Criminals are often caught because of obvious mistakes. This episode of Blognet for six years ago today tells the story of catching a forger.
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NARRATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
MUSIC: Up, then under …
NARRATOR: You’re a Detective Sergeant. You’re assigned to Internet Detail. A group of bloggers have been writing about the activities of a paroled domestic terrorist. The terrorist has responded by suing a group of over 20 individual and organizations with frivolous claims of defamation and the like. Your job … get the facts.
MUSIC: Up then under …
ANNOUNCER: Blognet … the documented drama of an actual crime. For the next few minutes, in cooperation with the Twitter Town Sheriff’s Department, you will travel step by step on the side of the good guys through an actual case transcribed from official files. From beginning to end. From crime to punishment. Blognet is the story of the good guys in action.
MUSIC: Up and out.
SOUND: Footsteps in hallway.
FRIDAY: It was Wednesday, May 7th. It was been a beautiful Spring day in Westminster. We were working the day watch out of Internet Detail. My partner’s Liz Smith. The boss is Twitter Town Sheriff, W. J. J. Hoge. My name’s Friday. It was 3:42 pm when I returned to Room S-140. Internet Detail.
SOUND: Door opens.
FRIDAY: Anything happening, Liz?
SOUND: Footsteps across room. Chair pulled out.
SMITH: It’s been quiet. I’ve just been shuffling papers.
FRIDAY: Uh, huh. There wasn’t much to see down in Annapolis, but the trip wasn’t a complete waste. I ran into a couple of guys from the State Police computer lab in Columbia. They’re making progress on some of the forensic work on those hard drives.
SMITH: Did they give you any estimate on when they’d be done?
FRIDAY: No. They …
SOUND: Telephone rings once. Receiver picked up.
FRIDAY: Internet Detail. Sergeant Friday. … Yes. … Yes, I recognize your name from the case paperwork. … Uh, huh. I understand your concern. … Yes, we can scan it for you. We use the software that the NSA recommends. … Not long. If you forward the email to me, I can turn it around in a matter of minutes. … No. Don’t open anything else. Just forward the email. … Not a problem, sir. I’m glad to help. … Goodbye.
SOUND: Receiver hung up.
SMITH: What now?
FRIDAY: That was one of the lawyers in the Timberland federal lawsuit …
SMITH: RICO or copyright?
FRIDAY: RICO. He got an email from Timberland with a file attached. He doesn’t want to open it because he’s had an earlier email from Timberland with malware in an attachment. He wants us to scan the attachment.
SMITH: Makes sense.
FRIDAY: That was quick. The forwarded email just popped up.
SOUND: Typing on keyboard.
FRIDAY: It’s a dot DOCX file.
SOUND: Typing on keyboard.
FRIDAY: It passed the scan. I’ll convert it to a PDF and forward that back.
SOUND: Typing on keyboard. Swoosh.
FRIDAY: Hmmm. This is interesting.
FRIDAY: Yeah. This is a proposed sanctions motion against the lawyer. It seems that Timberland is upset because the lawyer has tattled to the federal judge about Timberland’s admission that he altered documents in the state case.
SMITH: You’re kidding?
FRIDAY: No. I’ve got it up on the monitor here. Take a look.
SOUND: Chair pushed back. Footsteps.
FRIDAY: Look there. That’s yet another version of what he says happened with those Certified Mail green cards.
SMITH: Scroll back up to the top. Yeah. There.
FRIDAY: Defendant Timberland? He’s the plaintiff in that lawsuit.
SMITH: Curiouser and curiouser.
FRIDAY: It looks like it’s time for Timberland to head back to his cave.
FRIDAY: Our modern postal system clearly frightens and confuses him.
MUSIC: Stinger and under.
FRIDAY: Liz took Timberland’s new description of what had happened with the green card for comparison with his previous versions. By midday the following day, she had a report prepared for presentation.
SHERIFF: OK, lay it out for me.
SMITH: Back in January, Timberland had to file a report with the judge in his RICO case about status of service. He included copies of the Post Office receipts for mailings in October and January. Those receipts include the USPS tracking numbers, the service paid for, and the amounts paid. He also included copies of several Certified Mail green cards. None of the receipts showed that Restricted Delivery was paid for, and none of the green cards had the Restricted Delivery box checked.
Later in January, on the 13th, he had a hearing in this state lawsuit. He submitted a copy of a green card as an exhibit to one of the motions dealt with at that hearing. That copy showed the Restricted Delivery box checked, but the tracking number was the same as the card with the unchecked box shown in the report filed in federal court. Further research showed that the unchecked version had also be used as an exhibit with an earlier motion filed in the state case. When that discrepancy was pointed out to the judge, Timberland maintained that they were the same card.
SHERIFF: The judge didn’t buy that, did he?
SMITH: No, she didn’t.
SHERIFF: Sorry, she.
SMITH: The defendants filed a motion for sanction because of the forgery of the card. At the hearing for that motion in April, Timberland admitted to checking the box after the fact in order to make the card reflect what he wanted it to say. He admitted to never having paid for Restricted Delivery.
One of the lawyers in the federal case is representing a client that was sent a forged summons by Timberland. He thought Timberland’s pattern of behavior would be something that the judge should know about.
SHERIFF: And Timberland thinks that’s sanctionable?
SMITH: Apparently. One interesting thing about his proposed motion is that it contains yet another spin on the green card. Timberland is still admitting to checking the box, but now he’s saying that he did it to correct the error that the postal clerk made by not checking it.
SHERIFF: That’s not the clerk’s job.
FRIDAY: Even if it were his job, he wouldn’t do it unless the fee was paid.
SMITH: And Timberland admits that he never paid the fee.
FRIDAY: Did you notice that the same green card is being used for both the state and federal filings?
SHERIFF: Oh …
FRIDAY: Not only that, but there’s overlapping use of green cards between the RICO case and another federal lawsuit.
SHERIFF: OK. Wrap it all up and forward it out to the defendants. This guy must think that no one ever fact checks his stories. Either that, or he believes that he’s lucky.
FRIDAY: Could be, but it wasn’t in the cards this time.
MUSIC: Up and under.
NARRATOR: On May 8th, information concerning Timberland’s green card forgeries was forwarded to various defense counsel, including the lawyer served with the proposed sanctions motion. In a moment the status of that proposed motion.
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NARRATOR: Although the proposed motion has been served, a motion for sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure cannot be filed until 21 days after it has been served on the party against whom sanctions are sought. That time has not yet expired. Local Rule 105.8 of the District of Maryland states that “The Court will consider in appropriate cases imposing sanctions upon parties who file unjustified sanctions motions.”
MUSIC: Theme up and under.
ANNOUNCER: You have just heard Blognet, a series of authentic cases from official files. Technical advice comes from the office of the Twitter Town Sheriff’s Department.
MUSIC: Theme up to music out.
ANNOUNCER: Blognet is a work of fiction. Anyone who thinks it’s about him should read Proverbs 28:1.
This is LBS, the Lickspittle Broadcasting System.
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Fans of the old radio program that inspired Blognet may remember that most of the episode titles of the original program started with the words “The Big,” as in “The Big Kill” or “The Big Grifter” or “The Big Hate.” I thought about doing something analogous with the Blognet episodes, but I just couldn’t get excited about titles like “The Little Liar” or “The Little Butterball.”