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Police Turkey Sting Runs Afoul; Nab Innocent Woman

November 28, 1985

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ A turkey giveaway that actually was a police sting operation to lure people sought on outstanding arrest warrants netted an innocent woman by mistake, but authorities tried to sooth ruffled feathers Wednesday by offering her a free bird.

On Tuesday, Lora Sellers was arrested on a criminal trespass warrant Tuesday when she went to pick up a turkey promised in a letter from Kemper’s Poultry Supply. In return, she was to fill out a marketing survey, the letter said.

But Kemper’s was a police front dubbed ″Operation Turkey,″ and the offer of a free bird was a ruse to lure 103 people with outstanding warrants, said James M. O’Dell, police chief in this Dayton suburb.

Ms. Sellers was arrested on a criminal trespass warrant.

″We thought it would be a way of saving some money ... instead of going to the customer, letting the customer come to us,″ he said.

But Ms. Sellers complained to televison station WDTN that it also cost her $100 to get out of jail and that a friend must have used her name when arrested for being in a city park past closing time.

Ms. Sellers said her father had to post the bond; she didn’t have even enough money to buy a turkey for her and her two children.

O’Dell said police later checked her story, found it to be true, and gave her one of several turkeys that had been kept in reserve in case there were mistakes.

″We offered to come over to her house and cook it for her,″ O’Dell said.

Ms. Sellers said she felt better about the incident after receiving the bird. ″I got a turkey, that’s what I went for,″ she said.

O’Dell said police probably would try a similar sting again.

″Maybe Thanksgiving isn’t a good time, but ... my answer to critics is that we are not just going out and arresting people. They have outstanding warrants,″ he said.

It costs police about $50 to serve a warrant, while it only cost about $140 to run the sting, he said.

Six people facing misdemeanor charges were arrested Monday and Tuesday, and five others who sent friends or relatives likely will be located, including the woman who gave Ms. Sellers’ name when arrested, he said.

″If there really was a turkey in this situation, it was the so-called friend who used her identification,″ O’Dell said.

Ms. Sellers says her father won’t be able to get his money back until she goes to court Monday. And while she is happier, she is not mollified.

″It was mean,″ she said. ″It was wrong to do people like that.″

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