The Counterfeit Customer

Let me tell you a story about the time when the Secret Service and the police department showed up at my house in the same week. This story took place a week after my 18th birthday. At the time, I was still living with my parents, running a small computer business from a spare room. My business and customer-base was growing rapidly, and my future goal was to purchase a store front and hire employees. I bought a touch screen laptop computer as a step forward in how I do invoicing and billing with my customers. As an entrepreneur and business owner doing computer repair work, a good chunk of my work tends to be on-site meeting customers at their home or office. I needed a way for customers to sign invoices, without much hassle. I also, once upon a time, had this great idea that I would carry around a printer in the trunk of my car (1996 Honda Accord) to print out receipts, with a long power cord going under the seats to the AC adapter. Now that was the worst idea I ever had! Little did I realize that a cars AC adapter only generates so much power, long story short, invoices would only print a quarter of the way and then get stuck.

The touch screen laptop at first worked out moderately okay, but turned out to be a bad idea; it was a Lenovo S10-3t.  After about a year, I got fed with it, it wasn’t working out, and I ended up not even taking signatures. I needed signatures now that I was doing a lot more work. I decided to get a 7-inch touch screen Android tablet (which didn’t exist a year prior). Found an invoicing application for the tablet that allowed customers to sign invoices, which I could then email to them. Genius.

Selling the laptop is the next thing I needed to do. I figured I could get at least $400 for it. Selling it was hard; none of my customers needed a 10-inch touch screen laptop. However, in my state, we have a thing similar to Craigslist called KSL, but it’s not as crappy as Craigslist. I listed it for a little over a month, and didn’t get calls. I thought this is going to be hopeless; I’d have to list it for a much lower price! Finally, out of nowhere, I got a call, a guy and his girlfriend were very interested in my laptop. We arranged a time for him to come down and take a look at it the next day. He seemed a little in a hurry, stated he was going to be traveling out of town in a few days.

The next day, he called and confirmed he was on his way day, cool. Then it struck me, I like to tinker with stuff and customize things. I had removed Microsoft Windows off the laptop and installed Ubuntu Linux (similar to Mac OS X). I rarely used the laptop, so I suppose this is way it didn’t come to my attention sooner that I would need to prepare the laptop for sale. No big deal, it will most likely take the guy a little over an hour to drive down from Salt Lake. I’m just about finished reversing everything on the laptop when the guy arrives, his name was Keven Jensen (or so he claims). He pulled up next to the stone steps of my house, driving an impressive shiny black SUV. Probably a 2002 Ford Explorer. I specifically remember commenting to myself about how clean and shiny it was. I greet the buyer, Kevin, and let him in. It was just him, no one else came in with him. “Go ahead and sit down,” as I gestured to the couch, “it’ll just be a minute.” My dad was in the other room, and kept an eye on him, as I frantically ran back upstairs to finish the laptop.

Now, in the process of reversing the laptop back to its out-of-box state, wifi stops functioning, and to resolve this some software programs need to be downloaded onto the laptop; and remember I’m frantically trying to hurry so this guy doesn’t get mad for having to wait. Just my luck, I can’t access Lenovo’s website. It’s down. What a situation I got myself into here. I spent a good 20 minutes scouring Google for some website somewhere that is offering the software drivers for download, but every site eventually lead me straight back to Lenovo’s website, which, obviously wasn’t working. Hoping it was just my computer having a problem, I bring the laptop downstairs, and over to Keven, to let him see it, and explained the situation to him that I need to install this software or the Internet isn’t going to work. He was calm and collective, and seemed to understand.

“No problem, Mike,” he said.

“You have someone waiting for you in your car, right,” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, almost as if he didn’t really even care that they were waiting for him.

That’s weird, I’m thinking, why does he not care they are waiting? Does he really have someone out there? Practically sprinting into the other room where my dad’s computer is sitting, I try again to download this stupid software. His computer can’t access Lenovo’s website either! Awesome. Love it. The buyer has now been here 45 minutes. Reluctantly, I inform him I’m still having troubles finding the software drivers (I gave up), and that I was going to try something different. I run up stairs and grabbed a wireless usb dongle, and plugged it into the laptop. What do you know! It works without a hitch! This isn’t ideally the best solution though. As I’m testing things out, making sure the Internet is working, etc, he notices that I’m touching the screen of the laptop and not using the trackpad. “Whoa! This is a touch screen?!” He was astonished, like he’d never seen one before. What? Is this guy for real? You have got to be kidding me, does he not know what he’s buying? It really drew a suspicion here about him. Something seemed off. He seems like a nice guy, so that was that, didn’t think much of it; and I sure didn’t know what was later going to unravel.

So I ask, “What are you primarily going to use this laptop for?”

“It’s not for me. It’s for my girlfriend. I really don’t do much for her, and this is her birthday present. I wanted to get her something nice before I leave out of town in a few days.”

“Oh nice. Where are you going?”

“I’m taking a trip to California for a week.”

“If you give me your email address, I can email you step-by-step instructions on downloading and installing the driver software, since right now I can’t download it because Lenovo’s website is having trouble,” I said, fairly annoyed that I spent nearly an hour and got nowhere. At this point I was throwing in the wifi USB adapter for free. Really I just wanted to make this sale, it took so long to find a buyer. He agreed, and I put his email address in my phone. He pulled out $400 in 20’s, quickly counted it, and handed it to me. I re-counted it, shook his hand, and thanked him for his patience. Being almost 5pm now, I drive over to the bank to deposit the money, thinking about what a nightmare this was, but very glad that this guy wasn’t at all upset. He seemed to understand the situation and he was pretty content sitting on my couch waiting, especially considering what you’re about to find out. The next morning I get a call from Zions Bank.

“Hi Michael. This is ███████, Manager at Zions Bank in Pleasant Grove. You deposited some money yesterday afternoon, and of that, $400 is counterfeit.”

If you want a fantastic start to your day, a phone call like that couldn’t be better way! The whole time he was explaining this situation that I have seemingly gotten myself into, in the back of my mind, I was waiting for him to say “gotcha” or “just kidding.

“Okay….” I was so confused at this point. Not wanting to believe what he was telling me.

“The bank teller didn’t notice it the first time when she went over the money, while you were in the drive-thru, but after recounting it later, she noticed something odd about it, like it had a slightly different feel to it. I spoke with the Secret Service earlier this morning and they confirmed over the phone that the serial numbers are known counterfeit. If you could come down today, we need your statement, and it’d be my suggestion you file a police report.”

Now I’m thinking, oh crap, crap, crap, the Secret Service? So what am I going to get in trouble for this? It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t even do anything. I sure as heck didn’t know! Why does he need me to come down? So many questions and thoughts were racing through my mind. I’m pretty much panicking here. I headed down to the bank that afternoon, and he actually showed me some of the money because he hadn’t sent it off to the Secret Service in Salt Lake yet. In the counterfeit report that he showed me next, was pictures of the money, the 20 dollar bills fanned out on the page like someone would do if they were rich.

“So besides the slightly different feel of the money—which I probably wouldn’t expect the average person to notice, is that out of the 20 bills, there are only 3 sets of serial numbers. 10 of one group, 9 of the next, and then one by itself,” the manager explained to me.

“How would I have known something like this? Most people, I’m sure, wouldn’t even think to examine their money or check if some of them have the same serial number.”

“You’re right, most people don’t check their money, but there are security features you can quickly look for,” he said as he showed me on a real 20. “I’m sending this money off to the Secret Service today and they handle the rest of it, they are very interested in talking with you since you still have contact information of the buyer. I’d imagine you’d be getting a call from them soon.”

As suggested, I did call my local police department, an officer met with me, and I gave him all the information I had. I have a pre-planned trip to Lake Powell in the middle of all of this, and was leaving the next morning. Not hearing a word from anyone, I was a little anxious, really hoping someone would call with some information. Sure enough, I got a call from my dad within a few days after being at Lake Powell, but could barely understand him. Why? Well you see, I was in a boat in the middle of Lake Powell, signal was spotty at best; my phone was going between no service and 1 bar. You gotta picture this; I’m doing the best I can trying to hear him, standing on the very edge of the boat, hoping I don’t fall face first into the water! I got the just of what he said, that an officer came down and said they caught a guy with counterfeit during a traffic stop, and he had a computer in the back which could possibly be mine, and wanted to see if I could identify him in a lineup. I was told that the officer would be trying to call me within the next hour. I’m thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to get this officer’s call!” I decide, instead, to call the police department myself, and of course the lady tells me that he doesn’t accept calls incoming calls and that he will give me a call. I then explain to her that I’m on a boat in the middle of Lake Powell and at the current moment, actually have a bar of signal. She makes me wait a minute and then said he would call me on Monday to meet with me.

The officer came by on Monday, and showed me the lineup containing the guy they caught. Turned out the guy they have isn’t my guy. An uneasy feeling came over me, almost a hopeless feeling. I’m back to square one; and it’s so frustrating. On Tuesday, however, a Special Agent from the Secret Service called me asking if I was home and had time to talk, because he was sitting right now in front of my house. Like he literally called me from right outside my house. Scared the crap out of me! He asked me questions; I went over everything that happened. He showed me pictures of the guy they caught; aside from them both having a lot of tattoos, it didn’t look anything like him. I’m just a young entrepreneur, now out the $400, I did file the report for the laptop marking the serial number as stolen, but it would only turn up in a police raid or if it was pawned. The Secret Agent did meet with me one other time to get more information and told me that there was a guy down in Provo near Brigham Young University that also got scammed and was given the same phone number I was. Then went on to say that the black Ford Explorer that I identified, was actually repo-ed by a dealer, counterfeit money was found inside, and they actually had a possible address and were going to attempt an arrest.  I got pretty excited! Seemed like good news. Are they going to catch the guy? Am I going to get my laptop back and restitution? Sadly, I haven’t heard anything back, and the case has pretty much gone cold.

This story is 100% true, took place on June 6th, 2011. To this day, I still have not heard any additional information and have not retrieved my stolen laptop, or gotten any restitution. This man has not been caught. He’s still out there scamming other people and damaging businesses like mine. If you know this man, recognize any of the below information, or have any information that can help solve this case, you are encouraged to please send me an email.

This Keven Jensen is a white male, 5’10 or 5’11, husky build, and lots of tattoos. In his late 20s or mid 30.s Last seen with sandy blonde/light brown hair. Also last seen driving a black Ford Explorer type suv of around the year 2002.

Actual voicemail left on my cell phone from Keven the morning of the scam:

(Refresh page if it appears blank.)

Name & contact information given to me:

Kevin Jensen

385-218-1492 (disposable cell number?)

kevinjensen@gmail.com

Serial number of the stolen laptop: QB00684242

Serial numbers of the counterfeit money:

II93434460A (10 with this serial number)

IF68264279H (9 with this serial number)

II93075057A