Philly fugitives fall for fake windfall

December 2, 2008 4:04:15 PM PST
Police set up shop in a rented storefront in the concourse under Suburban Station. They sent out a letter offering a refund from a phony city agency. And the fugitives swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

Police gave Action News surveillance video of the operation.

Eighty-five fugitives took the bait, expecting a payday. Instead they got cuffed and carted off to jail.

Police sent out the letter from a fictional an agency called the Philadelphia Commission of Economic Revitalization to more than 700 fugitives.

The letter says the recipient is entitled to a cash refund of $1,412.16. Sgt. Grace Wishum of the Philadelphia police department told Action News how it went: "They came in, we checked them in, we verified them with all their information, with their date of birth, Social Security number, all the information we had on them. Then we asked them to sit and wait."

But, as the video shows, they didn't have to wait long to learn they'd been stung.

In fact, the phony offer was so tempting that one fugitive left his hospital bed where he was being treated for a heart condition.

Deputy Philadelphia Police Commissioner William Blackburn has the details: " When he received A letter from our sting operation, he left the hospital against medical advice, went over to the establishment to pick up his refund check and he quickly learned he was under arrest."

Some were cautious. They actually reached out to their representatives on City Council to find out if the agency on the letterhead was legitimate.

"It was hard, because there were a lot of calls made to politicians, a lot of calls to City Hall... and I had to inform members of the public, in some situations, that we were running a sting operation," Blackburn said.

Now that their cover is officially blown, police say anyone who got the letter is still welcome to call the number listed and they'll be happy to take care of them.

You can get the latest crime statistics from the Philadelphia Police by CLICKING HERE for the force's crime data mapping site.


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