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

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.
A 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

The Great Computer Caper
What’s the most jaw-droppingly stupid thing you could do if you’re on trial for attempting to steal computer equipment? Ask Jon Eipp.

His strange story began with burglar alarms at Portal Publications in Novato, California, just north of San Francisco. Police rushed to the scene and caught Eipp, 39, and an accomplice running away, leaving an array of stolen computer equipment outside the office building.

Both men were arrested, and Eipp’s trial began last fall in the Civic Center courthouse in neighboring San Rafael. Two days into the proceedings, some Civic Center employees showed up for work, went to their cubicles and got quite a surprise. Their computers and monitors had been swiped. Yep, Jon just couldn’t help himself.

The previous evening, after his hearing, Eipp had hidden on a balcony until the Civic Center pretty much cleared out. Then he ducked into room C-10, loaded computer equipment into a recycling bin and wheeled his cargo outside. There, he stuffed it all into a large box that he tucked out of sight. Eipp was lucky enough to get his high-tech haul out of the building, but his stupidity caught up with him.

By the time Civic Center workers discovered their equipment had vanished, Eipp was already in police custody. It seems one heist just wasn’t enough: Shortly after leaving the Civic Center, he’d been caught right down the street trying to steal a Volkswagen. Not that he wouldn’t have been nabbed soon enough for the computer job, since fingerprints and a shoe print, along with video surveillance, made it clear Eipp was the culprit.

Now he faced charges that included attempted auto theft, burglary and grand theft. Last September, he pleaded guilty to them all. Speaking to a reporter, Eipp blamed his thievery in the courthouse on a drug problem, saying he’d stolen the computers because “I needed help and didn’t know how to ask for it.”

In the end, Eipp chose to help himself — to about four years in prison.

Next: The World’s Most Embarrassing Injury

A Humiliating Hurt
Zachereya McGrew had a really embarrassing injury. But far more humiliating was how he got it.

When the 23-year-old discovered that his car speakers were missing, he figured he knew who’d swiped them — a teenager from a nearby Wichita, Kansas, neighborhood. And he’d make the kid pay.

The teen was in his front yard when a white four-door Toyota zoomed up and McGrew jumped out of the backseat. He ordered the youth to get in the car and take him to his speakers, which the terrified boy refused to do. McGrew then reached into his waistband and pulled out a handgun (a stolen weapon, incidentally, which he’d gotten in a trade for his pit bull). At that point, the teen took off at a sprint, and McGrew fired at least two shots at him, missing his mark.

Once the boy was out of sight, McGrew slid the gun back into his waistband. Maybe he fumbled things because his pants had begun to sag, or maybe it was his nervous excitement, but McGrew’s finger squeezed the trigger, firing off a perfect shot — into his own left testicle. That can cause a guy to flinch, which McGrew did, pulling the trigger again and sending another bullet slamming into his left calf.

His two friends, who were in the Toyota, immediately drove him to the hospital, where McGrew shuffled in, crying with pain. Police were quickly summoned, and struggled to make sense of what McGrew told them through his tears. He first tried to save face by telling the officers that he’d been shot in the groin and leg by an unknown Hispanic man. But finally, he confessed that the damage to his privates was self-inflicted.

McGrew was charged with aggravated assault and pleaded guilty. As word spread of his shooting prowess, headline writers had a field day. The best may have been this one from MSNBC’s website: “Nobody move or the one on the right gets it too.”

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