Risks and Rewards of Romance

Valentine’s Day for many is the kick start to the spring romance season. Today, more than ever, the risks and hazards are lurking for the unsuspecting (and sometimes vulnerable) romantic.

We at R. Steven Rogers Investigations / Protective Services have, over the years, been retained to assist people in staying safe in several ways. From background checks to verify an identity, marital status, or to check for any criminal history, all the way to aiding a family with an intervention involving a victim of an online romance scam where not only serious financial impact had occurred but a significant threat of physical harm as well. We utilized resources both locally and internationally to achieve a satisfactory outcome for that case.

We also would like to offer some basic time-honored tips to help folks protect themselves, with both real world and online interactions.  We have been seeing a lot more warnings internationally than in the US, but by and large the hazards are the same here.

While this article has some solid information in it, we disagree strongly with the following “Romance scammers are looking for one thing and one thing only — money —“ this is an absurd statement considering the number of other crimes committed. In 2016 a man in the UK was jailed for life after raping / sexually assaulting seven women he met on Match.com (link). Three were assaulted within months of his marrying a woman he met on the site, and despite four of his victims reporting him as a rapist to Match, they refused to terminate his profile or involve police (link).

In an unrelated incident, a woman was held like a slave, forced to perform chores and sexual acts, and was punished with physical abuse, having bleach dumped over her, and more (link). She fell for this because “she “felt lonely and wanted to be loved again” after a previous abusive relationship.”
Or this case where a team of criminals used a dating site to gain access to scout the victim’s residence out, then returned later robbing and killing him (link).

Some warning signs are:

  • Asks for financial assistance, a loan, or anything similar
  • If someone wants you to take a conversation to private messaging right away it can be to either avoid any oversight by the dating service or to gain personal information from you.
  • Will send you pictures or text messages, but will not chat  by phone or live on webcam.
  • Claims to be from the U.S. or Canada, but is working overseas.
  • Claims to be in love with you before even meeting you, or seems to be moving too quickly.

Some tips on meeting someone for the first time:

  • Make it a public place
  • Make sure a trusted friend or relative knows the details: Who, where, when, along with your vehicle description and license if applicable.
  • Have a codeword set up for call/text with that person to immediately call 911 to your location. You can stay in touch with them by text during the date if necessary.
  • Stay sober.
  • If going to the restroom, do not drink from an unattended drink when returning. Either finish it beforehand, or utilize a clever ruse to get a new one, such as having a hair or piece of lint you can slip into it. This allows for safety without the insult that comes with just asking for a new drink.

Remember, checking someone out and taking precautions does not, by itself, cross the rules of polite behavior. Trust is earned, and until you have developed that trust you have every right to be cautious.

These days it is prudent to check people out before meeting them, bringing them into your life, possibly your home, even meeting your children. Just by giving them your real name you may have risk. Our firm handles everything from high-profile cases to basic background checks of employees, potential partners, etc. So whether it’s validating identity, confirming marital status, checking for criminal / sexual offender records, or other issues we can help you avoid trouble in paradise.

We can be reached at office (at) rstevenrogers (dot) com.

The death of Elisa Gomez – the importance of going by the book

Recently, one of our investigators brought a case to my attention. Someone known to them had passed away under suspicious circumstances, but family and friends are astonished how her death was handled by the Minneapolis Police.

One does not need to be a trained professional investigator to grasp the basics. Lets examine a few facts that are involved, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Last October, Elisa Gomez was found deceased in her home with a scarf around her neck. She was by all accounts a positive and happy person, an art teacher who painted art on her walls and advocated for rescuing animals.

Elisa was married mere hours earlier, to a man she had known less than a month. (we will not release his name, as this is reportedly an ongoing investigation). The couple celebrated at the local bar, and then continued celebrating at home. At around 2-3 in the morning, John Ganapes, a neighbor called 911 concerned about “commotion outside his window”, telling police that the woman sounded very distraught. Later another 911 call brought police back to find Elisa dead. Reports do not show who placed the second 911 call.

Police were on scene less than an hour, and according to Elisa’s sister Angela, never secured the property as a crime scene “I don’t believe they’ve done their job; they were at her home for an hour, viewed it as a suicide and didn’t even lock down the home as a crime scene.” This goes against my professional training in two decades in Emergency Medical Services, which is to treat ALL death scenes as crime scenes until the Coroner takes control of the scene.
Since her death, only one news article on this tragedy can be found – HERE.

Per Minnesota statute:

390.11 INVESTIGATIONS.
Subdivision 1.Reports of death.
All sudden or unexpected deaths and all deaths that may be due entirely or in part to any factor other than natural disease processes must be promptly reported to the coroner or medical examiner for evaluation. Sufficient information must be provided to the coroner or medical examiner. Reportable deaths include, but are not limited to:

(1) unnatural deaths, including violent deaths arising from homicide, suicide, or accident;
(4) deaths under suspicious, unusual, or unexpected circumstances;
…The coroner or medical examiner shall determine the extent of the coroner’s or medical examiner’s investigation,…
Subd. 7.Duty to report.
Deaths of the types described in this section must be promptly reported for investigation to the coroner or medical examiner

Subd. 8.Investigation procedure; coroner or medical examiner in charge of body.

The medical examiner revealed that the cause of death was ligature hanging, but could not determine if it was homicide, suicide or accidental. This death then clearly falls under the purview of the Coroner and should be treated as a crime scene. My instructions from a Coroner are the same and the letter is quite clear that is MUST be treated as a crime scene and goes into significant detail about rendering medical care and scene preservation.
The full statute can be found here.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Policy and Procedure Manual 10-100 : Crime Scene Reporting also lays out some specifics that also should be understood by the reader:
10-101 CRIME SCENE SUPERVISION (02/22/05) (05/13/05)
(A-B)
Crime scene processing will begin after incident stabilization of the scene. Incident command priorities of life safety, search and rescue, and security precede crime scene preservation and processing. (05/15/96)

Only the Watch Commander or on-scene investigative supervisor can relinquish a scene to another investigative agency.

After incident stabilization, the on-scene ranking investigative officer, or designee is in charge of a crime scene within the yellow tape. The on-scene ranking patrol supervisor or designee is in charge of the scene outside the yellow tape. Until an investigative officer arrives, the on-scene patrol supervisor will be responsible for the entire scene. The on-scene patrol supervisor is also in charge of the entire scene when the investigative supervisor leaves the scene. The on-scene supervisor will communicate to the patrol supervisor when they are relinquishing the scene.

Scene security shall remain in place until the Crime Lab personnel have finished processing the scene. Officers working security may only be released from an active scene on agreement between Crime Lab personnel and the on-scene supervisor.

10-107 NOTIFICATION OF INVESTIGATORS (07/17/01)
(A-C)
On-duty investigators and the on-duty Watch Commander shall be notified immediately in the following situations:

  • Homicides
  • Assault with injury on a public safety officer (police, fire, ambulance) or any MPD employee
  • All suicides and DOA’s – on-duty investigators (04/01/93)
  • All suicides and suspicious DOA’s – Watch Commander

10-109 HOMICIDE OR SUSPICIOUS DEATH SCENE (07/17/01)

10-110 NOTIFICATION OF THE MEDICAL EXAMINER (07/17/01)
(A-B)

In the event of a homicide or suspicious death, an on-scene Homicide investigator shall notify the Medical Examiner’s office as soon as possible.

In all other deaths, officers shall notify the Medical Examiner’s office by telephone, even if a qualified physician is present. Personnel from the Medical Examiner’s office will determine whether they will investigate the scene or release the body to a funeral home.

For brevity’s sake I left out a fair bit of text from the manual, however the context is quite clear from the MPD’s manual – if the death is suspicious in nature, the scene is to be completely and immediately secured. To view these policies in full visit :
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/police/policy/mpdpolicy_10-100_10-100

Now, as we were not present and have not seen any evidence released, we cannot form an opinion as to whether proper procedures / laws were followed. If the reports from her sister are accurate it certainly raises some questions.

There are a number of other issues at issue here as well.

While the authorities did talk to her husband, he is not considered a suspect or person of interest despite his history and multiple convictions for domestic violence – 2 misdemeanor domestic assault convictions and, much more interestingly a felony domestic assault by strangulation conviction. He has a number of other charges and convictions including terroristic threats.

Elisa’s husband also did not show up for the funeral of his new bride, her family points out along with the fact that he went from being homeless and jobless to inheriting everything she owned.

We have also been made aware of at least one rather suspicious Facebook posting regarding cancelling the wedding to plan a funeral.

While nothing here is proof of a crime, family and friends are flabbergasted that an initial report could indicate suicide with so many factors that just don’t pass the smell test.

We will update this when more information becomes available.

Minnesota’s growing surveillance state

When people talk about personal security, many think of deadbolts, handguns, and such. One area we are going to be trying to highlight on this blog is our privacy from the surveillance state. The government has proven itself too many times to be unqualified to handle our most sensitive information, and there is nothing wrong with using lawful means to avoid being stalked by anyone.

This article is a very well done piece on the surveillance state by the  Hennepin County Sheriff’s office. This is possibly one of the most aggressive counties in the country when it comes to collecting personal information on citizens who are not under any kind of suspicion. From Kingfish and Stingray to facial recognition, we are constantly being watched, recorded and tracked.

It is worth noting the article highlights police departments such as the Minneapolis Police Department flat out lied about the use of this technology. This is exactly why we cannot trust law enforcement to have the use of tools like this absent a specific warrant.

We will be posting more articles on the subject, and encourage everyone regardless of where they live to fight this kind of unwarranted surveillance of innocent people. The abuses for this information are myriad and potentially extremely dangerous.

Security and Infection Control

A potential bioterror bacteria being used in vaccine development research has slipped its chains. 5 monkeys have been diagnosed with Burkholderia pseudomallei, This is the beginning of a number of movies, none of which end well.

The sources we researched reported a fatality range averaging 30-50%. No one seems to be able to explain how this escaped a BSLIII lab – Biosafety Level 3 – the CDC’s definition is as follows:
“Biosafety Level 3 is applicable to clinical, diagnostic, teaching, research, or production facilities where work is performed with indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease through the inhalation route of exposure”

Now, while we do not trumpet the calls of doom, we do find that risk factors can come from a very wide variety of sources. Seasonal influenza can be a hazard, as well as other common infections.

Security is about risk management, not playing meathead. The costs to a business from seasonal illness alone can be notable. While an outbreak of a significant disease is quite unlikely, and can not be planned for without significant expense, it does help to take note of the risk factors that can be managed.

The routine disinfection of   traffic areas and common surfaces is, in our opinion, crucial to a healthy work / home environment. From basic protocols to penetration testing , we have the knowledge and experience to help you reduce your exposure to pathogens.

The common sense advise in addition to that is to steer clear of high risk areas. Hospitals are chief amongst them. There have been many recent incidents of infections acquired in hospitals, and they seem to be adapting.

Now to those who say “the government is protecting us”,  take a look at this story, which is far from unique. The FDA admits that the device responsible for the “superbug” infections in the above article was allowed to remain on the market in order to avoid a product shortage. So the government knew it would kill people ( a 50% fatality rate), but didn’t want to interrupt the commerce of the device. That would be manslaughter in the private sector, and does not engender trust in the system.

So when it comes to any manner of security, we need to accept responsibility for it, because very rarely does a proxy stand up to examination.  While disaster management is what people think a risk consultant is for, the real value is found in prevention.

R. Steven Rogers Protective Services offers personal and corporate infection control risk management. Our medical professionals can offer cost effective solutions, including training and supplies, to assist you in protecting your most valuable asset – your employees.

 

 

Half of AZ communications disrupted by single line being cut with a hacksaw.

When doing a risk analysis, one needs to look at factors from a few perspectives. Probability and costs are two examples that most folks inherently grasp.

What many people do not consider is the risk presented by everyday risk factors such as weather, intentional acts of destruction, and happenstance. Leaving aside the longer term natural risk factors such as solar storms, weather events can still have a significant impact reducing or eliminating access to many basic necessities. I would hazard a guess that most of us are not well prepared to be without power for three days in the dead of winter.

While there are many areas of life we need to examine for risk factors, today’s subject once again illustrates the the weakness and vulnerability of the infrastructure, specifically electronic communications. In the movies shutting down the cellphone, internet and telephone services in half of Arizona would take a sophisticated crew of nattily-attired professionals months of planning and millions of dollars.

What will likely come as a shock to many is that in the high-tech, modern U.S. what it really takes is one person and ten bucks, which is what I figure the hacksaw might have cost that caused this event.

That’s right, one person with a hacksaw and suddenly credit cards and ATM’s don’t work, and you can’t call 911 for help. This is not much different than a storm, as services will be brought back online, saving a truly catastrophic event that few can prepare for. But it highlights the need to be aware of, and prepared to deal with one’s risk factors.

For example, it is estimated that more households own guns than know CPR. Which are you more likely to need in everyday life, first aid skills or a gun? While I have taught firearms and self-defense for many years, I have been an EMT for longer.

We help people and companies learn to manage their risk. Have you properly evaluated yours?

(Headline story here)

Major security flaw in cell calls uncovered

Despite the billions being invested in 3G technology by the cellular carriers in an attempt to upgrade security in the network, it is similar to spending buckets of money to secure your front door and then leaving the back door and windows open and unlocked.

As reported today by the Washington Post, German researchers Engel, founder of Sternraute, and Karsten Nohl, chief scientist for Security Research Labs have independently uncovered these flaws and plan to report on them at a hacker conference later this month.

Most vulnerabilities reported in the past have been discovered to long be abused by governments. This is likely no exception.  To quote from the article ““Many of the big intelligence agencies probably have teams that do nothing but SS7 research and exploitation,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU and an expert on surveillance technology. “They’ve likely sat on these things and quietly exploited them.””

So once again, we must take all of these types of issues into account when performing security audits for our clients. Very little electronic is truly secure, and this has always been our position. We work to provide a path to the always delicate balance between too little security and too much.

Ferguson being used to foment unrest

I wrote recently about the potential of the Ferguson situation to spread to other areas. The US has a history of riots based on racial tension, many resulting from the heavy hand of government.

There are reports now of this situation being used by powerful people in media, government, and private groups to increase racial tensions around the country. Those reported to be involved include Al Sharpton and even President Obama.

Sharpton’s group National Action Network has posted a list of protest sites around the country. See the flyer here.

Another group calling itself “Ferguson National Response Network” has published a list of 82 US cities complete with graphics for what it is calling “planned responses”.

Organizers have created “proposed rules of engagement“. This is not a sign of people being outraged. When people and groups use tragic events to further their agenda, it is not a good sign. The media constantly are throwing around racial terms “white cop, black victim” etc..  Whether he is a victim or a criminal is not yet determined.

On Nov 5, President Obama met with “national leaders” including Mr. Sharpton. No one has any proof of what was discussed, but the meeting alone is suspect. According to Sharpton Mr. Obama “was concerned about Ferguson staying on course in terms of pursuing what it was that he knew we were advocating”.  Link here.

So what does this mean from a risk management perspective? Professionally we recommend that you evaluate your area and the risk factors for your area. Is your home or business in a city targeted by these “rights groups” that seem to be attempting to use this situation for advancing their agenda? Have you taken reasonable precautions to ensure your safety or that of your employees?

There are many things one should examine; windows and doors, lighting, cameras where appropriate, personal security (vehicles, carry permits, first aid training, etc.), and more.

R. Steven Rogers Protective Services is more than a company that provides guards, we are a full service risk management firm.

Contact us today to review your risks and concerns.

 

Ferguson, Riots, and Personal Protection

So the news up until the election was dominated by the Ebola virus, and has been filled with political fluff since. I find this interesting when there are other things going on in the world, some of which have significant potential to cause problems.

Take for example the Ferguson situation, which is still unfolding, and with the verdict expected any day now, one would think that there would be more remembrance of history. Before I touch on that, lets look at the situation down there.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told Reuters he fears “the unrest is going to be far beyond the city of Ferguson” if Wilson is not indicted.

Concerns of unrest have been in the media, but mostly local to Missouri. Some examples are HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Another consideration that few take into account is the unwillingness of government to perform its basic duties. While the vast majority of Americans count on the police to protect them, there is little evidence to support this faith.
The courts have long held that the police have no legal duty to protect citizens from private violence. And in Ferguson, the police are clearly taking this to heart, as evidenced by the fact that they did not lift a finger to stop the looting and destruction in the recent rioting.

From USA Today:

Armored vehicles, riot gear, tear gas and looting returned to this small Midwest city early Saturday as a brief period of peaceful demonstrations gave way to a violent atmosphere of anarchy.
During the night, buildings burned, windows shattered, and chaos ensued as protesters stood in the street criticizing police. Officers threatened to arrest protesters who came near their trucks. Yet authorities did not attempt to stop any looting as citizens moved to protect local businesses from sporadic thefts.

From the local Fox Affiliate:

“Police presence is in question after St. Louis County and Missouri State Highway Patrol officers left the scene in Ferguson once looters began attacking businesses overnight.”

And from FoxNews:

A reporter from the station tweeted that police cars were seen driving past some of the stores being looted and did not respond.
One of the owners, with a large black gun resting on his shoulder, told the station that police were lined up blocks from the looting, and did not engage looters making off with large boxes from these stores.
Meanwhile, peaceful protesters yelled at the aggressors to stop what they were doing. About a dozen people eventually blocked off the front of the convenience store to help protect it.

So when it comes to our security and protection, we must take responsibility for our own and not rely on luck or government to keep our persons and property safe and secure.

Now as to the larger concern to the rest of the nation. When one looks at the history of such events in the United States, you will see that of the major riots we have had, including those which sparked unrest in other areas of the country, the majority involved police use of force and / or racial tension.
And while some of these incidents remained localized, not all did. The risk today, especially with modern information technology, is that current and future events have the potential to spread like a virus.

Here are a few of the major race related riots, in short:

  • Watts 1965: The DWI arrest of a man resulted in 6 days of rioting. 34 dead, 2,000 injured, 3438 arrests, over 40 million in damage. There was a 46 square mile combat zone for the duration of the riot.
  • Newark 1967: A false rumor after a cab driver’s arrest sparked a week long riot. 26 dead (including a 10 year old), 1,000 injured, 103 Million in property damage, the city was nearly ruined.
  • Martin Luther King 1968: The death of MLK touched off a series of riots in over 100 U.S. cities. The damages from just a few are:
    D.C. – 4 days, 12 dead, 1,000 injured, 1200 buildings burned, 6,000 arrests, 158 million in damages.
    Chicago – 9 dead, 82 million in damages, national guard called out, and the mayor issued “shoot to kill” orders for arsonists.
    Baltimore – 6 dead, many hundreds of fires, 5700 arrests, 92 million in damages.

There were others, including Miami 1980, Cincinnati 2001, Rodney King and more.

The fabric of our society is much more easily torn than most will admit. While I would not go so far as to predict what may happen in this situation, I will stand by my assessment that many areas of the country are much closer to unrest than we would like to believe. There are protests planned in a number of major cities, and with the potential for spontaneous ignition of tensions, there are many cities where the risk of violence is well inside the realm of possibility.

If you live in an area where you feel that tensions are high, be vigilant. As I have always taught, awareness and avoidance are the keys to self-defense, and an ounce of prevention truly is still worth a pound of cure.

While some cities have supposedly taken measures, of the few that have admitted to doing so, such as Boston, they met for the first time on Wednesday – mere days from when the verdict is expected. No major city can prepare for unrest in a matter of days. It is quite likely that most cities would be unprepared should problems occur, so as is too often the case you need to be ready to endure whatever might happen.

At least one city neighboring Ferguson is honest about it, telling their residents to prepare for being unable to leave their homes for a number of days. Story here.

When it’s time to turn to a professional firm to assist you in your planning of your personal protection, there are many options to consider beyond the most common items, firearms and training.

Whether it’s protective films, door strengthening, lighting and video cameras, or security personnel, these are a few of the kinds of problems we try to help our customers minimize the damage from. Here are a few videos of window security film doing its job.

3M Film attempted break in

3M_Protects_Against_G20_Protesters

Many businesses spend large sums of money on high quality door locks, security camera systems, lighting and leave a the easiest method of entry untouched.

The same can be said about homeowners. Many buy good deadbolts, some establish good exterior lighting. Few protect the easiest access to their home, glass. So while many spend many thousands of dollars on firearms, accessories and training, (which are quite often thought of for interior defense), they skip a significant weakness that could be strengthened to keep the threat outside.

R. Steven Rogers Protective Services, combined with its sister company Pistolcraft can provide you with many of the resources you need to improve your protective planning. Contact us today.

Nearly 5 Million Gmail accounts compromised

This story illustrates that if a company the size of Google can be compromised, that any sense of online security is false. With the right preventative measures, one can maintain some protections but nothing is truly secure.

With the major breaches of late (Michael’s, Target, Home Depot) proving that we are under increased pressure by hackers, many in foreign nations. I recommend that all internet users begin to learn some basics on electronic security, whether it be stronger passwords, securing their wireless, or data encryption.

Story here.