The Star-News


Fraud cases had their highlights

Sat, Sep 17 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

When I hired on as a rookie cop in Chula Vista the only career goal I had was to get through probation and still have a job. While on probation, the department assigned me to vice and narcotics because no one in this little town of 70,000 knew me. And, I had previous police experience.

So, instead of being under the watchful, critical, demanding eye of a training officer, I worked for Vice/Narcotics Sergeant Gil Bretsch. My job was to buy dope, talk to and arrest hookers, and conduct surreptitious "bar checks" (hang out in bars looking for alcohol violations, and drink on the city's dime). Yes, I did it to keep you safe.

When my dope buying career ended I donned the tan uniform and climbed behind the wheel of a patrol car where I toiled for nine years. I figured I might get promoted someday, but I wanted to be a good patrolman first. I looked at the detectives, whom we called "the lighter-than-air division" and doubted if I would ever make it. They seemed so cool and competent.

I viewed the Crimes of Violence group as really talented and knew I'd never make it there. After all, they investigated assaults, serious robberies, and homicides.

In 1980 I became a detective back in narcotics. The next year I was assigned to sex crimes and child abuse. Apparently I didn't do too badly in that job because when they needed another robbery-homicide cop, the brass tapped me for the job. I was surprised and honored. The first thing I did was buy a snazzy fedora. Heck, looking like a homicide dick was half of it, I surmised.

At first I held the end of a steel tape measure at homicide scenes and attended autopsies while the two experienced detectives did the real investigative work. Before long, I was in a position to call the shots. I discovered I really liked working homicide and robbery.

After getting promoted to sergeant and put back into patrol as almost all new sergeants are, I found myself working graveyard shift and at the bottom of the sergeants' seniority list. Even though patrol was fun, I knew I liked being a detective.

I decided I would like to go to the district attorney's office as an investigator. When I interviewed with the DA, the interviewer asked where I would, and would not, like to be assigned.

I thought that was a nice gesture. I said, "I don't think I want to go to the fraud division." You see, I thought those cops were the propeller heads who wore pocket protectors and pored over stacks and stacks of financial statements. After all, I was a homicide dick. I dealt in blood, mayhem, and the stuff of movies and television. When is the last time you saw a TV show called "The Fraud Division?"

After 12 years, the DA's office asked me to transfer to the insurance fraud division. I had been a cop about 26 years by now and I thought fraud might be a nice change of pace. Maybe I would make some inroads that would help me seek employment after retirement, if I wanted that. I soon discovered that I disliked the insurance companies almost as much as I disliked the crooks.

I later transferred to the regular fraud division. I found working fraud was one of the coolest cop jobs I ever had. Granted, it was not sexy or fast-moving. It was interesting though.

Fraud crooks carefully plan out their crime and take steps to avoid detection.

The adage of fraud cops is: "Follow the money." In most cases, bank records and other receipts recovered during the service of a search warrant is what will do a fraud crook in.

To top off my career, the last major case I worked allowed me put a crooked attorney in state prison for bilking several people out of millions. Now that was sweet.

Basinski is a 35-year police veteran, 17 of them with Chula Vista.


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