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Near-victim uses internet to uncover fire protection scam

This blog has written on several occasions about persons using the internet to conduct allegedly criminal activity. Recently, a case with roots in Lackawanna County has emerged in which a store owner used the internet to identify and help catch a man who was allegedly impersonating a public fire inspector. The man was ultimately discovered to be facing criminal charges for several similar incidents.

The incident began when a man entered a store in Hilltown Township and told the owner that he was an inspector for American Fire Protection and that he needed to inspect the store's fire extinguishers. The owner was suspicious because the extinguishers had recently passed an inspection. When the owner began to ask detailed questions, the man became angry and told the store owner that inspection charges would be doubled if he was required to return to complete the inspection. After becoming even more irate, the man left the store without conducting an inspection and without obtaining a fee. The store owner was able to see that the man drove away in a Chrysler PT Cruiser with an American Fire Protection sign on the passenger door.

The store owner then began to search for accounts of similar incidents on the internet. She found an entry describing how the Pocono Mountain Regional Police had charged a man in several similar crimes. She then called Hilltown Township offices and learned that that man was not a township employee. Hilltown township police arrested the man and charged him with impersonating a public employee and attempted criminal theft by deception. The man has also been charged in Lackawanna County with impersonating a public servant and attempted criminal theft by deception. That case is awaiting a preliminary hearing.

Even though the individual crimes in this case do not carry heavy penalties, the alleged perpetrator faces several prosecutions, and the cumulative sentences could be severe if he is convicted. Anyone who faces a number of criminal charges may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a helpful evaluation of the evidence, a list of potential defense strategies and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or outright acquittal.

Source: Lehighvalleylive.com, "Man charged in 3 counties in fire extinguisher inspection scam, authorities say," Tony Rhodin, Sept. 22, 2015

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