Friday, December 25, 2009

As promised: The Don Caruthers Scam that gained me entrance to anyone's house I wanted or needed to enter to catch a bail skip…

posted by Bill Arnett @ 9:45 PM Permalink

…which, although it worked well for me seemed to scare every other skiptracer (the term most of the real deal bounty hunters preferred to be called, typically, because of the bad connotations associated with those words, "Bounty Hunters.") half-to-death, and, because they believed it could not work for them, that was the truth, it would never work for them, as it calls for first-rate acting, supreme confidence, and the certain knowledge that you could make it work.

I'll do this the easy way by detailing how and why I created this scam, totally my baby, using the example of the skip I was chasing.

It was the very first time I had ever been dispatched on a skip from Sacramento, which really p.o'd the other bounty hunter that did the locate and that he was demanding to go get her himself as she had been a very difficult locate with less than 48 hours left before the forfeiture became final. One of, pre-Reagan, Reagan's welfare queens driving Cadillacs, lots of expensive jewelry, on welfare in about twelve different counties, etc. Dave, let's call him,, however, had a real talent for tearing up rental cars, eating nothing but steaks, and living the highlife at company expense. So I was sent, a totally roll-the-dice move by my old boss, future partner, who wanted to test me. It was a $50,000 bond, August 31, 1977, final forfeiture September 2, 1977.

Anything under 1,500 miles I preferred to drive instead of fly and rent cars (all rental cars back then looked like undercover police cars). As she was just down in Long Beach I drove down there, arrived about 9 p.m., scouted out the neighborhood, and then found a new car dealership that had a pay phone w-a-a-a-y in the back of the lot that you would have missed were you not looking for a pay phone (this was long before cell phones).

I called my boss, gave him the lay of the land, requested instructions, and was told to find a way into the house with no ideas or instruction given as to how. I was, after all, being tested.

So I pulled an old business card out of my wallet, wrote the name "Don Caruthers" on the back along with the address of the skip's house and the phone number of the remote pay phone where I was.

I drove around to the house, not even trying to be sneaky, shut off the car, opened the door, observed someone peeking out the curtains, Stretched, yawned, grabbed my kit bag, walked up to the door and pressed the buzzer. A middle-aged woman opened the door and the following ensued:

She: What do you want?
Me (all bubbly like I was relieved to finally be there): Hey, how are you ma'am. Would you be Mrs. Caruthers by chance?
She: Who?
Me (reaching for my wallet and pulling out the card I had prepared): Uh, Mrs Don Caruthers? This is 113 South B Street? (I held the card up so she could see it.)
She: Well you've got the right address, but I don't know any Don Caruthers.
Me: (crestfallen, smile coming off my face, looking distressed): But ma'am, I've just driven nine hours down here from South Lake Tahoe because Mr Caruthers was supposed to have several weeks employment painting for me to do. Aw, man, now what am I gonna do? OH, wait, This is 113 South B Street, right?
She: yes.
Me: That must be it, I probably wrote south when I meant north. Is 113 North B down that way?
She: No, South B ends about a block and a half from here and there isn't any North. You have a phone number for him written there on the card card. Have you tried calling him?
ME: No,ma'am. It took every penny I had to get here.
She: Well, come on inside and try calling him, it is a local number.
Me:Oh, god, thank you ma'am.
(Entered the house with her, three other people there, multitude of weapons on the walls and tables. She asks for the card, I give it to her, she dials the number, hands me back the card, and gives me the phone. After about three or four minutes of no answer I hung up, sat there pensively, and then brightened up and asked if I could call my dad in Sacramento, strictly collect of course, to double check my information. She consented so I call the main bonding company I worked for and asked for my dad. Every bail agent working there knew me, what I did, and to accept collect calls, no questions asked.)
Me: Hi, Stewie, go get Dad for me. (The agent on duty was a little slow n the uptake.)
Agent: This is Bill, right? Who are you asking for?
Me: Stewie, quit clowning around, I'm calling from someone else's house so get him now, please, I gotta talk to Dad. (I cover the mouthpiece and tell the people there: Stewie's only 11, it's way past his bedtime and he gets goofy.)
Agent: Oh! Oh! Hell I'm sorry, you want…Leonard… don't you. Hang on, I'm switching this to the back, he's been waiting for you to call.
Leonard: Are you inside the house? Me: Yeah, but there's no Don Caruthers here. Would you check your rolodex and see if I have the right address and phone (and read what I'd written back to him.)
Leonard, laughing: And that really got you into the house? Me: yeah, Dad, I'm already in Long Beach, but you either gave me the wrong info or I wrote it down wrong. Leonard: How many people in the house? Me: The last time I ate was around four. Leonard: Is our skip…JoAnn…there? Me: No, Dad, i'm sure I didn't make any wrong turns. Leonard: How many rooms? Me; I tried calling you back abut six to see it you could send money. I'm broke. Leonard: Any guns in sight? Me: All over the place.(A whole series of questions followed so Leonard could make a map on his pad; how many houses down from the intersection, color of the house, etc) Leonard: can you stall them for another fifteen minutes? Me: Ma'am, my Dad's gotta go about three blocks to his office, would you mind if I wait here? She: No, not at all. Me: Would you give me your number so my Dad can call back direct from his office? She: (eyes narrowed, smile diminished, I could tell she didn't like the question, but) I guess so, area code 988, 857-6667. (I relayed that to Leonard so we now had a phone number we could pull for information in case JoAnn wasn't around.) Me: O.k. Dad, I'll hang tight for fifteen minutes but then I've gotta boogey, I imagine these people have more to do than put up with some lost guy. Okay, Okay, I'll wait.(hung up the phone.)

An old guy there headed for the kitchen and asked everybody if they wanted a beer, including me, which I reluctantly accepted, empty stomach and all. About the time we were finishing the beer the phone rang. The middle-aged lady I first spoke to handed the phone to me, saying, "It's your father." ME: Hi, Dad, did you find that info on Mr. Caruthers? Why not? (Leonard: Time for you to break it off and get the hell out of there. LBPD tells me everyone there has have some heavy beefs at that house, and that old man that owns the place has beaten two manslaughter charges for shooting people trying to get into the house. [That explained all the guns. Bill] Me: well, I'm not happy about it but i guess I don't have any choice. You are going to wire me some money though, right? Then I'm gonna go find a place to crash. (Hung up, said my good-byes and thank you's to everyone and split.

I went a couple miles away, called Leonard to let him know where I was, and we figured I'd have to find my way back into the house and await delivery of welfare checks if possible the next day.

About 9:30 a.m. the next day I showed up on their doorstep with a case of Bud in hand, told them I wanted to thank them for their kindness the night before and that my Dad would have the right address and phone number for Don Caruthers soon so I wold soon be at work. They were surprised, but grateful and invited me in. Just before the beer ran out the postman came by and put their mail in their box.

The middle-aged woman (I found out later she was JoAnn's mom) practically ran for the mail, flipped through eight or ten envelopes until she hit a little yellow slip, spun around and almost shouted, "That bitch put in a change of address! How are we gonna get those checks now?"

I quickly excused myself, drove around to the closest post office I'd seen the night before and did what anyone used to be able to do: I stood in line 'til I got to the counter, fished out the princely sum of $1.00 (Yes, one dollar), and asked for a copy of the change of address for JoAnn from 113 South B Street to her new address. New address in hand I split, located the new address, which happened to be across the street from a diner; ah! Comfort! Food! Perfect view of JoAnn's new house! LBPD primed and ready, it was heaven!

Before my burger and fries got to me she came home with several other people. I called LBPD and they sent two squad cars with the four biggest police officers I've ever seen, The smallest had to be six-foot five, 230 pound lbs, I went out front to meet them. Sr JoAnn had showed, LBPD showed, I showed with the paperwork and picture, she went to jail, and I got to eat my burgers and fries.

BTW: One of the most incredible things was the unspoken mental communication bordering on a physic connection between Leonard and me. Whenever I returned to town from picking up a skip there was always an almost perfect hand-drawn map, layout of all the streets, houses, cars phone numbers, where everything was and every detail i'd given Leonard immaculately drawn on Leonard's yellow legal pad that absolutely mirrored everything and every piece information i'd given him. It was spooky. [Which some of our readers can tell you was the nickname for the Holy Ghost in a Robert Heinlein story [h/t to DanD]

And I proved that I was smart enough, quick thinking enough, glib enough, and fearless enough to run improvised scams, eager enough to throw myself into dangerous situations, and more than good enough to catch bail skips for the next fifteen years.

And it was a gas, gas,gas!

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