Some insiders are calling it a security crisis at hotels nationwide: A breach, leaving you more vulnerable.
When you lock your hotel door, you assume you’re safe and your stuff is safe. Don’t be so sure: Thieves have invented a small, simple device that can unlock hotel doors at some of the most popular chains. Some hotels have known about this security problem for months — so why hasn’t it been fixed?
Jim Stickley is a security expert who worked with us on this report. Using a homemade gadget to pop electronic doors, he was able to break into a hotel room in seconds — no kicking the door, no fancy tools.
We booked hotel rooms in New Jersey where he did it again and again — at a Hyatt, a Ramada, a Doubletree Hilton. This security flaw is so alarming, even hotel managers are stunned. “That’s absolutely insane,” one said when we showed him.
The device is so small, thieves can hide it in a magic marker. And criminals are learning how to make it watching videos posted online.
“Do you have to be a computer whiz to build one of these?” we asked Stickley.
“No, you could be a village idiot,” he said. “Just go online and you can find step-by-step instructions and be done in a half hour.”
These locks are some of the most common in hotels worldwide. Millions of rooms may be affected.
Lakesha Barrow was ripped off at a Hyatt House in Houston. Her laptop, her jewelry, all stolen. “The moment I opened the door, I felt violated,” she said. “My heart just dropped: Someone has been in my space, someone went through my stuff.”
Police say it was Matthew Cook, who used the same kind of gadget at several hotels. Now charged with felony theft, he’s pled not guilty. (more…)
Everyone is familiar with party crashers, but have you ever heard of anyone crashing high school sporting events just to get a piggyback ride?
A stocky man shows up in a basketball uniform for a game at Century High School in North Dakota. No one objects because the players and coaches assume he is a fan who had come with another team.
“He helped lay out uniforms, got water. He even gave a couple of kids shoulder massages. Creepy stuff like that,” said Jim Haussler - activities director for the Bismarck Public School District. Creepy is good word to describe this behavior, but it gets weirder.
When the game was over, the hefty man hung out with the winning team on the court and asked if he could get a piggyback ride. One player was caught off guard but gave him one.
“He makes himself appear as if he’s limited or handicapped. I think he plays an empathy card, so to speak,” Haussler said. “We didn’t realize what we were dealing with until several days later.”
They later learned that on that Feb. 4 evening, they had come in contact with the Piggyback Bandit. Sherwin Shayegan of Bothell, Wash., is a 28-year-old man who ingratiates himself with high school sports teams. He then hoists his hefty 5-foot-8, 240-pound frame onto the backs of the student athletes.
Shayegan’s strange acts reach back to 2008 and had been mainly confined to Washington and Oregon. Since last fall, he has taken his strange act east to Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, leaving a trail of befuddled athletes in his wake.
Shayegan favors basketball games, but he also sprung himself onto hockey, soccer and football players. This guy either asks for piggyback rides, offers to pay for them or sometimes just springs himself onto some poor, unsuspecting player’s back.
Shayegan has also used the guise of pretending to interview athletes for a term paper, acting as a team manager or simply blending in with the group to get his piggyback thrills.
No one has been able to determine why he does these strange things or who coined the “Piggyback Bandit” nickname.
Shayegan, contacted on his cellphone Tuesday, politely declined to talk about the piggyback rides until he could talk to an attorney. “I’d prefer not to comment, if that’s OK,” he said.
Shayegan has a lengthy criminal rapsheet in Washington as well as nine outstanding warrants in one town in that state. His piggyback games caused him to be banned from high school sporting events in Washington, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.
In October, Shayegan was arrested in Helena, Mont., for jumping on two high school soccer players during a state tournament.
Mark Beckman, executive director of the Montana High School Sports Association said, “What’s disturbing to me is that he is jumping on our young athletes, he is 240 pounds, and he can hurt someone.”
Shayegan pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to two misdemeanor assault charges. He was fined $730, given a 360-day suspended prison sentence and told not to go to any more Montana high school events. “Go back to Seattle and behave,” Judge Bob Wood told him.
None of this stopped Shayegan. Three days later, he attended the Bismarck basketball game and received another piggyback ride. He also scored another piggyback ride from a hockey player after the game on that same day.
Surveillance video shows Shayegan dressed in a basketball uniform and hanging out with students in the hallway of the Century High School in North Dakota. This one-day spree caused him to be banned from sporting events by the North Dakota High School Activities Association.
Again, Shayegan was not deterred. He took his act to Minnesota that same week and appeared at three basketball games. He even attended one college game. At that Feb. 8 game, Shayegan sat near the St. Olaf bench. As in the Bismark game, everyone assumed he had come with the other team. (more…)
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officials would need an official court-issued warrant before using GPS technology to track suspected criminals. The Justices unanimously agreed 9-to-0 in their decision after hearing arguments on a case involving a nightclub owner and suspected cocaine dealer in Washington, D.C., whose movements were monitored for roughly 30 days with a GPS tracking device.
FBI and local law enforcement officials had initially obtained a warrant for the GPS tracker but it had expired before they were able to attach the device to the suspect’s vehicle. The suspect was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for cocaine trafficking; however, the decision was later overturned in an appeals court after it was determined that the unwarranted data collected from the GPS tracking device violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Unwarranted Use of GPS Tracker in Ohio Burglary Case
The Ohio Supreme Court will review an Appeals Court reversal of a Columbus man’s conviction for breaking into a home near Baltimore, Ohio.
David L. White, 24, pleaded no contest in November 2010, to improperly discharging a firearm into or at a habitation, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. White was sentenced to 25 years in prison altogether, with 13 years suspended.
He was accused of breaking into a home on January 23, 2010, near Baltimore with co-defendant Montie E. Sullivan. Sullivan, 19, of Columbus, pleaded no contest in October 2010 to one count of improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation and one count of aggravated burglary. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
After looting the house, White and Sullivan fled in a vehicle that was being tracked by local law enforcement officials.
Police were able to locate and track the two men to their apartment in Columbus shortly after the crime with the attached GPS tracker.
Prior to the burglary incident, Franklin County detectives had covertly placed a GPS tracking device on Sullivan’s car after they had trouble following it as it drove around Columbus and nearby counties. They suspected him of being in connection with a felony case they were investigating. However, they had not obtained a warrant before installing the GPS tracking device on Sullivan’s white Honda Civic.
On the day of the home invasion, deputies were tracking Sullivan’s car, which they had been tracking for 13 days prior to the invasion, and realized it might have been involved in the Baltimore burglary. Upon receiving news of the incident, police followed the car back to Sullivan’s Columbus home.
When law enforcement officers arrived, White and Sullivan quickly ran out the back door. At the apartment, police found and recovered the property from the Baltimore home invasion.
David White and Montie Sullivan were later captured and indicted by a grand jury. (more…)
This case is part of a series of recent theft allegations against TSA employees.
TSA Agent Clayton Keith Dovel was arrested last week on suspicion of stealing numerous iPads from passenger’s luggage at DFW’s airport.
Apparently, Dovel was lifting the iPads from his position where he screened passenger’s checked luggage by hand.
Dovel was caught because one of the theft victims had downloaded the “Find My iPhone” app onto her iPad. She was able to track her stolen iPad directly to Dovel’s house. Police found at least seven iPads at Dovel’s residence.
TSA placed Dovel on leave until officials can sort out the situation.
I would think installing video surveillance in the area where luggage is checked would be enough to discourage pilfering by TSA employees, who I am sure are usually honest hard working individuals.
Video surveillance is used in the screening area at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the video recently helped catch a TSA agent who stole $5,000 from a passenger’s jacket. Surveillance video showed TSA agent Alexandra Schmid taking the money from a jacket pocket, wrapping the cash in a plastic glove and taking it to a bathroom.
The money hasn’t been recovered. Police are investigating whether Schmid gave it to another person in the bathroom.
The 31-year-old Schmid was arrested on a charge of grand larceny and suspended pending an investigation. Her attorney’s name wasn’t immediately known.
It is best to never check items of value in your luggage and to check for your valuables after they have gone through the passenger screening area. If you must check your computers, there are software programs for Macs and PCs that will track your computer should it be lost or stolen.
Sometimes a robber chooses the wrong victim and everything backfires. This was the case with a robbery in downtown Chicago last Friday.
A 50-year-old woman chased her robber for almost a mile, cornered him in an alley and then gave him a lecture. She must be in awesome shape.
The woman was riding a Chicago Transit Authority bus in the Loop just after midnight when police said Jenar Sanders, 18, swiped her wallet from her purse. He then jumped off the bus at Huron and State streets and took off, but he wouldn’t get very far.
Trailing Sanders, the woman alerted others as she ran down the street, according to the Chicago Tribune. The CTA bus driver and a hotel staff member at the Omni Hotel called the police.
The race came to a quick halt when police said Sanders ended up cornered in an alley off Superior Street between Wabash Avenue and Rush Street, surrounded by the victim and others who had joined the chase.
“She kept telling him God didn’t want him to steal her wallet,” a police source told the Tribune. (more…)
25-year-old Mostafa Hendi got more than he asked for when he walked into the We Buy Gold shop in North Carolina yesterday and demanded money from the clerk. The clerk, Derek Mothershead, wasn’t in the mood for a robbery.
After reaching to give the armed robber the cash, Mr. Mothershead gave him something else – an unexpected punch, knocking him to the floor. Surveillance camera footage caught the moment.
Mothershead said, “When he came through the door, he told me had a gun and he even flashed it.” I stood up and threw my hands up and said, “Take the money.”
The thief came behind the counter, but Mothershead had no intention of giving him the money. When he went to pass him cash from the draw, he instead passed him a punch in the face.
“When he reached out, I took a step in, I cocked back and preloaded and I hit him hard,” Mothershead said.
With the single blow, Hendi was knocked out, and Mothershead was able to pin him down and call 911.
But the clerk wasn’t finished with the thief yet, when the thief came to, the clerk forced him to mop up his own blood from shop floor with paper towels and cleaner. That should teach the thief a lesson.
Mothershead also grabbed the man’s weapon, but said he laughed when he realized it was just a pellet gun.
Paramedics took Mostafa Hendi away on a stretcher. Mr. Mothershead’s handywork can be seen in Hendi’s police mugshot, where his face appears bruised and swollen.
Hendi remains behind bars on a charge of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Store manager Juaz Cruz added: “Merry Christmas Mostafa Hendi.”
View video, pictures and surveillance camera shots@ dailymail
Martin Lobatos managed to pass a driver’s test with an above average score while on the verge of catatonia.
Lobatos and his wife, Belen Luna Lobatos, have both entered guilty pleas for what became over a year long workers’ compensation scam. The couple, who live in Aurora, Denver, are accused of stealing $120,000 worth of workers’ compensation funds from Pinnacol Assurance. Eventually, a private investigator was hired and Lobatos was placed under surveillance. Before being caught, Martin and his wife led doctors and the insurance company down a road of confusion and deception.
While working as a roofer in September 2008, Martin fell face first, six to ten feet from a ladder, causing him to briefly lose consciousness — although it is being disputed as to whether he faked being unconscious. He was taken to a medical center where he was diagnosed with a wrist fracture, two broken ribs and a closed head injury that caused a small abrasion and some swelling. A CT scan was performed on his head and neck but came back negative. He was discharged from the medical center the same day he was admitted.
On September 30, Lobatos filed a workers’ comp claim. He returned to work full-time on October 21 and began complaining of headaches, dizziness, vertigo, and blurred vision. An MRI on October 28 didn’t show any reason for these symptoms. A doctor who examined him in April 2009 couldn’t find any medical reason for his continuing issues. This doctor determined that Lobatos had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and assigning him what the indictment describes as a “zero-percent impairment rating.”
For unknown reasons, Lobatos was terminated from his job that same month. He was offered a $20,000 settlement from Pinnacol Assurance in September 2009, but he turned it down. Lobatos started to complain of new symptoms, including dizziness, memory loss, difficulty recognizing his own children, inability to use stairs without help, pain caused by eating, chewing, bright lights, and the weather. Apparently, Lobatos was very convincing and a second physician rejected his predecessor’s findings, determining that the MMI ruling was premature. (more…)
A woman being referred to as the “blond bandit” suspected of multiple heists in Virginia has now been linked to another crime – a carjacking on Thanksgiving Day in Maryland.
Stephanie Lynn Schwab, 26, earned her nickname after after being named in connection with an earlier carjacking and two bank robberies, all of which took place between Nov. 18 and Nov. 21. She is described as a 5’3″ white female with blond hair and green eyes.
In her most recent incident that occurred on Thursday, Baltimore County police say Schwab asked a woman for a ride from the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket to a Shoppers Food Warehouse. When the victim stopped her car, Schwab allegedly displayed a knife and told her to keep driving.
The victim asked a nearby man for help. At that point, the suspect attempted to climb into the driver’s seat. In her defense, the victim tried to grab the knife from Schwab and was cut on the hand. Schwab then fled on foot. (more…)
Several police departments across the country are taking action to shield their radio communications from the public because cheap, user-friendly technology has made it easy for anyone to use handheld devices to eavesdrop on officers responding to crimes.
Law enforcement officials across the country are beginning to use the practice of encryption saying they want to keep criminals from using officer’s internal communications to evade them. Journalists and neighborhood watchdogs are not happy with this new practice as they say open communications ensures that the public receives information as quickly as possible that can be vital to their safety.
I can understand the argument from both sides; however, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier gives us some examples supporting the need to secure police communications. The police do have valid concerns, but as you read on, you will see there could be alternative ways of managing this problem without a complete shut down on the public.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said recently that a group of burglars who police believe were following radio communications on their smartphones pulled off more than a dozen crimes before ultimately being arrested and that drug dealers fled a laundromat after a sergeant used his radio to call in other officers — suggesting that they, too, might have been listening in.
“Whereas listeners used to be tied to stationary scanners, new technology has allowed people — and especially criminals — to listen to police communications on a smartphone from anywhere,” Lanier testified at a D.C. Council committee hearing this month. “When a potential criminal can evade capture and learn, ‘There’s an app for that,’ it’s time to change our practices.” (more…)
George Wright has been on the FBI’s most-wanted list for 41 years. Wright was wanted for murder and for hijacking an airplane. He has been on the run since he escaped a New Jersey prison and allegedly hijacked a plane from Detroit in the 1970s. He was caught after an investigation that spanned four states, three continents and four decades. FBI and New Jersey officials tracked hunted killer George Wright to a town outside Lisbon, where Portuguese authorities arrested him last week.
Wright was in a New Jersey prison, serving a 30-year sentence for the 1962 robbing and killing of a war hero he had gunned down at an Esso gas station in Farmingdale, N.J. World War II Bronze Star recipient Walter Paterson was killed for the $70 in his pocket.
In August 1970, Wright and two others escaped from the Leesburg, N.J. facility, stole the warden’s car and headed to Atlantic City. From there they went to Detroit, where they joined up with the Black Liberation Army. Wright worked as a part-time model while living under an alias.
Two years after his escape, Wright and several others commandeered a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to Miami — Wright boarded the flight dressed as a priest, with a gun hidden in the cut-out pages of a Bible. His fellow members of the Black Liberation Army also boarded with weapons, and 88 passengers were held hostage.
It was one of the most daring hijackings in history, and also one of the most humiliating for the FBI. Agents were forced to wear bathing suits to deliver a suitcase of cash to Wright and his fellow hijackers on a Miami runway. The hijackers wanted to be sure they weren’t carrying weapons.
Read more@ msnbc