Sunday, September 28, 2008

Technology Aids Police in Capturing Suspects

This article was posted in today's Times Leader, and while there's really nothing new to be learned in regards to the Cuadra/Kerekes case, it does give some interesting insight:

As mobile phones and e-mail are increasingly used in the commission of crimes, law enforcement officials are turning to high-technology techniques to gather evidence and sometimes even to track down suspects.

Cellular phone signals helped authorities capture a man suspected in the killing of three people in Scranton on July 17, according to court records.

Randall Rushing, 26, was being sought after the bodies were found inside a South Irving Avenue home earlier that day. Rushing’s cell phone calls were tracked by the FBI to a cell tower near Sherman Hills apartments and to a vehicle that he eventually abandoned on High Street in Wilkes-Barre.

“Cell phone number was subsequently tracked and reportedly being used between cell phone towers located in Wilkes-Barre, specifically the Sherman Hills area,” court records say. “Based on information from the cell phone tracking being provided by the FBI, the (vehicle) was subsequently located unattended at the corner of High Street and Virgin Lane in Wilkes-Barre.”

Rushing was captured when authorities raided an apartment on High Street, not far from where he abandoned the vehicle.

Authorities could pinpoint Rushing’s location because of the way mobile phones work. The coverage area is divided into “cells” and a signal is handed off from one to another as a caller moves. While cells can be miles wide in rural areas, more of them are needed in cities to handle the volume of calls, making the locations more precise.

Multiple state and federal search warrants were used to get both cell phone and e-mail records in the capital murder case against homicide suspects Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes, who are accused in the slaying of Bryan Kocis in Dallas Township in January 2007.

Investigators were able to allege that Cuadra and Kerekes, both from Virginia Beach, Va., were near Kocis’ Midland Drive home the night Kocis was killed because they traced their cell phone signals to three towers in the Wyoming Valley, including one just 100 yards from Kocis’ home.

Investigators also traced their Internet log-ins and e-mails before and after Kocis was killed, according to court records.

Nearly two dozen employees from different cell phone and Internet provider companies have been named material witnesses in the case. They are expected, if called by prosecutors to testify, to verify the accuracy of Cuadra’s and Kerekes’ cell phone and Internet records.

A total of 68 e-mails were traced to Cuadra and Kerekes from Jan. 20 to Jan. 29, most of which were sent to Kocis from computers in their Virginia Beach home, court records say.

Other cases are less complex. A White Haven man recently was arrested by Swoyersville police for leaving a voice mail on a cell phone.

It was the content of the message that resulted in criminal charges against Lee Robert Fuller, police said.

Police said in arrest records that Fuller called a man known to him on Sept. 9 and left a voice mail message saying, “I’m going to kill your son.”

Fuller, 36, was charged with two counts of harassment on Wednesday.

Law enforcement officers say that as the Internet and cell phones have entered the mainstream of American life within the last 15 years, those who commit crimes have not missed the electronic revolution.

“Local police departments are seeing these types of crimes more often these days,” said Luzerne County Det. Charles J. Balogh Jr. “The technology is there for criminals to use cell phones to harass, or the Internet to commit identity theft or harass by e-mail.

“All they’re doing is creating more work for us, but at the same time, we have the technological capabilities to investigate and prosecute,” Balogh added.

While investigating the disturbing, “I’m going to kill your son,” phone call, Swoyersville police issued subpoenas to cell phone providers that allowed them to lawfully seize phone records that were traced to Fuller, according to arrest records.

Police dealt with two cell phone companies, AT&T Motorola and Sprint, to get records that led to charges against Fuller, arrest records show.

“People need to be aware that we do have the capabilities of getting cell phone information,” Kingston Township Police Chief James Balavage said. “We have to do a lot of leg work, but we do get it done.”

Balogh and Balavage surmised that the growing number of crimes committed by cell phone and through the Internet is the reason why cell phone and Internet provider companies have dedicated employees to deal with subpoenas or search warrants issued by investigators.

“There are special departments that we deal with,” Balavage said.

“It’s not difficult to investigate crimes committed by electronic means,” Balogh said. “It’s fair to say that cell phone and (Internet) providers cooperate. We fax them our subpoenas for records and many companies respond almost immediately.”