Friday morning, local police officers swooped down on the second mobile home on the left as you go into Paul's Trailer Park, and arrested the man living there on charges that he had used his computer to commit Internet fraud.
>A Prineville man is in jail on charges that over the last few months he has defrauded dozens of people by auctioning off items on the Internet and then just pocketing the money
Prineville police officers, after conducting a two-month-long investigation, arrested a local man Friday on more than 40 counts of theft and computer crime.
Prineville Police Lt. Eric Bush said a search warrant was executed at the home of 33-year old Vernon Ray Clump Friday morning. A wide assortment of documents, a computer and other items were seized in that raid at 2121 NE Third St., space 2W.
The crimes came to light some time ago, when complaints began being filed with the police department. Those allegations of computer fraud were from all over the US and Canada, Bush said. "We have been investigating at least 16 separate complaints from all over the nation. From Florida, Kansas and ... just all over. Apparently, Clump would advertise items for sale on Internet auction sites," Bush explained. "The allegations were that Crump would offer to sell computer parts or firearms. The high bidder would then send the money and never get the items. It was as simple as that."
In a release following the arrest, Bush stated that Crump has allegedly defrauded people of thousands of dollars over the last two to three months in the scams. The Prineville Police Department was assisted in serving the search warrant of Crump's home by members of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team.
According to Bush, the Federal Bureau of Investigation were also involved. It's possible that having the crimes cross state lines federal charges may be made, he explained. "We contacted the FBI and made them aware of the investigation and they have offered advice on how to proceed."
Crook County Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown said that along with help from the FBI, the US Secret Service is also involved. Although none of the complaints against the practices that Crump is accused of came from local residents, the list of those who were hit is expected to grow. The hard drive from the computer taken from Crump's home has been sent to that agency, he said.
"Experts will be able to recover all information that is on the hard drive," Brown explained, "even files that have been deleted."
That data and information gathered during the investigation will be presented to the grand jury later this week.
Brown said the 25 or so charges Crump is facing may only be part of the whole thing. He agreed with Lt. Bush on the fact that a number of federal laws may also have been broken.
This is a huge case, Bush said, and has called for a "lot of paperwork and man-hours just to get the search warrant. These kinds of crimes are new and there is little case law to support us or show us the way. Not everyone is knowledgeable," he added, "with current computer law."
The detail involved in making the case meant investigating officers had to conduct a very detailed and meticulous investigation.
The end result had Crump lodged in the county jail charged with 16 counts of felony computer crime, 16 counts of theft by deception and additional counts of first and second degree theft. He was also charged with a probation violation. Brown said Crump has a history of writing bad checks and was on probation at the time of his arrest on charges stemming from that. Bail was set Friday at $186,000.
Brown took the opportunity to issue a warning that people who get on the Internet and visit the auction sites should be paying attention to. Fraud of this nature, he pointed out, is easy to do and hard to stop.