back to article Criminal mastermind signed name as 'Thief' on receipts after buying stuff with stolen card

Criminologists have long known petty crooks to be dumber than law-abiding citizens. Throw in some Dunning-Kruger and you have the perfect storm of a moron who thinks they're a criminal mastermind. They might even do something ballsy like sign sales receipts for purchases made with a stolen debit card as "Thief". No one could …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    What ?

    And where does this Ewari Ellis come out from ? What is the process that allowed the police to get their hands on him ? Why is there nothing about that guy before the last paragraphe of the article ?

    We have an interesting read, somewhat copied rather directly from the affidavit, but then the journalist just took the rest of the day off and didn't finish the job.

    This article is not finished. We need to know how the police was directed to Ewari Ellis and what he did to get this whole mess started in the first place.

    So, waiting for the rest of the article.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: What ?

      most confusing.

      I think what I took away from the story is:

      If you get caught bang to rights because you bought a phone with a stolen card and gave your real name , and are identified by the owner of the card as the guy she gave a lift to when the card was stolen ...

      Dont worry!

      Just say "I was framed" and the PoPo will go find some other random guy and charge him with the same shit + framing you.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: What ?

        "If you get caught bang to rights because you bought a phone with a stolen card and gave your real name , and are identified by the owner of the card as the guy she gave a lift to when the card was stolen ..."

        Based on who has been charged, and who hasn't been that's quite clearly NOT what happened.

        Richard is possibly being too subtle here, or perhaps I'm just used to adding the appropriate amount of sarcasm at various points.

        My reading of the story is:

        1. Alice gives Bob a ride home from the bar.

        2. Alice discovers later her debit card is missing.

        3. Reported stolen to police, police check purchases.

        4. Stolen phone sold to a person who claims his name is Bob. No ID presented.

        5. Cops call phone, person answering claims to be Bob, provides Bob date of birth.

        6. Cops charge Bob with stealing Alice's phone.

        So far, so good.

        At this point the police do a more thorough checking of points 4 and 5. Specifically that they can provide evidence that Bob did it. During this process it would have become apparent that there are some flaw(s) in the current theory that Bob did it.*

        Since the evidence against Bob is circumstantial, it is entirely possible that a third person, Claire, stole the card, and used Bob's name and DoB. This would require Claire to have access to Alice's purse.

        There probably isn't a lot of options for Claire. So the cops start by interviewing the ones with previous convictions for burglary, receiving stolen property, theft; narcotics possession, that sort of thing.

        So then the following happens:

        7. Cops find evidence that Claire has the card or proceeds from it

        8. Cops withdraw charges against Bob

        9. Cops file charges against Claire for stealing Alice's card, and for falsely incriminating Bob

        Pretty normal day on the job for the cops. You know, doing police work, hence the snarky comment. Since the case against Claire is ongoing, the cops can't comment, which is usually why the journalists like needling them.

        I'd guess this is a "Florida Man" (it's from FL, right? Or some other sunshine law state). Normally you only get to see this sort of stuff if it hits court, or if you get to read police reports as part of your job. Since that's pretty much only cops, lawyers, journalists and other functioning alcoholics, most of them would just dismiss this as another day in the shop.

        TL&DR: While he was showing her his etchings, a junkie thief stole her purse, then lied about it

        * apart from things like alibis, lack of firm ID, motive plays a big part for this. Exactly what Alice and Bobs relationship is counts for a lot. Obviously we don't know, but every person who has driven me home from a bar is not someone I'd steal from. Often I'm paying them....

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: What ?

          Claire, stole the card, and used Bob's name and DoB. This would require Claire to have access to Alice's purse.

          How did Claire know Bobs name , given that Alice only knows Bob from one ride home?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: What ?

            "How did Claire know Bobs name , given that Alice only knows Bob from one ride home?"

            Alice is a victim of circumstance. Claire has hated Bob for years, because Bob is a good guy who gives ladies rides home without expecting anything in return, thus depriving the Claires of this world an attempted grope (or worse). Claire saw his chance and attempted to frame Bob, thus removing him from the picture.

          2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: What ?

            "How did Claire know Bobs name , given that Alice only knows Bob from one ride home?"

            Given the other evidence, I'd guess that Claire lives in Bob's neighborhood, and knows a little bit about them. Claire saw Bob and Alice go to Bob's house, stole the purse, and knew that blaming it on Bob would sound plausible.

            The unproven supposition in my logic is indeed that Claire knows Bob, but it's fairly plausible. I've lived in my house for five years. I know most of the birth dates* of the people who live beside and across from me, and the ages of the ones under 30.

            *from parties or feeding their cat while they are holiday, plus my kid is friends with all the other hood rats

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: What ?

          "it's from FL, right?"

          Pennsylvania. Close enough ... both are the home of ex- New Yorkers who sensibly bailed out of New York City, but for some reason missed the nicer parts of the country.

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: What ?

          Since this is obviously the stuff of soap operas.... What of Marylou? <ominous organ music>

        4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: What ?

          2. Alice discovers later her debit card is missing.

          3. Reported stolen to police, police check purchases.

          4. Stolen phone sold to a person who claims his name is Bob. No ID presented.

          5. Cops call phone, person answering claims to be Bob, provides Bob date of birth.

          6. Cops charge Bob with stealing Alice's phone.

          So far, so good.

          So far, so good, except for the fact that a stolen debit card has magically become a stolen phone.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: What ?

      Ewari Ellis had been using the name and ID of Marc Latimore.

      The police had initially been taken in by this and charged him as Marc Laitmore.

      But they figured it out eventually and brought the charges against his real name of Ewari Ellis.

      If my name was Ewari I would used a different one too.

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: What ?

        Looking at the article, as well as the source article's update, there seems to be no information on how Mr Ellis was found.

        As far as we know, the guy probably turned himself in. Signing the visa stub with "thief" was clearly a cry for help.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: What ?

          "Signing the visa stub with "thief" was clearly a cry for help."

          Or just an idiot trying to be funny. Using Sebastian Tombs would have been funnier.

      2. The Jon
        Coat

        Re: What ?

        I am reminded of why (British actor, famous for the Wicker Man and the Equaliser (80s TV Series)) Edward Woodward had 4 "d"s in his name...

        ... otherwise he would have been known as Ewar Woowar.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: What ?

          Are you saying Edwardi Dellids has lost his 'D's ?

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: What ?

          otherwise he would have been known as Ewar Woowar.

          I guess that's how you'd pronounce his name in "dog"

      3. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: What ?

        "If my name was Ewari I would used a different one too."

        I bet his real name was Willie S Rae, but he's so bad at Scrabble, Ewari Ellis was the best he could come up with. Earl I Lewis would have been better.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What ?

      Plot twist. The signature on his drivers licence also reads as Mr T Hief.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What ?

        Mr T Leaf... shurely

    4. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: What ?

      Let me Google that for you:

      http://www.butlereagle.com/article/20190814/NEWS20/308149998

      Story gives how the police tracked Ellis down and determined he was the thief.

      1. Alan Sharkey

        Re: What ?

        It doesn't explain how Ellis, who said he made up the name "Latimore", know his date of birth when asked.

        There's more to this....

        Alan

  2. Alan Sharkey
    Pint

    Register - Fail

    All of a sudden, the tale ended. Huh! There's so much missing from this story.

    I think news has taken a day off and gone to the pub - Ah, it's Friday.

    1. Cessquill

      Re: Register - Fail

      I thought it was me being slow. Read it twice and everything.

      Turns out it's an Ikea story. Put it together yourself, find out there's bits missing, go to the pub.

  3. Phage

    Clearly Ewari Ellis was found at the castle of Urrrggghhhhh.....

  4. 9Rune5
    WTF?

    They might even do something ballsy like sign sales receipts for purchases made with a stolen debit card as "Thief". No one could be that stupid, could they?

    Nobody, as this story goes a long way to confirm, checks those signatures.

    Are you trying to make the point that had he forged the card owner's signature, the po-po would have dropped the case..?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Nobody, as this story goes a long way to confirm, checks those signatures."

      That was my thought too. No wonder card fraud is so rampant still in the US. Still using signatures that no one checks and even signature-less, swipe-only transactions.

  5. MOH

    This is pretty much a direct rewrite of the linked story, including some of the original phrasing. I know it's Friday but there's limits.

    1. Steve Button

      Lazy hacks. Must be beer-o-clock.

  6. Joe Montana

    Signing = worthless

    The fact that someone can sign the stub with the word "thief" and not be questioned shows just how worthless the use of a signature really is.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Signing = worthless

      Indeed. Ever notice they complete the transaction BEFORE asking you to sign anything? And of course they never compare the signature on the back of the card with the one you provide ... That's one of the reasons that the signature space on the back of my cards reads CHECK ID ...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Signing = worthless

        "That's one of the reasons that the signature space on the back of my cards reads CHECK ID ..."

        Why bother? No one reads it anyway.

        It also breaks the T&Cs of the card issuer (sign back of card on receipt) so if your card is stolen, unsigned, you might find the issuer has wiggle room to not refund the fraudulent transactions.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Signing = worthless

          "It also breaks the T&Cs of the card issuer (sign back of card on receipt) so if your card is stolen, unsigned, you might find the issuer has wiggle room to not refund the fraudulent transactions."

          Indeed. You can write both Check ID and sign it.

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Signing = worthless

      The fact that someone can sign the stub with the word "thief" and not be questioned shows just how worthless the use of a signature really is.

      Thank you! and yet whenever i mention that on this , the most security minded of websites , its met with ridicule

      1. david 12 Bronze badge

        Re: Signing = worthless

        The signature on the back of the card is your vow that you will be bound by the terms and conditions, and responsible for the debts you incur. The signature on a bill is your acknowledgement that you owe the money on the bill. Comparison of the signature for "security" was never more than an afterthought and never had any value.

  7. GlenP Silver badge

    Signatures

    25 years or so back when first semi-living* in the US I was surprised that nobody ever looked at the signatures whereas over here in the UK most people at least made a pretence of comparing the card with the document.

    Can't now remember the last time I signed a card receipt though, it's all tap-and-go or chip-and-PIN now.

    *I spent more time there than at home for several months.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coat

    Ber?

    I thought Rob's second name was Anybody

    I'll get me coat. The one with "The Wee Free Men" in the pocket please

  9. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Holmes

    Constable Savage

    Mr Ellis wouldnt happen to be a COLOURED gentleman by any chance??

    Well I cant say I ever noticed sir.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Constable Savage

      Your bias is showing, Mr. Emery. It's not a good look.

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Constable Savage

        Excuse me, but Mr Emery wasn't showing bias, he was commenting on the state, um, of the police themselves who are, typically, usually, and un apologetically, fucking racists*.

        -- depending on where you are are, who you are, and what colour you are, you /will/ be the 'wrong' race in their eyes.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Constable Savage

          Bad troll. No cookie.

      2. Apple2

        Re: Constable Savage

        Mr Emery was making reference to this ...

        Brilliant not the nine o clock news skit

        https://youtu.be/BO8EpfyCG2Y

    2. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Constable Savage

      According to the linked Smoking Gun article:

      Ellis [...] is a convicted felon whose lengthy rap sheet includes convictions for drunk driving; disorderly conduct; assault; burglary; criminal mischief; receiving stolen property; theft; narcotics possession; reckless endangerment; and firearms possession.

      Latimore, records show, has a rap sheet that includes convictions for disorderly conduct; marijuana possession; reckless endangerment; possession of drug paraphernalia; public drunkenness; and making terroristic threats.

      Have a second link on me.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Signing credit card slips in the US of A

    First time I went to America I noticed that the people on the tills didn't even glance at the credit card signature, so I started signing it Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse (I was only about 23, it seemed funny at the time). No one batted an eyelid. It got to the point, by the end of the week, that I just put a massive X on the paper.

    Does this count as fraud? I mean, I paid all the credit card bills and didn't dispute it.

    Anonymous Coward anyway, just in case I AM openly admitting to fraud.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

      It wouldn't count as fraud in the UK.

      fraud by false representation

      (1)A person is in breach of this section if he—

      (a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and

      (b)intends, by making the representation—

      (i)to make a gain for himself or another, or

      (ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

      So in this particular situation your technically fulfilling the requirement of "A", but note the ANDIF check requiring condition "B" to be fulfilled; as you don't meet any of the conditions under "B" you don't meet the legal requirements of having committed the offense and so the "THEN" statement ending "GOTO $TRIAL" is can't be triggered.

      If it ever was by somebody overzealous enough to bring a charge before a court, you simply look through the law that your charged with an offense under, pick the reasons why you don't fufil the requirements of the offense and then fill in the appropriate form.

      Law is actually pretty easy if you can follow basic logic.

      1. jtaylor

        Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

        Law is actually pretty easy if you can follow basic logic. Great analysis, Peter2, at least of statutory (legislated) law. The US and UK also use common (case) law, which is where the law is interpreted within the context of the case, then that interpretation itself enters the body of law to be considered in the future.

        An inspired lawyer might dig up some weird and woolly case where the defendant was found guilty of fraud despite not meeting the "intent" requirement, then argue that the present situation was suitably close to "State Vs. Willful Amnesiac" that the judge should make a similar decision here.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1

          Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

          Yes, legislation is carefully written to be unambiguous and have a deterministic result. So far, like computer language, so good. But the legal code doesn't get repeatedly run through a test suite, it doesn't get alpha- or beta-tested, it doesn't get a phased roll-out, and in the only respect in which it still resembles computer code, people get hurt when it fails.

          Barristers make a lot of money precisely because they can't be replaced with a parser and an I/O interface.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

          An inspired lawyer might dig up some weird and woolly case where the defendant was found guilty of fraud despite not meeting the "intent" requirement, then argue that the present situation was suitably close to "State Vs. Willful Amnesiac" that the judge should make a similar decision here.

          Case law can be used to clarify inprecision, it can't be used to overthrowing about three thousand years worth of legal precedent that goes so far back that it's in frigging latin.

          In jurisdictions with due process, there must be both actus reus ("guilty act") and mens rea ("guilty mind") for a defendant to be guilty of a crime.

          hence why this law specifically is framed to establish a guilty act and intention to deprive.

    2. Fading Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

      Probably a good move to stay AC - those helicopters passing overhead - nope not the usual black ones these are the brightly coloured ones from Disney Corp......

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

      Whenever I sign for ANYTHING, as I am signing I say out loud "Queeeeen Vic-to-ri-a".

      Been a long time since anyone checked

    4. TeeCee Gold badge
      Pirate

      Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

      No, but you have just signed on as crew of a pirate ship.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Signing credit card slips in the US of A

        under Captain Blackadder?

  11. Alan Ferris

    Yup

    When I crossed the pond for a holiday just over 10 years ago, I made a point of retrieving my credit card BEFORE I signed the credit card slip. Not one person asked to check the signature against the signature on the card, either in the USA or in Canada. How do they ever catch criminals?

    1. monty75

      Re: Yup

      They just randomly match unresolved crimes with the more heavily pigmented members of society and threaten them with inordinately long sentences if they won't accept a plea deal.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Yup

        That's a mighty wide brush you are painting with, monty76. Do you similarly pigeonhole other professions based on the actions of a very small minority of its members? Are you proud of yourself?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Yup

      Did you not notice that the transaction had ALREADY happened, thus making your signature superfluous?

      1. Danny Boyd

        Re: Yup

        The signature is not needed for transaction. The seller needs your signature in case you try to contest the transaction later.

    3. hplasm Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Yup

      "How do they ever catch criminals?"

      Catch them? Don't they just vote them in?

    4. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: Yup

      Contrariwise... Sure, matching signatures as proof of identity sounds good in theory. But how many clerks should be expected to be handwriting experts?

  12. d3vy Silver badge

    Do I submit to "tips and corrections" if I think the article has been published before the author had finished writing it?

    It makes no sense... Who is Ellis? Where did they fit into it? What is going on?

  13. herman Silver badge

    It appears that El Reg is now into Monty Python and writes stories omitting the punch line, leaving it as an exercise to the reader.

  14. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Shackleford

    Just call me Rusty... On Bob's phone!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm seeing a much bigger crime here...

    $42.99 for some beer and smokes?

    The owner of "Butler Beer and Tobacco" should be arrested for robbery too!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I'm seeing a much bigger crime here...

      You're right ... Schools no longer teaching basic logic is a crime against humanity.

    2. Ken Shabby Bronze badge

      Re: I'm seeing a much bigger crime here...

      Elis: It's a fair cop, but society's to blame.

      Plod: Agreed. We'll be charging them too.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: I'm seeing a much bigger crime here...

      in the USA local and state gummints often heavily tax such things, "sin taxes" if you will (especially tobacco) because the powers in charge convinced the populous at large to authorize it in an election... and so "the will of the people" (read: the manipulation of the voters) makes "sins" more expensive "for their own good".

      yeah I'm being snarky about it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm seeing a much bigger crime here...

        A pack of off-brand cigs in this area (SE Washington State) will run you around US $8.00. If you insist on Marlboro or Camels, you are looking at around US $10.00.

        A 29-mile drive to Oregon drops the price for off-brand cigs down to under US $5.00 per pack. Guess where I buy my cigs....

        1. John Presland

          Re: I'm seeing a much bigger crime here...

          How much do you spend on petrol and other car-associated costs getting to Oregon and back?

  16. Dave559

    Chip and PIN

    Of course, if the USA actually had its shit together yet regarding the use of Chip and PIN for card purchases, like the rest of the civilised world has had for years, none of these frauduent transactions would have happened.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Chip and PIN

      "if the USA actually had its shit together yet regarding the use of Chip and PIN for card purchases"

      most places have chip-reading ATM and credit card thingies. Unfortunately...

      a) the chip does not always read [the pad gets dirty or damaged]

      b) not all cards have the chip in them

      c) signature on credit card is still a valid way to purchase. However, it's the responsibility of the seller to check the sig against photo ID.

      often when i go to Target or Walmart or any other store I frequent, it doesn't ask for a signature at all. But I've shopped at those places a lot, too, and used my credit card to do it [faster, easier, you get rewards, might as well just pay it off in one lump sum every month or maintain an occasional balance when necessary].

      but yeah online purchases simply require that you give the card's security info that's printed on the back. Then they ship to a physical address which may or may not be 'on file' with the credit card company.

      in the USA you're only liable for $50 of fraudulent charges as long as you report it within a reasonable time. Typically you'll be reimbursed for that as well, unless you dragged it on for some reason. The banks want your business, after all, and if you don't use your card, they don't make money.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    really?

    Who hasn't bought a Amex gift card just to be able so sign the receipts like this:

    Ima B'astard

    E. A. Tmadick

    John Holmes

    Nun Y'Busness

    and my favorite:

    Marilyn Chambers

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: really?

      I would think that would be, oh, I don't know, maybe just about everybody who has ever bought one. What do I win for the correct answer?

  18. J 3
    Thumb Down

    Huh?

    Gee, crappy journalism. Someone should get a stern talking to from the editors --if there are any left. The Butler Eagle story (link helpfully provided by someone above) that seems to have been the base for this sorry excuse for an article explains much better what appears to have happened.

    Only question still standing there is how exactly the perp knew Latimore's DOB and address. Maybe he lied to avoid further charges, but it is obvious that he lied, since he could not randomly make all of those up and be correct.

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