I am writing this post to fulfill a promise I made to Kes awhile ago, but I think it will be interesting to a few.  Sometime back in the early 1980’s I was sitting in my office chatting with an employee when I got a Code 10 call.  A code 10 call, for those not familiar with banking lingo, is a suspicious credit card at the point of sale.  The call was coming from a store in Louisiana called Gottschalk Maison.  I took that call and as a result of the decision I made then, also became tied to one of the strangest criminals I have ever met named Mitchell Schnitkoff.

The person on the other end of the line told me she had a gentleman trying to use a store card for a person who was “deceased” in their computers and when she told him she could not accept it, he pulled out one of our MasterCards.  I did a quick search on the card and did not find anything too unusual but because he had tried to use a “deceased” man’s card, I told her to decline the purchase.  I had just committed the ultimate sin against Mitchell Schnitkoff, never, ever, stop him from getting what he wants.

After I got off the phone, I had some statements pulled and noticed some really strange purchases and credits.  The credits on his account were not in line with any of his purchases.  Say,  Target, a charge for $24.00, then a credit for $240.00.  It went on and on like that for months.  I tried calling merchant loss prevention areas to give them a chance to dispute the charges but could not get anyone to respond.  In the end, I had to issue a check to Mitchell for the credit balance on his account.  Mitchell started calling me that day and every 10 days or so to get his credit.  He railed at me for treating him so shabbily at Gottschalks every time he talked to me, never once admitting it was his own fault. Even after we closed his account, he continued to stalk me.

One day, about 6 months after I had received that original call, I got a call from a Detective Burns of a small police department in Minnesota wanting to talk about a Mitchell Schnitkoff with 19 AKA’s.  It seems he was busted at a small drugstore in some small town in Minnesota for trying to steal sales drafts from behind the counter.  In the course of the investigation Det Burns learned that Schnitkoff was a prolific shoplifter who stole items then took them back for credit on a MasterCard or Visa.  It seems that he had learned if you go back for cash, the stores would question it, but not so with a credit card.  I got all of his aliases from the Detective and checked our data base.  We had 3 more cards that I immediately blocked.  Well Schnitkoff must have been out on bail because before my letter could get to him, he called me.  Somehow he thought I had turned him in to the detective and that was how he got caught.  Right, he was in Louisiana on my case but I called the police in Minnesota.  I went round and round with this guy but refused to give him the credits on those cards until he could prove he had purchase receipts to correspond with the dollar amounts credited, which he never did.

Mitchell Schnitkoff ended up in Leavenworth, or that is what he wanted me to believe when he called me from jail, and he told me he was in prison with murderers and thieves that were teaching him the ropes.  He told me that when he got out of jail he was going to rip our bank off so badly that we would not know what hit us.  Mitchell called me from time to time to remind me what a “meany” I was, in fact it got so normal for him to call that the people answering the phone knew him.  They would tell me, “Mitchell is on the phone again and he will only talk to you.”  I think he was using his weekly phone time to call and harass me, but it was amusing at that point.

Then there was Darla from Texas.  Darla lived with her husband and his father.  One day a credit card came in the mail addressed to “the father” with no Jr. or Sr.  Well Darla thought she had just hit the jackpot.  Her husband was issued a credit card even though she knew they did not make enough money to qualify.  My investigator on the case came to me and she was puzzled.  The purchases were coming from wig shops, men’s stores, plus size stores and she had called the merchants.  They all decscribed a large black woman and her cousin in the store shopping.  The lady was shopping for nurse uniforms and the guy was buying suits.  The couple told the merchants she was a nurses aid and he was learning to be an undertaker.  Criminals using stolen cards did not usually tell intimate details of their lives to shopkeepers.  We called the home and got Sr on the phone.  We described what was going on and he said, “That is my daughter-in-law and her cousin”.  he swore that she had just made a mistake but he did not want to pay for it.  Initially we were going to prosecute, however after talking with Darla on the phone, I was convinced she really thought it was her husband’s card.  I agreed to a “pay agreement” with her and no more using the card.  Darla called me at least once a month for a few years to tell, “Miss Susan“, whether or not she could pay that month.  Was Darla a criminal?  Perhaps she was and she bamboozled me, but I wanted to believe she made an honest mistake and the girl paid it off eventually.

Then there was Homer Brown.  Possibly the most troubling case I ever investigated.  The case came from our collections department who had been told the card was stolen.  I caught the case and in the course of that investigation I traveled into some deep dark places that still haunt me today.  Homer Brown was married to Tammy.  Tammy was abused severely by Homer Brown and ran from him.  Her journey took her to several hiding places in Texas and she finally landed in a battered woman’s shelter in Houston.  The problem?  Homer found out where she was and told people he was going to hunt her down and kill her.  As Homer had been suspected of burning down his parents AND his inlaws homes, Tammy had reason to feel he was telling the truth so she moved on to England.  Somehow Homer found out where she had gone (to stay with and aunt) so he decided to track her down in England.  Lucky for Tammy, he was not very good at tracking down people he did not know personally(the aunt), especially in a strange country.  He made attempts, as I could see from the charges on his card, to travel the countryside but was not successful.  Thanks to a friendly sheriff in Beaumont Texas I was faxed a photo of Homer.  I faxed that photo to Interpol in London and they went to Barclays bank to talk to a teller who had negotiated a cash advance for him.  Bingo!  She picked him out of a lineup.  Interpol signed an affadavit and sent it to me.  I promptly called Homer Brown and told him he was a liar and I was going to transfer the balance back to him.  It was wierd, the guy who tore up this country and England looking to kill his wife acted like a spoiled baby when he learned he would be stuck with the charges.  Knowing what I know about domestic violence, I will always wonder if Tammy ever was talked into giving him a second chance.  I sure hope not but knowing domestic violence cases and how they turn out sometimes, I still wonder to this day if she is safe.

We had many strange cases while I worked in Risk Management, both on the credit and merchant side.  Investigations can be fun and extremely interesting but you are always the cop and dealing with people who have no conscience.  After 12 years of Risk Management, I got out and went to probably the most unlikely followup position, Account Management.  I went from chasing down the bad guys to managing the day to day processing and banking issues for the banks’ VIP customers.  That was fun as well though, I travelled all over the country, learned how to navigate in strange cities and met alot of really fine people and saw some great cities and states.  I was glad to get out for awhile but if someone offered me a job in Investigations today, I would probably go back for another few years.  It is in my blood, I am the crusader for doing the right thing, living by the rules.  I am also the analyst always thinking logically how to approach an issue, I want to know the answers and I love to solve a good puzzle.  My years in investigations fed those needs and I learned a great deal.  It gave me the tools to ferret out people and what their real intentions are and  I understand the judicial system, police department operations and the world of criminals better as a result of my experiences.  The experiences have made me a better citizen, wife and mother as well.  I saw what happens to families whose members were involved in criminal activities, and knew I never wanted to go there.

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Kalima
Admin

Hi Sue, on the off chance that you will read this, as promised, the conclusion to my Visa card controversy.

On Wednesday this week I officially parted company with Visa and shredded my card, it felt darned good.

A few hours later, I ordered the same items, from the same company without a hitch on my new card with a new company. The story is over, it took 2 months to finish it. I am now content, and feel quite liberated. Thanks again for your advice on this matter. Cheers!

Khirad
Member

Cool stuff.

Why did I have to look up Gottschalks, though? After I did, it seems like I should have known it.

Crazy that you’ve dealt with international law enforcement, and such. Very intriguing.

I get frustrated enough when a customer’s card won’t go through.

boomer1949
Member

Welcome back Sue!

Fascinating tales, and I agree with Haruku, you should write a book. 🙂

whatsthatsound
Member

Boomer! The Crimson Tide washed out, so the Buckeyes may be headed for #1! Since we have a good number of Ohioans and ex-Ohioans here at the Planet, I think we should make the Buckeyes the official POV team. What do you think?

boomer1949
Member

Whats,

I’m not sure we can get away with it, but nothing wrong with Go Bucks or OH-IO though! 🙂

Go Bucks!

Khirad
Member

Well, my #9 team (or what was, before losing to the other OSU Saturday night) also has another member here, so, we may have factions. 🙂

whatsthatsound
Member

I’ll root for your team if you’ll root for mine!

Haruko Haruhara
Member

Wow, Sue, that was interesting. You could write a novel about this.

Boy, I know someone pretty well who could tell some pretty bizarre stories about when he was a cop reporter. 8)

kesmarn
Admin

…if we could just get him to take a break from mountain climbing long enough to sit down at the keyboard and do it! Right, Haruko?

😀

Haruko Haruhara
Member

Hai!

His mountain climbing is a sore spot. Ask him sometime about his ice traverse on Hyalite Peak.

kesmarn
Admin

Sue, this was more than worth waiting for! Absolutely fascinating.

I’m sure it was no surprise to you that Mr. Schnitkoff believed so whole-heartedly that he had been victimized by you!! It really is so exactly the way the ultra-wealthy in the current political climate love to portray themselves, as victims of class-warfare-obsessed Progressives. The perp as victim. A classic.

I’m just so relieved that you were never injured by one of these criminals. I know from experience, that any time you get between an addict and his addiction (be it money, drugs, gambling, whatever), you are in jeopardy. If they don’t go after you physically, they will attempt to go after your job. Needless to say, lying and scheming to accomplish that is not a thing they would stop at.

Thanks so much for sharing such fascinating stories. One of these days I’ll have to collect some nursing ones. But I will leave you with just one that involved not only nursing, but crime as well.

This was quite a while ago, when I lived in a different state. I was a float nurse and was working in pediatrics. We had a young patient — a 14 year old girl — who had been admitted with severe esophageal strictures. She had had them for several months, and the MDs were treating them by periodically passing a weighted instrument called a bougee down her esophagus to attempt to dilate it back to it’s normal diameter. (This was done under anesthesia, because you can imagine how unpleasant such a treatment would be.)

But the surprise element for me was the tale of how she had developed those strictures.

She lived with her mother and grandmother. Her mother, in an attempt to kill the grandmother had put a liquid lye-based drain cleaner into a wine bottle and placed it in the refrigerator. The grandmother was a known alcoholic, so she knew that the bottle of wine would be an irresistible temptation. Well, it’s obvious from my introduction that the plan went horribly wrong. The granddaughter found the temptation first and chugged the “wine,” with disastrous consequences.

Truth really is stranger than fiction, isn’t it, Sue? Thanks again for your gripping accounts!

AdLib
Admin

Fascinating article, Sue!

I am intrigued by stories of people who plot and connive…especially when they’re caught at it.

What’s interesting is the dichotomy, there’s a part of them that knows they’re stealing and a part of them that rationalizes why it’s not wrong….as someone stealing from them would be.

So nice to see you, Sue!

Kalima
Admin

First of all, let me say how good it is to have you back, you have been missed.

Your story held me spellbound, the lengths people will go to spend a dishonest buck is always amazing to me. The sheer nerve of their schemes is quite mind boggling to someone who only used to use credit cards when I traveled abroad in the past. My motto has always been, if you can’t afford to pay cash for it, you don’t need it. Very interesting story btw, you really would have to be patient to do this kind of work, I don’t think that I would be able to even attempt it. It must have been a harrowing experience at times, I detest thieves.

Here is my story from the other side of the coin concerning Credit Card companies.

In 2007 I was given my first ever computer by my hubby, I realized how paying for a few things online would literally change my life, I joined hubby’s Visa card as a family member. Somewhere along the line I found it a little disconcerting to have my bills coming to hubby and then having to pay him back, so last year in March I applied for my own Visa card. Now the fun begins.

In December last year we were robbed, when I notified my bank, the person in charge of my account, assumed (I have no idea why) that my credit card had been stolen too, and proceeded to stop my credit card along with my bank account. In January I received my new Visa card.

Ok, now here is where my story gets weird. I have been ordering bedding from a well established company in the U.S. we have a queen sized bed, and it’s hard to find stuff here in the land of Futons, that isn’t ridiculously expensive. So this company has a new web site, and has forgotten to add international countries on their shipping list options. I call them instead, my order is complete, and I wait.

The next day I get an email from them saying that my shipping arrangements can’t be finalized because Visa refuses to accept the charges. Knowing that the funds are there, I ask them to try again. They are refused another 3 times. I call them up again to tell them I will contact my bank which I do while waiting 24 hours for a reply. In the mean time my order expires at midnight EST on that day.

To make a long story short, I hear that the security branch of Visa Japan has refused to pay my money to this company I had been dealing with for years, and they proceed to tell my bank consultant what I’m allowed to spend my money on. My order is consequently cancelled by the company, and I’m left hopping mad with a red face, mostly out of sheer embarrassment. I spoke with friends in the U.S. one of them you all know, he checked it out for me, and concluded that this was unheard of. I went on a crusade by joining another company, the new card came last week. I haven’t plucked up the courage to use it yet, still waiting for PayPal to accept the new card, they must think it suspicious that I now have 4 cards listed in just over a year, 3 of them no longer in use, but it looks like a hassle to delete them without another card in use.

My friend whom you all know, told me to write a post about it, I was too mad to even attempt it, so thank you Sue for making it possible to tell the other side of a credit card story, and the reason I still prefer to pay cash for the things I want to buy.

I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed, and hope to order the same items that I ordered from this company, then finally having them delivered to my door. If it works, I’ll let you know, I’m exhausted, and so looking forward to shredding my Visa card soon.

Thanks for writing something that allowed me to finally vent in public Sue, I feel so much better now. 🙂

javaz
Member

Hi Kalima!

Sorry to hear about your credit card problems, BUT. and please, please, PLEASE take no offense – BUT, you have to pay your husband back?

Our accounts and bank accounts are joint – meaning they are tied to us both as one.

Now, I’ve lived with 2 other men and burned badly from that, the combining of our money, but my husband and I – what’s mine is his and what’s his is mine type thing – well, not sure what I am trying to say here – but, why would you ever have to repay your husband when you bought something?

Is it a cultural difference?

ps. think the joke is – what’s mine is mine and what’s his is mine – if that makes any sense

Kalima
Admin

No cultural difference javaz, it’s just the way I am. I pay for what I buy, wouldn’t have it any other way. Hubby is very generous, everything he owns, that includes savings, is in my name should anything ever happen to him. Different stokes for different folks.

I’m a wage earner. I work from home for our company, why wouldn’t I want to pay my way?

Btw, you asked me not to be offended, but the fact that you made me have to defend my husband, who really has very little to do with my story, is annoying to say the least, and quite frankly no one’s business.

To clear up the mention of my husband in the first place, I will explain that my choice of the word “disconcerting” had to do with the fact that I’ve bought things online for him before, for birthday’s and Christmas. The billing going directly to him had nothing to do with me paying him back, but everything to do with spoiling the surprise I had ordered for him. I hope that this closes a very private subject that I will not continue on an open, public blog.

Oh, before I forget, about the cultural thing, here in Japan the typical household works this way. The man gives his monthly paycheck to his wife, and she gives him pocket money for the month.

boomer1949
Member

Kalima,

You’re one classy lady and I admire you for your candor. On the other hand, I have enough common sense to respect someone’s privacy and you certainly shared far more than any of us deserved to know. Seriously… 🙄

Kalima
Admin

Far too kind boomer dear, but much appreciated.

Off to sleep now, good night, and a good day to you.

boomer1949
Member

I’m known for being kind and trying to stay out of moderation. 🙂

Kalima
Admin

😆

Khirad
Member

That’s how I read it in the first place.

I’ve never fancied you any other way.

Oh, and while I feel like you about private issues, I appreciated it nontheless.

Kalima
Admin

Thank you Khirad, that is very comforting.

javaz
Member

First off, may I say HELLO SUE!
I’ve missed you.

(hey! that rhymes!)

I know what it’s like to work for a bank, but as a lowly teller, and nowhere as ‘scary’ as your job, even though there were some fairly scary episodes of criminals trying to cash checks that were stolen.

Heck, when I was a teller in Detroit, there was also a touch of the “mob” and that got personal, and somehow in my 19 year old brain, I managed to circumvent any dealings.

Back then, I was making $2.10 an hour, and after one year and the bank gave me what they considered a raise of 5 cents per hour, I pretty much told them where they could stick that and quit.

I’ll bet you dimes to donuts that you were paid meagerly, too, for all the shit you had to put up with, and what you did while working at the bank, you would have made enemies.

And folks wonder why there’s so much corruption.

De-regulation in corporations and banks leaves the “little people”, poorly paid people for what they must deal with, well, it’s easy to understand how the employee looks the other way.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

I commend you for standing up and being courageous and I mean that, being courageous in the face of danger for shit hours and shit pay.

And excuse my French for using the word shit instead of merde!

whatsthatsound
Member

Wow! Really fascinating story. I’m glad you wrote it per Kes’ request, because I really enjoyed reading it.