“Damn! I knew this wasn’t right! But she said it was cool.”
Detective Vincent Romeo died recently at sixty years of age from natural causes.
Detective Sqd. rooms don’t get much sunlight but the detectives therein provide a good deal of light themselves:
Did you ever watch someone so fully engrossed in a task, so consumed that it becomes not work but…fantastic fun?
An example stands out in Det. Vinnie Romeo’s Warrant Sqd. scheme.
Vinnie and I were detectives in the Transit Police Warrant Sqd in 1991; his desk was across from mine. Vinnie had a humor about him that was all his own, a sly humor. He liked being a bit impish in the arrest of warrant absconders. It brought some fun, some light moments to him and those around him in a game that can be deadly serious.
So when he presented his personal plan for a Christmas-season ruse to capture many subjects en-masse, I wasn’t surprised.
His plan was similar to one used in the Bronx when I worked in that borough’s Warrant Sqd and Vinnie worked in Brooklyn Warrants. The Bronx ruse was a lottery “win” to join the NY Yankees for breakfast at Yankee stadium. That police scam was featured in the movie, Sea of Love, starring Al Pacino. Similar scams have been used across America since then but when Vinnie concocted his it was still new.
Vinnie called his scam, Casino Club Tours. Notifications were sent out to various warrant subjects informing them that they won a free trip to Atlantic City with all expenses paid. The “winners” only had to appear at the Casino Club Tours office in the Port Authority bus station at 40th St. and 8th Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
Vinnie secured an office there and decorated it like a movie set with travel posters, brochures and various items one might find in a travel office. A detective sat at the reception desk and several more posed as waiting travel customers. Santa, also a detective, rang his bell merrily outside. Winners, some totally gullible, some wary, entered…but didn’t exit.
As each winner presented ID to the receptionist he’d be escorted through a rear door to the bus that would take him to Atlantic City’s new, “Seizure’s Palace” at Manhattan Central Booking. Great holiday mirth was enjoyed by all…well almost all.
What was most memorable to me was witnessing Vinnie’s day-by-day progress as he sat across from me putting the scam together. I had a front row seat to the perfect confluence of circumstances. The right person was at the right place at the right time: Vinnie was an Atlantic City aficionado himself. The Port Authority Bus terminal was right across the street from our Warrant Sqd office. The new Transit Police Warrant Sqd. was commanded by ballsy Det. Lt. Jack Maple, who true to his inimitable style, blessed Vinnie’s endeavor.
The NYC Transit Police had a few standard phrases to cover any situation. One that stands out was used in snow storms, like the blizzard we just survived. Officers living in the outlying areas of the city might not be able to get to work. Admonishments that included the phrase, “failure to anticipate”, as it related to road conditions and getting to work was in common use. So when I mentioned to Vinnie that he’d better make sure he didn’t “fail to anticipate” he roared and said, “Yeah, that’s it, failure to anticipate, don’t want to do that.”
So like a movie producer, Vinnie put together, with devilish grin, all the moving parts. He obtained a list of credible addresses of wanted people, had the flyers and “winner” letters prepared and mailed, obtained permission to use the Port Authority’s property to establish a “travel office”, cast detectives as actors, and procured a bus to stand by behind the office for winner “travel accommodations.”
I don’t recall how many busts were made that day but I do remember seeing a rush-hour- full bus of sad winners. One came with his girlfriend. When he was arrested, he said, “Damn, I knew this wasn’t right, but she said it was cool. Damn!” Maybe it was “cool”…for her.
Vinnie, ya made some good collars protecting and serving on this planet but you made a lot of us laugh along the way too. Thanks for the fun and may you rest now, my Brother.
shedding a little light wherethesundontshine
See my sunny side blog: http://leebythesea.me