A few days ago, an eleven year hunt for one of the United States most-wanted fugitives, Eduardo Rodriguez, came to end in a sleepy community in Riverside, California. There are many events like this one that we often read about on the internet or in the media. This one though had a very unique twist. Rodriguez was captured through some outstanding police work when they found his photo on Facebook.
A little history on this matter, and then hopefully a lesson learned: Rodriguez was allegedly a member of the Toonerville gang based in Southern California. He was being sought for the murder of four people that were killed execution style on August 8, 2001 in the Los Angeles suburb of Atwater Village. His trail led investigators from Atwater Village to the cities and towns of Mexico. Law enforcement official believed that Rodriguez has successfully integrated himself in Mexico and his trail was not only cold but simply non-existent.
Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department (in a task force venture with the Glendale, California police department) decided to let Glendale officers take a new look at finding Rodriguez. A desk officer decided to compare public and police computer data on known associates of the subject. This included friends, family and known gang associates. This lead the investigator to the Facebook site where a Riverside woman had posted a photo of a male that appeared to be Rodriguez. This photo enabled the investigator to find other photos of Rodriguez, even one posing with this woman and her children at Griffith Observatory. Later, it would be learned that she was actually engaged to Rodriguez.
A new and active search for Rodriguez was initiated. An address was obtained for the female subject and round-the-clock surveillance was initiated.
On Thursday, November 13, 2014 their efforts paid off. Rodriguez exited the residence at 6:30 p.m. and was positively identified. A decision was made to let the subject enter his vehicle and depart the area. This was to prevent Rodriguez from observing the officers and returning inside the residence where a barricaded situation could result. While a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department helicopter hovered above the area, officers swarmed the subject’s vehicle and arrested Rodriguez without incident.
As a former Federal agent and private investigator for over 44 years, I simply had to marvel at the logistics of this arrest. A simple search of Facebook did what over a decade of police work was unable to accomplish. Hundreds of leads were followed, dozens of “wanted” posters were printed and even a segment on “America’s Most Wanted” was not able to do what a simple search on Facebook accomplished. Rodriguez is currently being held without bail and his arraignment is pending.
What is the lesson to be learned? A common theme of this blog is that anything you post online should be considered permanent, and can come back to haunt you later. Obviously I’m glad that Rodriquez was caught, and that social media scanning technology is to a point where it can be used as an effective tool in law enforcement. But in my business, I’m approached about removing social media postings on a near-daily basis.
Each week, in one of our four offices, we are contacted by 3 to 4 females that want us to assist in removing nude photos or racy postings of totally inappropriate behavior. Only about 5% of the time are these clients male.
I’ve posted before about using common sense and thinking about what you post on the Internet. We all understand you may not be running for a Senate or Congressional seat in your district. Do you think you might want to be accepted to college? Are you considering a career in the military? Would you like to obtain gainful employment during your lifetime? Would you like not to be embarrassed in front of family and friends? Would you like to be blackmailed over just indiscretions? Would you like to participate in a pedophile trial where you sent your photos to a child molester?
Please understand that the government, colleges, universities and human resource personnel in corporate America are hiring private investigators to look into your social media profiles. It is a relatively simple task. Remember – even if you’ve deleted posts that you regretted posting, they can very often live on in thousands of private databases around the world. We have our own in-house computer system which gathers social media postings and data on a daily basis. This task is like shooting fish in a barrel.
My clients, and your potential employers, don’t want to see your breasts, private parts or how drunk you got in your latest venture to Cabo San Lucas. They are not interested in your sexual encounters or physical contact with either sex while on spring-break. They don’t care about your inappropriate sexual poses, photographing a speedometer at 140 miles per hour. Once posted online, they are next to impossible to remove. That is exacerbated by the fact that hundreds of other people and private parties have already downloaded your photos and posts, to be used for whatever purpose they deem.
If they found Rodriguez, they can find anyone.