44, was convicted earlier this year of fraud and other charges related to the scheme. Prosecutors say he promised to make steady payments to hundreds of investors, but really just moved money between accounts to keep checks from bouncing.

The courtroom was packed with victims for his sentencing hearing, The Grand Rapids Press reported. U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist said many victims are in financial ruin, including a woman who invested $500,000 with him who was then unable to pay for her sick husband’s medical care and funeral.

“Mr. McQueen does not take any responsibility for what has occurred here,” Quist said. “He can say he’s sorry in an abstract sense but I don’t think he feels it.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sally Berens said McQueen portrayed himself as a Christian doing good works while taking a $150,000 monthly salary. McQueen still owes $32 million in restitution, prosecutors say.

McQueen, who lived in Kent County’s Byron Township, has blamed lawyers and others for his failed investments.

His business partner, Trent Francke, pleaded guilty to securities and tax charges. Quist sentenced him Tuesday to seven years in prison.

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