Dec. 1 2014 04:41 PM

Your semi-annual police-blotter round-up of digital-age malfeasance

cybercrime
The pizza-eating suspects
Photo courtesy of Crimestoppers

Back in the day, newsrooms were filled with the staticky chatter from second-hand police scanners. That tradition is fading, in part because newsrooms can't afford dedicated beat reporters, but also because with the advent of cell phones, encrypted radios and Internet-linked patrol-car computers, police radios are becoming obsolete. One other factor: There's a whole class of invisible, digital crimes that aren't going out over the emergency airwaves. No one's dialing 911 for data breaches, and patrol officers aren't calling for backup on scam emails. 

To fill in the gaps, here's your digital-age police blotter for the second half of 2014: 

July 24-ish: According to a Polygon article in September, the head of the International Game Developers Association met with FBI officials during San Diego Comic-Con to discuss online harassment, bullying and threats.

July 30: Escondido police arrested 25-year-old Sami Ahmed Saeed for allegedly running a fraudulent website that purported to raise funds for a fallen police officer's 4-year-old daughter. 

Aug. 24: The Lizard Squad hacker group allegedly issued a bomb threat via Twitter that grounded an American Airlines flight to San Diego carrying Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley.

Aug. 26: Michael Lutts, a 50-year-old nurse and foster parent in San Diego, was arrested on child-porn charges. In addition to having hundreds of illegal images on his computer, the FBI found images on his phone of Lutts allegedly molesting a 2-month-old child in his care. 

Sept. 8: Bartell Hotels announced that as many as 53,000 customers at five of its San Diego hotels may have been victims of a massive data hack that occurred earlier in the year. 

Sept 8: A man who'd been investigated on child-sexual-abuse charges by San Diego County authorities in 2009 was sentenced to a 23-year prison sentence in Washington. According to the Seattle Times, the conviction was the culmination of a child-porn investigation conducted by the FBI and law enforcement agencies in Denmark and Australia.

Sept. 10: San Diego Crimestoppers released images and video footage of two pizza-eating suspects whom the Sheriff's Department believes were using stolen credit-card details to book hotel rooms at Hotels.com and buy items from Sears.com.

Sept 16: Ara Keshishyan was sentenced to 57 months in prison for orchestrating a massive fraud scheme exploiting a bug in Citibank ATMs inside casinos across Southern California. 

Sept. 17: Edmund Seshie and Abdul Rezak Shaib pleaded guilty for their roles in an international identity-theft ring based out of West Africa in which Ghanaian fraudsters bought stolen IDs from Singapore black marketers. They then used those cards to buy cars from dealerships, including a KIA seller in El Cajon. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in San Diego, which said it connected the fraud scheme to Sakawa, "a Ghanaian practice that combines modern internet-based fraud practices targeting foreigners with traditional African religious rituals."

Oct. 10: A military judge sentenced Navy technician Ryan Garbisch to seven years in prison, a $10,000 fine and a dishonorable discharge for possessing child pornography. 

Oct. 13: Aaron's Inc., a rent-to-own franchise, reached a $28.4-million settlement with the California Department of Justice for unfair business practices and renting computers loaded with spyware to customers. "A feature in the spyware program called ‘Detective Mode,' which was installed without consumers' consent or knowledge, allowed the Aaron's franchisees to remotely monitor keystrokes, capture screenshots, track the physical location of consumers and even activate the rented computer's webcam," the Attorney General's office said. Aaron's has four stores in San Diego County.

Oct. 20: NBC San Diego reported the FBI was investigating email threats received by a former Carl DeMaio campaign worker. The station also reported that the worker, who'd accused DeMaio of sexual harassment, claimed his email account had been hacked.

Oct. 21: According to news reports, FBI agents arrested a Skyline man after he was caught allegedly sharing child pornography on Internet chat rooms. Jonathan Gastelum's wife was also arrested.

Oct. 23: A military judge sentenced Seaman Ian Else to two years in prison and a "bad conduct discharge" for possessing child pornography. 

Nov. 1: Tijuana police arrested John Baden, a 38-year-old "cyber-fugitive" who, along with accomplices, allegedly hacked into a mortgage application database, stole 40,000 identities and used that to buy themselves "expensive electronic items." He was turned over to the FBI two days later. 

Nov. 21: Two teenagers were arrested for making a mass-shooting threat against Torrey Pines High School via a social-media app. 

Nov. 25: In San Diego Superior Court, former "Mother of the Year" Kathy Rowe pleaded guilty to charges related to online harassment of a couple who outbid her on her dream house. According to City News Service, the woman posted online ads in the name of one woman, inviting men to come over to her house to rape her. 


Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @Maassive.

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