As a child, my family took me to Ocean City, Maryland every year for my birthday, a perk of being born on a major summer holiday! It's one of those destinations that's known for vacations and little else. Yet the crime blotter reminds us that criminals have reason to worry when entering Ocean City, which (due to recent drug trafficking issues) has license plate readers with the potential to monitor all incoming city traffic! A case currently routing through the court system of Maryland started a little after 1 a.m. on July 10.
What Do We Know?
Mr. Dupree Phillips and two friends are driving to Ocean City and pass a cop who gets a notification that the license plate is associated with a stolen vehicle. The Ocean City Police Department then does a high-risk traffic stop for a suspected felony in the middle of the night, conveniently less than a block from the police station. And the vehicle was indeed stolen from a Dollar location in Philadelphia.
Mr. Phillips stated his sister had rented the car and allowed him to take the vehicle to Ocean City; however, he needed his two friends to help drive on the arduous 21-mile middle-of-the-night journey from Frankford, Delaware to Ocean City, Maryland.
The police described the two friends as "witnesses", and each had a story to tell:
- "Witness 1" said Mr. Phillips had the vehicle for at least a month and kept it at his Frankford home.
- "Witness 2" said Mr. Phillips had the vehicle for at least a month and "acquired" the vehicle from Philadelphia.
So the cops reached out to Mr. Phillips' sister in the middle of the night. She denied renting the car, denied providing the car to her brother, and likely removed him from her holiday invite list -- she's likely still recovering from being thrown under a bus so ruthlessly.
And at that point, Mr. Phillips had a revelation:
Phillips changed his story and told police he met a guy whose name he did not know at an Uncle Willie’s store and the “guy” allowed him to drive the vehicle for two months for $575.
The result was a trip to jail and eight unique charges:
- Felony -- Theft $10,000 to Under $100,000
- Felony -- Unlawful Taking of a Motor Vehicle
- Misdemeanor -- Unauthorized Removal of Property
- Misdemeanor -- Rogue and Vagabond
- Misdemeanor -- False Statement to Officer
- Traffic -- Taking Vehicle without Owner's Consent
- Traffic -- Driving Vehicle without Owner's Consent
- Traffic -- Driving without Current Tags
The Uncle Willie's convenience store chain must be so happy to hear of this form of transaction in their parking lots. We guess there was a very precise return time for the rental established in June if the rental "guy" is unknown, and the local police clearly could have used the stolen car as part of a sting to catch the "real thief" at the appointed return hour. Most of all, I just love how law enforcement is happy to pile on with traffic charges, especially the final one. "I could have gotten the renewal sticker from Dollar but ... oops, I said too much".
Phillips is sticking to his revised story and recently requested a jury trial by his peers in the hope of finding at least one juror convinced of his innocence. Otherwise, he's truly going to be tagged by that license plate reader.