Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cannon to the Wiz

by Donna Pendergast

Cannon to the Wiz. You are probably asking "What the heck is that?" A week ago I would have asked the same question. Today I know the unfortunate answer.

Cannon to the Wiz is a sophisticated
pickpocket and identity theft ring that travels around the country to various large events, often sporting events, to pickpocket and steal the identities of unsuspecting attendees. Based out of Chicago, this group is reputed to have up to 200 members. Smaller cells or teams from the larger group come into town for these well attended events with one intention, to rip people off by stealing their money, their credit cards and ultimately their identities.

I, unfortunately, was a victim of this ring last week. Those of you who read my post last Mon are familiar with my tale of woe. However, when I posted that article I had no idea what I was dealing with. Unfortunately I do now.

Flash back more than a week ago. The Michigan
State Police got a tip that Cannon to the Wiz was headed to Michigan to work the Final Four basketball game. The Michigan State Police put out an advisory to the public. Unfortunately, I never saw that advisory or I might not have even taken my purse downtown.

Before the Final Four games an individual was arrested just outside of Ford Field after someone summoned a nearby police officer pointing out an individual who had tried to take a wallet. As I lamented in my last post, I discovered my wallet gone once inside Ford Field on that same night. I still do not know exactly when my wallet was taken but I believe that my initial suspicions were wrong based on what I now know.

On Sunday, after the fact, I found out about the advisory issued by the Michigan State Police. I also read a little bit about the group that was in town, but I was still not convinced that it was related to my case.

On Monday I learned just how good these guys (and girls) are. I knew that they were good enough to get my wallet out of my purse. However, I didn't realize how sophisticated of a level that they were operating on. When I wrote my blog I still wasn't sure who was responsible for the theft of my wallet, I just knew that it had been taken right from my purse which had never left my shoulder.

Monday started out with me sending a copy of my blog to a friend who is a Lieutenant in the Michigan State Police because I had seen his name in the paper as being involved with the investigation. I wanted him to know that my wallet had been stolen just in case it was related to the ring that he was investigating.

Monday night before the Championship game, an astute store clerk at
Somerset Mall in suburban Detroit became suspicious of some individuals who were viewing diamond watches. These individuals fled with mall security in pursuit and shortly thereafter their car was pulled over by police in Royal Oak Michigan.

Inside the car police found three males and one female. Also in the car was a scanner, a computer with templates for identification from several different states and 43 credit card gift cards. The four individuals in the car were arrested. A search warant of their hotel room revealed much of the same. Computers, gift cards, you get the idea.

These individuals apparently have this down to a science. They get back to their car with your license and are able to generate a new license with your information and their picture instantly. How scary is that?

The credit card gift cards in the car and hotel were also of interest to me. My debit card was used to purchase the same thing at Walgreens the day before. I'm not suggesting that they were the same gift cards that were purchased with my debit card only that it was the same
Modus Operandi.

Later that same night the Michigan State Police viewed the footage from the transaction where my debit was used at Walgreens but it was unclear at that point whether that transaction was related to the ring. It was only several days later when they viewed the footage of a fraudulent transaction at Target that was related to the ring that they realized that it was the same individuals who had used my debit at Walgreens.

I'm glad that the individuals responsible for the theft of my wallet have been apprehended. However, it sends cold chills up my spine to know that they were members of a sophisticated identity theft ring. I guess that I will be looking over my shoulder for a long time to make sure that they don't wreak further havoc with my life.

One week ago today I woke up filled with anticipation over the big game. One week later I hope the worst is over. After beginning the week as a crime victim and ending it with a bout of the stomach flu I'm glad this week is done.

On a final note, a big THANK YOU to the Michigan State Police for a fantastic piece of police work. Without them having been all over this group from the time that they were warned that they were coming to town, the result would have probably been different. Once again, amazing police work that shut down a frightning ring, at least this time.

Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinions or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General


luvmypeanut said...

It's absolutely frightening how fast they can get your identity! Thanks for opening our eyes, however I am sorry you had to live thru it in order to warn us!

Leah said...

So, do you have any idea when your wallet was lifted that evening??

piper said...

Wow! What an experience you have had in just one week's time.

Good has come from your misfortune; you have opened many eyes against the dangers of theft and reinforced the vigilance that we tend to let lapse.

As much as I regret that you had to go through being a victim, I am very thankful for your words of wisdom. It is also reinforcing that police are aware and working on keeping us all safe.

Not enough praise and thanks are given to the great people of law enforcement in this country. They do so much more than most civilians ever realize.

Thank you, Donna, for sharing your experience.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the days when they asked for id when you used a credit/debit card?

No offense though Donna, like most wallet lifters, they werent looking for your identity, but looking for cash and cards that they could use until you cancelled them.

I had my wallet lifted in similar circumstances. I was paying for my tab at a bar (crowded) and when I put the card back into my wallet and was signing the receipt and it got lifted. I cancelled the card right away because I realized right away that the wallet was gone. I actually got the wallet back sans cash (which was minimal) in the mail. Someone found it in a parking lot about 4 towns down.

MOST of the time its about your cash, not your identity. I am assuming that your state doesnt put your sosh on your license anymore.

Donna Pendergast said...


It is now my belief that my wallet got lifted just outside the stadium or right inside the doors of Ford field. That is what the police believe as well.

That is where these guys were known to be operating on that day. They were operating at bars and restaurants earlier in the week but I think that they were concentrated near the stadium on that date.

I initially thought it was the Irish bar because it was mobbed and I kept being jostled (That's how they normally work---somone bumps or jostles you while the other is going in for the kill.) However, I never felt a thing around the stadium.

I have since learned that the guy in the Irish bar is who he told me he was (long story)----pretty much ruling him out as the perp not to mention he was caucasian. The individuals who used my debit were black as are most members of the group although there are known to be white females.

Shreela said...

I didn't see any of the links from this post leading to an article about this, so I searched for "Cannon to the Wiz". The results were mostly strange stuff, but there was one from a Detroit news site. If this blog won't allow linking, you can use "Cannon to the Wiz Final 4 Fraud" as search keywords, the news article will be higher in the results.

...[S]urveillance images captured a man and woman stealing a woman's purse at Somerset Mall on April 4. Within three minutes of stealing the purse, investigators said the man and woman charged more than $13,000 of electronics on the stolen card.

Yikes! I'm going to use one of my old wallets with a little cash for the next time I travel or go to a big event. I'll keep my real stuff (ID, cash, cards) stuffed under my clothes.