Credit Card/Gift Card Fraud Ring Broken Up By Failure to Use Left Turn Signal

“Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz was caught after he got a parking ticket where he stopped to kill someone. Ted Bundy was pulled over for driving without his lights on. If you’re going to break the really big laws, it makes some kind of sense I guess that you’ll break the little ones too.

So it shouldn’t be at all surprising that a credit card fraud ring was foiled by failure to use a turn signal. (HT: Autoslash)

Samantha Rudd was driving a rented SUV in Idaho and she was pulled over for failing to use her turn signal exiting an Interstate. She didn’t have a drivers license. The car was rented in someone else’s name.

Her co-conspirator Jonathan Coons was using his body and the positioning of his seat to hide something. The rolled down the window just 5 inches. Since police wanted to search the vehicle they called for a K9 unit so that a dog could ‘alert’.

When the door was searched, officers noticed different types of credit cards inside the door pocket. They found more credit cards underneath the seat along with an Oregon driver’s license for the woman listed on the rental vehicle and credit cards and gift cards with Coons’s name on them.

…On top of the rear seat they reported finding a gray backpack, which contained a credit card manufacturing machine, blank credit cards and a book with thousands of credit card numbers, some which had been crossed out.

Credit: Autoslash Blog

The vehicle was rented with a fake license. If the drivers license provided had matched the rental agreement they probably would have been on their way.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So K9 units can smell credit cards? This smells fishy. Police like to call in K9 units who mysteriously “alert” to (drugs) and argue probable cause. I have no sympathy for these people but hate to see this tactic deployed by police. A lot of innocent people are seeing their cash seized as a result with the police arguing it’s related to drugs, etc.

  2. “She didn’t have a drivers license… The car was rented in another persons name…”
    Not having a drivers license pretty much should permit the search, with or without the detection of drugs. In this case, the search was warranted because the officer needs to independently investigate her identify in case she is lying to him. So, other documents in the car, may or may not confirm her story.
    The turn signal, while appearing to be a slight infraction, was probably the last straw for the officer. As long as he didn’t profile based on race, religion, sex, etc., he can make field judgements to investigate further. For instance, no turn signal could indicate dui or sleeping at the wheel, and he would be duty bound to stop the car.
    The exception to this is if he has a pattern of giving out turn signal violations. So the defense would argue that he is harassing whoever he feels like. But pretty much, he didn’t write the turn signal law, the legislator did, and he has to pretty much enforce it.
    As for seizing cash, I don’t understand the legality of that. We are told it is legal tender, and then we are suspected of using it in drug deals or for illegal purposes. And to keep this in perspective, this laws on this have to do with IRS filings for transactions involving more than $10,000 cash. Since when does every local PD have the right to enforce IRS laws? Both political parties love this court ruling because it leaves them with something to blame the other for doing, and to get themselves re-elected. Also, it is much easier to tax documented transactions not involving cash.
    I digress. What does surprise me is the amount of work these modern day “Catch me if you can” suspects went to and how they went undetected.

  3. Concur with EndlosLuft here. As good as it is these folks were caught, the idea of a “credit card sniffing” dog strains credibility.

  4. I think not opening the window more than 5 inches would alert any officer that the occupants seem to be hiding something. But in the absence of more probably cause, they possibly cannot justify a search – so they bring in the dogs. Your assumption is that this is basically fraudulent and that the dogs always find something. Not sure where you get this idea – the same as saying all cops are crooked – except the ones who save your ass when you’re in trouble. Lots of bad press for the cops lately and some is certainly deserved but this event doesn’t seem to qualify

  5. “She didn’t have a drivers license… The car was rented in another persons name…”

    Isn’t life amazing? They could manufacture credit cards in anyone’s name but weren’t clever enough to buy her a Chinese-made driver’s license in anyone’s name.

  6. Here we go… everyone has suddenly become a law expert on what a cop can or can’t do.

    Stop watching Law and Order and go to the academy and then come back here to argue.

    Hats off to the alert officer who didn’t just shrug it off. That’s what we call “police work”, readers.

  7. Although not mentioned the dog may have alerted to drugs or other things . Maybe the presence of same would be minor in consideration of the other discoveries .
    Their apprehension might make it slightly easier for those of us who want to use credit cards to enable our travels .

  8. Mr. Coons has quite the record.

    From 2007 –
    Jonathan Coons, then 28, who was known as Jonathan Holmes when he stabbed his mother to death in a headline-grabbing case out of Salem [Oregon] in 1994, was charged with identity theft and theft by receiving, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said. (2007)

  9. Yeah. I covered crime for 10 years as a reporter, and I’m pretty certain the officers already had probable cause to search when the woman had no DL and the vehicle was rented in someone else’s name.
    Hope these two catch serious time. Such fraud costs all of us money.

  10. Good grief! If I had thousands of dollars in cash on me, you can be damn sure I can prove where it came from.

  11. Show of hands…how many people use their turn signal to exit the interstate, each and every time? Also, for those who don’t (everybody!), who has been pulled over for this “offense”?!

    This is a bogus stop by a crooked cop “playing a hunch”, as many ridiculous cops are prone to do. That it led to anything illegal is beside the point.

  12. A lot of the commentators here seem to more upset about the policing method than getting these fraudsters locked up. I’d be thankful he took the initiative to use the legal policing options available to him and got this result. How many lawyers do the same ( ie use some obscure point of law ) to keep these criminals out of jail? I wish more people would be concerned with society’s overall rights than their perceived personal infringements. Seems like you have something to hide if you object to the method of policing described here.

  13. @Truth

    I actually use my turn signal every time…and it drives me absolutely CrAzY when people don’t…(for the record, most people do, at least in my experience). If people can’t care enough to simply flick the turn signal, they’re lazy. So I don’t mind if cops pull people over for the small things that the law tells us to do. When we all do the little things we’re supposed to do when driving, we are all safer. So kudos to law enforcement for doing their job…enforcing the law. The fact they caught criminals of even bigger transgressions is a plus.

  14. Two less criminals out there who hopefully will be doing time for credit card fraud. You may have been their next victim.

  15. “Stop watching Law and Order and go to the academy and then come back here to argue.”

    No, if you want to know the law, go to law school. The police don’t write the laws. They enforce them. The Founding Fathers were clear about that.

  16. @Truth

    “Show of hands…how many people use their turn signal to exit the interstate, each and every time?”

    Me. 40+ years’ habit. I ALWAYS signal when changing lanes. Even out in the country or in the middle of nowhere with not another person/car in sight.

    Why not?

  17. @Truth,

    I laughed at your post and how you failed trying to drag “everyone” in your sad attempt against this officer who was doing his job. (and I’d say he did a damm good one)

    I do use my turn signals and generally it’s a chain reaction because the cars in front of me use theirs which reminds me to use mine. Like another poster said, why not?

    Your logic how cops don’t pull over people for turn signal is the same assumption that cops should look for robbers, killers, etc instead of enforcing traffic infraction. Well, every investigation starts somewhere and in this case, the officer start his from the “simple” turn signal infraction.

    Did you have a bad experience with a law enforcement officer? With that attitude, I’m not surprised.

    No, there’s no such thing as a K-9 alert on fake credit cards. But just because it wasn’t mentioned on the article, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t a valid alert given by the K-9. We weren’t there (yes, you included) so we don’t know what other things raised the officer’s suspicion.

    In the end of the day, two bad guys off the street (even temporarily) and I’m all for it.

  18. The officer did an awesome job. A traffic violation is probable cause to stop a vehicle. Everything from there on indicated that the vehicle occupants were hinky (not opening the window, false papers etc). Fraud investigations normally require lots of time and are generally hard to prove. The good guys caught a lucky break here from an alert officer. All good legally and morally!

  19. See if they were black this would be an article about the outrage of racial profiling and questioning why they were forced to wait for a police investigation. I fail to see why this is applicable to a travel blog just like the iPhone article.

  20. @Bill
    What is that common piece of plastic called that is often used to gain frequent flyer points as well as well as affording you the ability to make purchases whilst travelling overseas ? Kinda see the link if you are trying to inject a story about travel in your travel themed website. Oh and it adds a bit of interest to the the standard “applicable travel blog”

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