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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Policeman's Lot is (Sometimes) Not a Happy One. . .

When a felon's not engaged in his employment (his employment)
Or maturing his felonious little plans (little plans)
His capacity for innocent enjoyment (his enjoyment)
Is just as great as any honest man's (honest man's)

-- William Schwenk Gilbert / Sir Arthur Sullivan, 
“Pirates of Penzance,” 1879

There is probably nothing in the world as pathetic as a lawman that has turned his back on his chosen profession and become a common criminal. 

Consider, if you will, the case of Carl Edward Washington, who spent the better part of two decades making his living as a legislative assistant, state Assemblyman and division chief in the Los Angeles county department of adult probation, only to throw it all away for $193,661 in fraudulent loans from three different Southern California financial institutions.

Carl Edward Washington,
Once a Lawman, Now a Law Breaker 
Washington, 47, is a resident of Paramount, a former agricultural community just east of Compton that is probably best known as the home where the Zamboni ice rink maintenance machine was invented.  He was indicted last year on bank fraud and identity theft charges after an investigation by the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad. 

Forget the Zamboni. Now Washington is the one who is on ice. 

According to the indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in 2012, Washington “knowingly and with intent to defraud, executed and attempted to execute a scheme to defraud First City Credit Union, Farmers and Merchants Bank, and L.A. Financial Credit Union, and to obtain money and property from the victim banks by means of material false and fraudulent representations and promises, and the concealment of material facts .”

To do this, he applied for credit cards with the three institutions, which used his credit score to calculate his eligibility and the maximum line of credit he could obtain.  Washington then ran up large bills on the cards, paying the balance at first, but eventually ignoring his outstanding bills and allowing them to pile up.

At the same time, he filed police reports with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department claiming he had been the victim of identity theft and asserting the unpaid balances on the cards were racked up by scammers on accounts they had opened fraudulently, using his social security number, name, date of birth and other purloined information.

Washington then sent copies of the false police reports to Experian, a credit reporting agency, and requested that the information relating to the credit cards and loans that he obtained from the financial institutions be removed from his credit report, including information that negatively impacted his overall credit score. Once Experian removed the bad credit information on his credit history, Washington would apply for new credit cards, essentially repeating the process. 

Of course, he never mentioned his past unpaid debts or prior claims of identity theft on the new applications.

He managed to follow this pattern from 2007 until 2011, using the fraudulently obtained credit cards to purchase airline tickets, hotel lodgings, car rentals, dry cleaning and food, among other things.  

In short, he used the fruits of his scam to finance a lifestyle far more luxurious than he otherwise could have afforded. In all, he filed five police reports claiming he had been the victim of identity theft.

Like most frauds, Washington’s scheme was simple and effective enough to be successful – for a while. 

What eventually led to his discovery was his attempt to refinance two auto loans through L.A. Financial. When the credit union examined Washington’s credit report, it discovered that the auto loans it had previously issued did not appear on it. 

L.A. Financial subsequently learned from Experian that Washington disputed he had earlier sought to refinance his auto loans and that he claimed to be a victim of identity theft. Because L.A. Financial knew Washington’s claims were false, it froze Washington’s credit card account and reported him to authorities.

Washington’s four-year run of fraud followed an otherwise exemplary record of public service. Although his background shows he has a highly developed capacity for hypocrisy, there is little else to suggest Washington would end up a lawbreaker.

Born in Littlefield, Texas on Jan. 25, 1965, Washington is a Baptist and has served as a minister since 1983. According to the California Blue Book, he is married and has two children.

Washington served as a deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke from 1992 to 1996 when he left to run for a seat representing the 52d District of the California Assembly as a Democrat. He won the primary with 7.4 percent more votes than his nearest opponent and went on to win election by scooping up nearly 85 percent of the total ballots cast.

His career as a state legislator – like most of his 119 colleagues in the Capitol -- was rather undistinguished. He is best known as the author of a 1999 measure that provides grants of $5,000 per school or $10,000 per district to improve school safety.

His real reputation was built as a community conciliator who worked with teenage gang members in an effort to turn them away from – you guessed it – participating in crime.

Washington easily won reelection two more times before he termed out in 2000, then took a run for a seat on the L.A. city council in 2001 He placed second to his top opponent Jan Perry. In the general election, he did better, but still lost to Perry by nearly 15 percent.

During his stint in the legislature, he took a job in governmental relations with the Probation Department, a position that not only requires involvement with law making, but also law enforcement.

Ironically, as a probation officer, Washington is officially a cop of sorts, trained by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and having the power of arrest. He remained in that position at least until he entered his guilty plea. 

(Pulp Hack Confessions will be occasionally augmenting its regular features based on fictional crime by running items about real criminal cases in the future. Our primary material, however, will remain excerpts of work in progress and reviews of films, television shows and motion pictures about crime).

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