Identity Theft Victim Tracks Possible Thief on Facebook

Victim says Arlington police did not do enough to solve case

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Texas identity-theft victim tracked down who he thought was the thief after learning the person had charged a plane ticket to Las Vegas to his debit card. (Published Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011)

    A Texas man whose debit card number was stolen nearly two years ago says the case still rankles him.

    Jeff Honeycutt says police did not do their job after his bank told him in January 2010 that someone had stolen his card number.

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    He tracked down who he thought was the thief after learning the person had charged a plane ticket to Las Vegas to his debit card. But he said he could not get a detective interested in pursuing the case when he contacted various police agencies.

    Honeycutt contacted American Airlines and got a copy of a receipt dated Jan. 9, 2010, for $389.70 for a ticket booked for Jan. 10.

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    The receipt included the passenger's name. Honeycutt and his wife, Laura, then searched for the person's name on the Internet.

    "We found their Facebook pages," he said. "We were literally monitoring them almost around the clock."

    He said he read the person and a friend brag about their trip to Vegas. Honeycutt said he believes the couple posted to Facebook from a cellphone.

    Some of the posts included:

    ME AN [name withheld] AT THE AIR LINES BOUT TO HEAD OUT TO LAS VEGAS.

    I'M IN VEGAS FOR THE FIRST TIME I GOT $1500 TO PLAY WITH.

    MAN I LOVE VEGAS

    ON MY WAY BACK TO DFW, TEXAS...BOUT 2 TAKE OFF..MAN THESE PLANE RIDES AIN'T NO JOKE..I AIN'T NEVER BEEN ON A PLANE.

    "When you're sitting there reading these guys bragging about it and talking about stealing your money and taking trips to Las Vegas, it burns you up," Honeycutt said.

    His debit card had numerous fraudulent charges at retail stores around North Texas, but the majority were at stores in Arlington, he said.

    The charges included swipes at the Parks at Arlington -- Sears for $79.90 and Dillard's for $109.62.

    Other agencies, including the FBI, recommended Honeycutt file the case in Arlington because most of the fraudulent charges were made there. He filed two theft reports with Arlington police.

    But they never fully investigated his case, Honeycutt said.

    "I kept following up on it," he said. "A couple weeks went by; they couldn't even find the report. I did all the work, found out who the people were. We tracked down where they bought the airline tickets through my bank account and when they had gone and charged stuff at the malls."

    Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said detectives tried to determine who used Honeycutt's debit card. She said a detective called American Airlines but did not get a call back.

    "Our agency did make an effort to touch base with American Airlines, but we weren't able to get much information concerning that," she said.

    American Airlines said in a statement that its "fraud department had no record of the call, but are always willing to work with police."

    Richard said the detectives working the case were thorough.

    "They went to the Dillard's [and] pulled video surveillance," she said. "Unfortunately, that video was not clear. You couldn't identify the person who was in the video."

    Richard said police are limited in what they can investigate.

    "If it didn't happen in the city of Arlington -- [and] there's no proof that ticket was purchased in the city of Arlington -- then it's not within our jurisdiction," she said. "It's very defined in terms of that."

    But Jerry Loftin, a Fort Worth-based criminal defense attorney, said police "surely" could have investigated the plane ticket.

    Loftin, who once worked as chief prosecutor in the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, said police don't have limitations on what they can investigate, although some cases may have to be prosecuted elsewhere.

    "As an investigative arm, law enforcement, police departments, have great authority," he said. "They can subpoena something. They can get into records. They have rights you and I don't have."

    "But particularly where people are getting on airplanes, that's just astounding to me," Loftin said. "If this person took a ride on an airplane, and they said, 'Oh, we can't figure this one out,' that's incredibly stupid, because they can."

    Debit and credit card theft cases can be difficult for police to solve. Departments also have to decide what cases will take priority, often cases with larger financial losses.

    Honeycutt's bank reimbursed him for the fraudulent charges. But he had major disruptions to his business and had to freeze his bank account, he said.

    He said he remains frustrated no one was ever charged in the case.

    "My aim in this is to get it out in public that they, law enforcement, needs to do something," he said.

    NBCDFW's Shane Allen contributed to this report.