Crime Blotter

Impersonating Perps Dress Up,

Then Get Dressed Down

You know those crooks who impersonate police officers? The ones who shake you down after flashing their mail-order police shields? You have to wonder why they even bother going through the ruse. Couldn’t they save time-not to mention the cost of the badge-by dispensing with the charade and simply robbing us? True, we’re increasingly living in a police state. But do these guys really think their victims will just shrug their shoulders, say “There go the cops again” and continue on their merry way?

Especially if the bandits come at you speaking Spanish, which is what happened on April 14 when two males exited a tan van (being driven by their accomplice) at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and 62nd Street at 1:40 a.m. and accosted a pedestrian.

Perhaps assuming that Spanish had already surpassed English as New York’s first language, they frisked the victim and started asking him questions in that tongue. When the man was forced to admit he didn’t understand them, they reverted to English, though they weren’t especially eager conversationalists in either language.

They removed his wallet and, continuing to play make-believe, told him they were going to check his ID. At that point, the man turned the tables on them, asking to see some identification himself.

To their credit, the crooks didn’t reply “Badges? We don’t got to show you no stinkin’ badges!” in heavily accented English. Instead, they complied with the request by producing what the victim later described to the cops as “a tiny round shield.”

Unimpressed, the victim asked for further proof. So the perps flashed the other side of the shield’s holder, though the man couldn’t see what they were showing him.

The villains removed approximately $500 from his wallet, got back into their van and fled without so much as an “Adios!” eastbound on 62nd Street. However, the victim was able to get the van’s license number; the police later determined that the vehicle had been stolen.

Two days later, on April 16, the same crooks, employing the same M.O., hit again. Shortly after 4 a.m. they rolled up in the van and accosted a victim who was just leaving Rathbones, a bar at 1702 Second Avenue (there are undoubtedly those early risers who would argue that anyone leaving a bar at 4 a.m. is fair game). The perps pulled the cop ruse on him too, forcing him up against a wall and frisking him.

It’s unclear whether their efforts paid off. However, if they did, they didn’t get a chance to spend the spoils: The cops apprehended them shortly afterward, apparently in response to a 911 call. In addition to the two incidents in the 19th Precinct, the crooks are suspected of similar crimes in the Sixth and the 20th precincts.

One of the perps was described as a 21-year-old male from Somerville, Mass., the second, 27, from Unionville, N.J. No age or address was given for the third defendant, though he and perp No. 2 shared the same last name-McGill-suggesting that crime may run in the family. All were charged with criminal impersonation of police officers.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

Crime Blotter