More of America’s Dumbest Criminals

A lineup of bumbling crooks who practically caught themselves.

A New Hobby
As fantasies go, Jose Santiago, Jr., had a rather strange one. Too bad he decided to act it out. One Sunday evening in April 2006, the 33-year-old decided his hometown of Gurnee, Illinois, could use one more cop. Guess who? It would help his charade that he had bought an old police car — a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor — and mounted red and blue lights on its dashboard.

When a driver pulled into Santiago’s apartment complex, the rookie was ready for his baptism. He blocked the guy’s car with his own, then motioned him over. A slender man with short, dark hair walked up to him, puzzled.

A life of crime does not always attract the best and the brightest. Illustrated by Tim BowerA life of crime does not always attract the best and the brightest.
 Santiago, who wasn’t wearing a cop’s uniform, barked, “Do you have a problem?” and then started laying into the man about his driving, claiming he’d been doing 65 mph.

Are you a police officer?” the man asked. When Santiago said yes, the guy asked to see his ID. Santiago refused and continued with his tough-cop routine. Growing suspicious, the man asked again if he was a policeman. This time, Santiago said he was a deputy, but claimed he didn’t have any identification on him.

That’s when it turned into a fake cop’s worst nightmare. The driver had no problem pulling out his own wallet and showing his identification. His name was Jeremy Gaughan, and he happened to be an off-duty Gurnee police officer.

Whoa. It probably seemed a bit late to let him off with a warning. Instead, Santiago went to plan B. He really was a cop, he said, but he wasn’t on the Gurnee police roster because he actually worked for the county as a reserve deputy. Gaughan said he’d check with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Santiago said okay and drove off rather eagerly.

Three days later, Santiago pulled up to his residence to find Gurnee police officers waiting for him. Charged with false impersonation of police and using unauthorized flashing lights, Santiago pleaded guilty to both and was sentenced to 50 hours of public service and 24 months’ conditional discharge.

Officer Gaughan’s colleagues still get a laugh when they think about their buddy’s encounter. “It’s dangerous enough for real cops to stop drivers on the road,” says Commander Jay Patrick. “For this guy to want to make it his hobby is really bizarre.”

Our suggestion: Try golf, Jose.

Next: A Computer Caper Gone Horribly Wrong

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