Aspen Police Department uses Facebook to solve case
The Aspen Police Department recently turned to social media for help in a credit-card fraud investigation, and it paid off with an anonymous tip that led to an arrest.
On Thursday, the department posted a still image gleaned from surveillance video at The Aspen Store, where a woman allegedly used someone else’s credit card to make a purchase for $7.20. On Friday, officer Ian MacAyeal received a call from an anonymous tipster who recognized the woman from the Police Department’s Facebook post and knew where she lived. MacAyeal visited the residence the same day. The suspect wasn’t home, but her boyfriend was and told MacAyeal where the woman worked. MacAyeal then visited her place of employment, and she confessed to charging the credit card, according to an arrest affidavit by the officer.
MacAyeal said the Police Department has turned to social media more often to seek the public’s help in solving cases.
“It’s pretty rare, but this was such a good shot of the suspect that it turned out somebody knew who she was and knew where she lived, and obviously, we got a confession,” MacAyeal said Monday.
Police Department spokeswoman Blair Weyer said it might have been the first time a Facebook post led to an arrest for the Aspen agency.
“In my four-plus years here, this is a first,” Weyer said. “We post photos like this occasionally, but they’ve never led to an arrest before.”
The Police Department’s Facebook status update asked: “Do you recognize the individuals in this picture? They are wanted for questioning in relation to a case where over $1,000 was charged to credit card that was lost somewhere along Hopkins Ave. near Spring Cafe on 2/25/15. The suspect used the stolen card at numerous businesses in Aspen and Willits.”
On Friday, suspect Patricia Taylor Freeman, 26, posted $3,000 bond and was released from custody. The Aspen resident faces felony charges of forgery and identity theft and a misdemeanor count for unauthorized use of a financial transaction device.
Aspen police say she found a woman’s Visa card and used it to pile up charges Feb. 25 and 26. Her biggest alleged purchases included a $336.64 transaction at Pitkin County Dry Goods on Feb. 26 and $361.87 at Whole Foods in Basalt. Nine minutes after her Whole Foods transaction, Freeman allegedly rang up $49.77 in charges at El Korita restaurant. All told, she used the Visa to make about $1,078.99 in purchases, MacAyeal alleged in an arrest affidavit.
Freeman was arrested Friday, the same day she confessed to MacAyeal, the affidavit says. MacAyeal’s affidavit says that Freeman said she “screwed up” and “knew it was wrong.”
MacAyeal learned of the alleged credit-card fraud March 5, when a woman called police to report that charges had been rung up on her Visa without her consent. The woman told police she last used the Visa to buy a meal at Spring Cafe, and her credit card’s bank contacted her Feb. 27 to report possible fraudulent activity.
Freeman is scheduled to answer to the charges May 4 in Pitkin County District Court.
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