Police Inspired by The Simpsons to Catch Criminals

Hey criminal, come pick up your prize . . . Yoink!

Sheriff's deputies in La Mirada attempted a rope-a-dope on some alleged criminals by offering them a fake sweepstakes prize. Out of the 960 letters sent to these "people of interest" only eight showed up at the La Mirada Holiday Inn to collect their prize, according to the Whittier Daily News.

Four men and four women with outstanding misdemeanor warrants showed up, but officials were hoping for more arrests.

"It's not the numbers we wanted," Los Angeles sheriff's Capt. Patrick Maxwell told the newspaper, adding that it was a "learning experience."

The fake sweepstakes operation is a trick so common it has even been lampooned on "The Simpsons." But several alleged crooks were as gullible as Homer Simpson and fell for it.

One 22-year-old man displayed his booking sheet from his drunk driving arrest to prove his identification and claim his prize. He was arrested for failing to appear as ordered on that charge, the newspaper reported.

The goal of Saturday's operation was to bring wanted people to deputies, rather than sending deputies after the suspects, explained Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Pat Valdez of the Norwalk Station, the organizer of the sting operation.

Posing as the "Pelican Marketing Group," deputies sent letters last week to people throughout the county wanted in connection with crimes ranging from misdemeanor warrants to murder.

According to the report, the suspects were advised to bring their letter and identification to the Holiday Inn, and told that they were guaranteed a prize worth at least $100, and would be one of 200 people with a chance to win a 2010 BMW 238i sedan.

To make the event seem legitimate, deputies borrowed a BMW sedan from McKenna Cars in Norwalk, decorated the hotel with balloons and signs and posed as welcoming members of the Pelican Marketing Group. "We tried to make it as realistic as possible," Valdez told the newspaper.

Several others reportedly arrived to claim prizes, but their warrants had been resolved by the time the letters were sent out.

They were all smiles when they showed up to collect their prizes, Deputy Janet Ramirez told the newspaper. "Once they tell them they're under arrest, the smile fades quickly," she said.

"We're just trying to think outside the box," said Valdez, adding that the sheriff's Norwalk Station had never tried the tactic.

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