Former White Haven Cop Cleared In Fraud Case
WILKES-BARRE — Blasting a former White Haven police chief for his “stupidity,” a magistrate judge on Friday threw out a fraud charge after determining the retired lawman was not criminally responsible for stealing from a Mountain Top woman.
Gary R. Shupp, 67, of Fairview Twp., faced a felony access device fraud charge alleging he used a woman’s credit card to buy Apple watches without her permission. But in court Friday, all sides agreed Shupp never touched the credit card, nor did he have the technical savvy to commit a computer caper.
“I don’t feel that the commonwealth has supported its argument, based on stupidity,” Magisterial District Judge Martin R. Kane said, dismissing the case.
During the hearing, victim Tracy Kleban, of Wright Twp. testified that on Jan. 15 she discovered someone had used her online Walmart account to buy two Apple watches, for $697 and $380 each.
“I stopped my bank card and I was on the phone with Walmart all day long,” Kleban said.
She said she learned someone had added themselves to her online account and used her bank card to make the purchases. She was able to stop the $380 purchase, but the $697 purchase went through, she said.
Wright Twp. Police Department Patrolman Dave Winsock testified a subsequent review of the video surveillance from Walmart showed Shupp, whom he knows, picking up the watches at the Walmart Supercenter at the Wilkes-Barre Township Marketplace.
However, under cross-examination by Kingston defense attorney Frank McCabe, Winsock acknowledged that Shupp never had possession of Kleban’s debit card. He also agreed that Shupp “doesn’t have the computer sophistication” to steal a credit card number from the internet.
During an interview with police, Shupp said a woman he met online who was purportedly from the African nation of Ghana told him she bought the watches and asked him to pick them up for her, Winsock said. Shupp told investigators he picked up the watches and then mailed them to his virtual friend, whom he had never met, at an address in Ghana, the officer testified.
After hearing the testimony, McCabe argued for the case to be dismissed, saying Shupp had no idea he was involved in a criminal scheme and had simply been trying to help the woman pick up watches she bought.
“He had no idea what he was doing,” McCabe said. “He didn’t steal anything. He didn’t get anything out of this.”
Kane appeared stunned by what he described as Shupp’s “stupidity,” but said he agreed the evidence did not establish that he had committed a crime.
“If you’re this stupid to deal with somebody via the internet — what if it was a weapon?” Kane asked in disbelief.
The judge also advised Shupp — who worked in law enforcement for more than two decades before retiring in 2013 — that if he still has a computer, he should “chip it up.”
After the hearing, McCabe described Shupp’s experience with the still-unidentified internet contact as a cautionary tale.
“The issue with Gary is that he’s a very trusting person, and I think this led to him putting his trust in somebody, not knowing what he was doing, and he ended up getting arrested over it,” McCabe said. “It’s a cautionary tale for anybody meeting people over the internet — especially people in foreign countries. Obviously, they don’t have the best interests of the person on the other end of the computer or the phone … at heart.”
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