An Unfortunate Adventure
Sunday, March 4, 2007, 06:46 AM - Sociology, Politics, Friends
In the late afternoon of Wednesday, 28 February 2007, my housekeeper Rochelle and I had decided to play musical furnishings; she knew of a guy with a truck who, for the better part of a tankful of gas would help us move the table in my apartment (which I'd purchased for $25) into her place and then go to my storage to get me one of my desks to replace it and bring it back to my apartment.

Ernie Montoya, Thief of Albuquerque

She introduced me to Ernie Montoya. He was a fit young articulate sweet sounding 29 year old guy. He said his birthday was today (28 Feb) or maybe tomorrow (1-March) and we conversed in the truck on the way. He had a White 2001 F-150 Ford pickup truck. When we were finished with the trip (he also helped me load a couple of additional pieces of furniture for the apartment in addition to the desk) he dropped me back off at home and left and I realized that my recently purchased $3,000. MacBook Pro laptop computer was missing. Since it was sitting on the very table which we had moved at the beginning of the trip, I knew I had personally moved it immediately prior to Rochelle and Ernie's visit. Since Rochelle had been cleaning for me for over a year without incident, I suspected Ernie of taking the computer.

But when questioned on Thursday, Ernie was well spoken and polite and easily told me he knew nothing about it but he'd happily help me search for it on Saturday.

More of Ernie Montoya, the thief

In further discussions with Rochelle and her sister, Rishanna, it came out that Rochelle had been missing a credit card. Since we now had someone to suspect, further investigation showed that the phone call to her bank to change the PIN number of her credit card had come from his mobile phone, number 505-319-9507. But he still denied everything. He didn't get angry, he just couldn't understand why we could come to such conclusions.

Since I have a camera outside my apartment door (although lack of disk space prevented me from having it on that week) I decided on a bluff. I told Ernie on Thursday that police forensics persons would examine the recording on Monday to see if the black blob he was seen carrying in the pictures would be acceptable identification of the theft in progress. (The computer was in a black bag)

I figured that would give us a weekend to come to an understanding without him losing face. He dissembled. He suggested that he has a black bag of his own and he would discuss with his lawyer whether or not I had the right to film him (using a camera in plain view) on the threshold of my apartment door. He still denied everything. By this time however, I was confident from his lack of anger at my accusations that he was lying.

The police were polite and kind but admitted that it was unlikely in their opinion that I would be able to get my computer back, even though I had lots of circumstantial evidence of the perpetrator, his name, mailing address (4400 San Pedro Drive NE), birthdate and vehicle description.

At first, my reaction was to place myself in his position. This motivated me to offer him $200. cash to get my computer back. But being a $3,000. laptop, he would have no motivation to accept my money as opposed to that from his fence or pawnbroker.

So -on advice from a friend who knows such people- I left messages on his voice mail to the effect that I had $200 to get my computer back, and I didn't care if I gave it to him directly or -if that didn't happen by Saturday night at 9 pm- I would give it instead to a couple of ex-marines who would gladly take it in exchange for breaking his arms to get it back- the choice was his. To cover my own previous lie, I said that I had already spoken with the police forensics people on Friday and they verified that the video wouldn't be good enough.

He called Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. Unlike his usual calm and gentle demeanor, he sounded angry and scared and terse. He would meet me and exchange the computer for the money as quickly as possible with no possibility of witnesses.

I invited over Rishanna (whom he knows) and called him back saying she was there to use my internet connection (a legitimate reason for her presence) but he was adamant; he would not come over until even she left. This frightened me. I figured since he knew her, there would be no reason for him to not feel comfortable with her company. I thought perhaps he wanted no witnesses because he meant to do me violence. I was scared too. The thought of actually being responsible for breaking the arms of another person was upsetting to me and I finally decided that my threat -although thankfully successful- had no teeth; I just couldn't do it.

Although I was glad to feel free of the burden this decision removed, I was at the same time filled with the kind of fear it caused so I made some more phone calls and finally decided, after further advice, to meet him at the Frontier Restaurant which was close by and always populated.

So as I waited there, I explained to another police officer what was happening. He made it very clear that it was his job to strongly advise me against these actions. I believe he was being guided by management decisions that prioritized actually helping the public as less important than preventing the possibility for lawsuits against the city. I could hardly blame him for doing what he was instructed. He left. I waited for Ernie to call.

Ernie the liar and Meth addict

Ernie called; I told him where I was and he said to meet him out the back door. The parking lot of the Frontier is very well lit and probably video surveilled, so I agreed. He drove up in a white 4-door hatchback jeep like vehicle (License beginning with "HP") with another guy. They showed me that the computer worked (I used my telescope to see it in the hands of the person in the passenger's seat from my position at the driver's window) and I showed them the money. We exchanged possessions. They drove off. This freaky subplot had -for the most part- ended.

But only for me. Rochelle is still missing her good pants and credit card. Who knows how many other innocent people have had possessions or identities ripped off? I feel good that I got my computer back, but I feel bad that -although at every step of the way I kept the police informed {Except for the part about the threat} no harm came to him as a result of these experiences.

If I were truly being a socially responsible creature, it would have been incumbent upon me to see to it that some kind of justice be done. Either having him caught by the police and sent to jail for -oh, say- 3 months to 2 years or have both his arms broken. Arms heal (mostly). So I was assuming that two broken arms would significantly change his lifestyle for at least 2 months. To have both broken instead of just one would mean he would need help to take care of himself and this would -I would hope- require that he trust someone absolutely. I thought perhaps this kind of trust would improve his ability and willingness to participate in society more in accordance with its rules, but we'll never know. Perhaps the next person from whom he steels will do this. I understand that if I had done this, there is a chance that I could have been sent to jail for it myself (for causing violence to another person) along with whoever I hired to do it. This would have been a just jail sentence and it would have been appropriate -as long as I didn't have my life ruined in the process, a distinct possibility).

Alas, I was just too chicken. Perhaps if I had not already been feeling bad about other aspects of my life, I might have had the courage to do that. And who knows, maybe he might've fallen in love with his caregiver and it could've been the best thing that ever happened to him. We'll never know.

Update: It appears that Ernie spent the $200 he extorted from me on Methamphedimines. The women he paid for them still might have the bills I gave him. I have their serial numbers on file.

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