Bellevue Police Monday arrested a robbery suspect who tried to use an Internet-based phone service to hide his trail. It marked the first time Bellevue police know of that a suspect has tried to use the Web to conceal a phone number.
After a month-long investigation into phone records and computer usage, police took the 31-year-old Bellevue man into custody from his home early in the morning. The man was booked into King County Jail on suspicion of attempted robbery.
The man is suspected of trying to rob a woman at a Factoria parking lot on Aug. 30. The suspect and victim had arranged to meet there that evening with the understanding he would sell several titles of commercial software to her. The woman had nearly $4,000 in cash. The suspect implied he had a weapon and attempted to take her purse, but the commotion attracted attention from bystanders and he fled without the money.
Investigation of the suspect’s phone number revealed that he had used an Internet-based call forwarding service. Detectives believe this was an attempt to make his phone number untraceable. Although his identity was not associated with the number he used, a trail of electronic “bread crumbs” led investigators to his place of employment. The search focused there until the suspect was identified late last week.
The investigation was not easy, as computer usage and phone records are usually private. Once probable cause was established, detectives were able to obtain search warrants for the electronic records and begin following the trail. The details are not being publicized to discourage copycat offenses.
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