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.
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!
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.
It was fascinating work. I also dealt with FBI, SS, Federales, GBI and various PD and Sheriff. I belonged to an organization called International Association of Credit Card Investigators. I chaired two of the CA seminars and got to meet and talk with Willie Brown (we had him as a keynote speaker). The guy is very charasmatic and he told the funniest story of his defense of a credit card criminal.
I also met a guy who helped the Mafia break into TRW and steal consumers credit reports. They then had a “fraud application” group going. They refer to that today as “identity theft”. I worked alot of fraud apps because I was involved in the beginnings of the Nigerian fraud wave in the US. We were targeted because of our presence in TX,NY and Miami. We had to figure it out early on and the database program we designed we shared with others in the industry. It was pretty simple. We figured out they were using maildrops without a po box number. We gathered phone books from all the major cities, entered the physical addresses and then connected the database to our approval process. We had to use Dbase IV lol
Welcome back Sue!
Fascinating tales, and I agree with Haruku, you should write a book. 🙂
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?
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. 🙂
I’ll root for your team if you’ll root for mine!
I’m not sure we can get away with it, but nothing wrong with Go Bucks or OH-IO though! 🙂
Thanks Boomer. Hey have you ever heard(in Ohio) of the Kwiatkowskis or (translation) Flowers clan? I could tell you some stories about them that would have you rolling. They had a large family in Ohio and Michigan. Some are good people some are crooks. Stanley Sr. was a piece of work.
If I remember correctly a cop in Ohio told me that Flowers was the translation of their name into english. He could have been bullshitting me but he seemed serious.
No I haven’t and I’ve lived here my entire life. Maybe Kes has. In any event, I’d love to hear more. If not here, please feel free to contact our Fearless Leader for my email address.
You really need to write a book. Oh the eyes you could open! 🙂
I sent the request to Adlib
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)
…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?
His mountain climbing is a sore spot. Ask him sometime about his ice traverse on Hyalite Peak.
We must be talking about Pepe LOL
Didn’t ring a bell with me either — but then the “mountain climbing” light came on! 😆
I see you all the time at HP. Beat reporters for the PD have a very interesting and I think extremely hard job. They are bound by journalistic standards but work with people who do not always want the whole story told before they solve a case. That is a tough one. You can sympathize with both sides.
I don’t know about a book, but I definitely enjoy writing these blogs. I think if I wrote a book it would be about the religious right. I am a one woman mission to out them all. Problem is most people think they are not a dangerous group of people.
Morning Sue, your knowledge of the RR amazes and fascinates me with all its tentacles and influences. I have always enjoyed (and got a bit scared) of your writings on them.
Good, I want you to be scared but more important than that is the knowledge you can spread. These people are, to me anyway, the depths of depravity. I am not a religious person(organized) but I believe there is a God somewhere and I am sure he/she is not happy with these people.
Hi, I know who you are at HP.
You might not see me there much for much longer. Things have gotten too weird. The stories I could tell…
In any case, yeah, Pepe says he has two WILD stories he could write for the POV about being an investigative reporter. This was a long time ago before I knew him.
You do? I have a hard time determining who the new socks are there but I keep learning. I go there because there is a need to spread the truth as I know it, not as the tr0lls dream it but I am with you, it is getting weird.
I don’t necessarily like it so much as use it for the benefit of smacking down the right. I know I am not making a huge impact but every little bit helps.
Sue I could see a book but hold on…
How about a Scripted Series for broadcast?
Kinda like a CSI
I think L&O has me covered on that one LOL. It would be pretty good though. Some of the criminals are laughable. Kind of a cross between serious and comedy.
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!
So happy to oblige. I have many more of these stories but Homer Brown has stuck with me all these years. Darla, too, for a different reason. I got to know Darla and she was a sweetheart with a screwed up life is all. She tried her best to move up the ladder and was always slapped down. i missed her when I left to work for Wells Fargo.
Your story about the young girl is heartbreaking. The mother and the daughter made life-changing mistakes. We all do at certain times, but they really got the most aggregious consequences. Very sad.
Mitchell eventually was a joke in the division. He was all bark and no bite. Just like you said similar to a republican in tht nothing is ever their responsibility even though they are the party of “personal responsibility”. I think they are more the party of slogans.
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!
Thanks Adlib, glad to be back. It used to make us laugh when we would talk with these people. They were like republicans. I fucked it up, now you clean it up. No responsibility at all, until they were indicted for the crime LOL.
I was testifying in court one day and the guy’s wife was mouthing to me the whole time “no fucking way”. The judge caught her and ordered her out of the courtroom. Her husband later had a heart attack right there in the courtroom. They were a sad pair
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. 🙂
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
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.
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.
Thank you Khirad, that is very comforting.
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… 🙄
Far too kind boomer dear, but much appreciated.
Off to sleep now, good night, and a good day to you.
I’m known for being kind and trying to stay out of moderation. 🙂
Thanks for the welcome. Your story is rather strange. You used “a” card with the same bank for purchases like this in the past? I worked at Visa as well. Banks are allowed to designate “high risk” merchants and perhaps your bank had problems with PayPal and decided to add them to the list or if direct to the merchant, the merchant?
Does the card have a security code(CVV or CVV2) in the signature panel? That is pretty much a guarantee to the merchant and the bank that the card is present even in a MOTO sale. That CVV code is encrypted on the mag stripe making your mag stripe unique to all others. And it was designed for non face to face or mag stripe fraud situations. Do you mind if I ask who the company is? And is the transaction through paypal?
Hi Sue, no the payment wasn’t through PayPal, and the order came directly from the security branch of Visa, not my bank, they were useless to help me, they just passed on the information to me. I was furious and my bank consultant didn’t understand why. I’m closing my Visa account there soon.
Yes all of my cards have had the security number, 3 digits on the back of the cards.
The company owns a lot of different catalog outlets and has been around forever. I checked them after this, there was absolutely nothing remotely strange in their decades long history. The place I have dealt with since 07′ is called “The Company Store” they specialize in bedding.
I’ve forgotten the name of the parent company, but it’s well known in the U.S.
EDIT: Just remembered the name, Hanover Direct co.
Very wierd. I checked on them and the parent company is a leveraged buy out, but I don’t think that should raise warning flags now, not until the hedge fund cannot make their balloon payment. And they are SSL(secure socket layer) for credit card trans. It just does not make sense.
Thank you Sue for being kind enough to check. I’m beginning to think that it just might have been some disgruntled “pencil pusher” with a bad case of gas.
Next week I’m placing the same order with my new card and another bank, I’ll be interested to see if it goes through, I’ll let you know.
My whole point was that how could a credit card company flatly refuse without contacting me, and then tell my bank where I could spend my money, emphasis is on the MY money in this case. As you say, it makes no sense.
The only caveat to your story on the bank is that if you have a merchant and credit card bank together they do have an advantage. They will learn of their own merchants in trouble before everyone else. Then they will block trans for risk but that is very rare and is not the case here since your merchant in based in US. I am sure the tran will work.
One other thing to remember. Sometimes there are problems with authorization systems and it could be that your “pencil pusher” is a low information employee that does not take the time to learn all the caveats to a transaction not going through. An authorization log would have told her the entire story. I used auth logs many times to unravel a mystery transaction. Next time ask them what the auth log tells them. You will know right away if they really understand their job or not LOL
Thank you Sue, I will let you know how I get on with my order which I hope to place again this week with my new credit card, and new company.
Thank you also for all of the information, I’m such a dope when it comes to credit cards and even banking. All I know for sure is that the interest rate in Japan has been tuck at 0.00000000….. for the last 15 years or more, and that sometimes I would prefer to keep my money stuffed inside my mattress for all the good the interest rate has ever been to me. I’d be a female Ebenezer Scrooge, except for the fact that I’m not that rich. Just call me Ebenezia. 🙂
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!
good to be back. Actually I made pretty good money. I was making 48k when I left in 98.
And tellers have the most dangerous job of all, bank robbers. It does not take much for a robbery to escalate into a bad situation. I worked bank roberries for 6 months and it was gut wrenching. The last one i went to, there were bodies and blood everywhere. I got sick and quit that bank within a week.
I was behind a desk. Could they have found me? Yes, one time but the FBI in SF took care of it promptly. To me a teller ha a much more dangerous job. All it takes is one robbery
When I worked at the bank, we actually had the thick plexi-glass between us tellers and the customers.
The grossest thing about that was, the spit from customers – how the spittle would smack on the glass – EEWWW.
I am OCD on the cleaning thing, and I’ve got to say that I was glad that there was protection from the spit!
It was rather gross and I was not a team player when I worked there.
I had worked at K-Mart, but in the office, and handled a great deal of cash, so counting money and the “new” computers never fazed me.
I never held a ‘slush fund’ as a lot of tellers did, and except for young teens they hired to tally our checks, I always balanced my till.
I wasn’t scared of handling money and could count out money, three times, because twice wasn’t enough, but I did it so rapidly that the bank made me “Assistant General Teller”, and that caused me a lot of problems because so many of the tellers had been there for years and they coveted that position.
Then there was a teller that was short 3,000 dollars, and I had the keys to the vault and all the tellers’ cages, and then the FBI came in, and for $2.10 per hour, and they asked me if I took the money, well, that was just too much for a nickle raise.
And when I quit, they said to me – “After all we’ve done for you” – whereby I said “YES, for a nickle an hour? And after all I’ve done for you”?
I used to be in charge of opening the bank on Saturdays for the drive-in, and I was only 19 years old!
It was just too much for so little pay – but I will never forget a doctor that slipped me 5 dollars for a tip one Christmas inside a card.
We weren’t allowed to take tips, but I’ll never forget that.
Wow! Really fascinating story. I’m glad you wrote it per Kes’ request, because I really enjoyed reading it.
I am glad. I have so many similar stories, but these three really stick out in my mind.