Secret Service helps in local Porsche hit-and-run case in Broward County Fl….but why???
Police records show that the Secret Service helped solve the case of a Porsche hit-and-run by analyzing cellphone records.
(MIAMI HERALD) To crack the case of the speeding Porsche that left two men dead in its wake, Fort Lauderdale police turned to a crime-fighting ally: the U.S. Secret Service.
The same government agency that protects the president and zealously pursues counterfeiters played a role in the investigation by analyzing cellphone records for the car’s owner and one of his friends, police records show.
The analysis helped lead to vehicular homicide charges against the Porsche’s owner, Ryan LeVin, who is now in the Broward County Jail without bond.
What got the Secret Service involved? Neither the federal agency nor Fort Lauderdale police would say. The local head of the Secret Service declined to discuss how often his agency is asked to analyze such cellphone records.
“That’s a sensitive investigative technique that we use,” said Michael Fithen, special agent in charge of the Miami office.
The investigation of the Feb. 13, 2009, hit-and-run on State Road A1A demonstrated yet again how cellphone owners, without realizing it, leave behind an electronic trail as to their whereabouts — a trail that can later be re-created by law enforcement.
With newer phones that access local wireless Internet, or WiFi, networks, the ability to pinpoint where users have been is heightened even further.
Tens of thousands of criminals are behind bars now because at the moment of their offense, they were carrying a cellphone, said professor Ricardo Bascuas of the University Miami School of Law.
“Nobody commits a crime expecting to be caught,” Bascuas said. “Any crime is a risk: Somebody will see you; someone will turn you in. This is just another one of many risks when you break the law.”
In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission mandated tracking technology in cellphones so emergency dispatchers could trace the location of emergency calls. Even if a cellphone is not on a call, it is constantly reaching out to make contact with cellphone towers.
When a phone is within range of at least three cell-phone towers, companies can place its whereabouts within about 300 meters. That distance can be reduced in some cases to just 20 meters when the phone is a newer model with WiFi.
Cellphone records have played critical roles for Broward County law enforcement in some of the biggest criminal investigations in recent years.
Plantation police made an arrest in the March 2008 strangulation of attorney Melissa Britt Lewis largely based on cellphone records, according to court documents. Tony Villegas, the ex-husband of one of Lewis’ friends, is alleged to have taken her iPhone back with him to his house and then dumped it along the side of a train track.
In the case against three men charged in the 2001 gangland-slaying of SunCruz Casinos owner Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, prosecutors say cellphone trails place two of the defendants near where the business tycoon was executed.
“Obviously any technology that helps law enforcement to make a legal arrest is going to prove invaluable during prosecution,” said Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for the Broward County State Attorney’s Office.
In the LeVin case, police investigators used court orders to obtain cellphone records from Sprint and AT&T that document calls between LeVin and his friend, Derek W. Cook, and trace their movements before and after the fatal 2:18 a.m. collision.
With the historical record left by each suspect’s phone connecting to area cellphone towers, investigators say they can show that Cook was not the driver of the Porsche 911 Turbo at the time of the crash, as LeVin first told police.
LeVin, 35, is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of leaving the scene of a traffic fatality. The Barrington Hills, Ill., man faces up to 15 years in prison on each of the vehicular homicide charges.
Cook, 38, is charged with being an accessory after the fact and aggravated fleeing and eluding. He is free on bond.