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How a Lynnwood gun store owner stopped identity thief from buying guns

(Photo by MyNorthwest)

A prolific identity thief was recently arrested for trying to use a stolen credit card to buy guns online from a Lynnwood gun store. He passed a background check, and the Seattle Police Department even approved the purchase. The only thing standing between him and a gun was one attentive store owner.

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The arrest would not have been possible if not for the owner of Lynnwood Gun and Ammo, Tiffany Teasdale. She joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss how she prevented the suspect from buying a gun.

Suspicions were initially raised when the name on the card and the name of the purchaser didn’t line up.

“We had three failed online transactions from this person and he actually noted on the transaction his email address and his phone number, and also actually noted on there that he would be coming in and picking it up,” she said.

The man claimed the gun was a gift for him. That’s why he was using a different card.

“But the billing information had somebody else’s name and somebody else’s address and they were all out of state.”

“I actually got triggered to this because there was a person that called us from Alabama and said that his credit card was used and it didn’t go through, but it did trigger a fraudulent activity notification to him.”

Teasdale notified her web company of the fraudulent activity, but kept getting fraudulent credit card transactions from Spaulding. After she got a call from a woman in Seattle who said her credit card was used, Teasdale contacted the FBI and found out that the suspect had committed numerous illegal transactions with other companies as well.

“He was trying to buy a Colt 1911, and with other transactions he was attempting to buy two other firearms with a couple knives. We were able to contact the right people and they double checked the name and found out that that person does have criminal cases against them. And he most definitely should not get the firearm,” she said.

“What kind of freaked us out a little bit is he came in and started the paperwork, because the federal agents and local (Lynnwood) police said go ahead and have him start the paperwork. So we did,” she said. “We got additional information on him: his name, Social Security number, driver’s license number, and he filled out federal documentation. And so it can go on to federal charges.”

At this point it gets a tad complicated. The background check info was sent to the Seattle Police Department, who cleared the suspect to buy the gun since there were no disqualifying felony charges or convictions that could have prevented him from purchasing one.

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“Seattle Police Department sent us a proceed that he was legally allowed to take possession of the handgun. But we had way too many red flags. We weren’t going to proceed with the transaction,” she said. “We hadn’t heard back from a couple of different law enforcement agencies that were actually working on his transactions with prior issues.”

The sting operation

With different agencies saying different things, Teasdale contacted her local Lynnwood agency to let them know the status and a sting operation was planned.

“We contacted our local (police) and Lynnwood told us, ‘Yes let’s go ahead and set him up for a sting, let’s get him in custody. Because clearly he’s not stopping when he’s been doing this before, he’s been caught before.’ So we called (the suspect) and told him that he got a proceed on his transaction from Seattle, which he did,” she said.

“And so he came up and Lynnwood was waiting here for him and took him into custody within 30 seconds. It was a very fast, very quick. Nobody got hurt. It was probably the best take down I have ever seen, even on TV.”

Why did the SPD allow the background check to go through?

The incident puts into question the efficacy of SPD’s background check, and whether the suspect would have gotten away with it unless Teasdale hadn’t received calls from the identify theft victims.

“For Seattle to give us a proceed made us a little worried and we did reach out to them and they told us that they didn’t have anything on their side that would say that we couldn’t deliver him a firearm,” she said. “But to us it was still a really big red flag because it just shows that there’s holes in our system that we need to fix. We don’t need new gun laws. We just need to fix the holes.”

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“If we have pending felony cases or anything like that maybe we should delay on giving somebody a firearm or at least notify the gun shop, but they didn’t notify us at all, they actually gave us a proceed.”

Regarding the SPD go-ahead, SPD Sergeant Sean Whitcomb told the Jason Rantz Show that: “According to our background check there were no disqualifying convictions and although we were perplexed by the inquiry considering the circumstances, we have to follow the law… “

For her part, Teasdale is just hoping in the meantime that the suspect changes his ways.

“Unfortunately he is out on bond, he bonded out on Wednesday. So we’re not sure if he’s gonna be up to his old ways pending hearings or what he’s going to do. But we’re just hoping that he’s learning his lesson.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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