The following is a conversation between an Anoka County Sheriff’s detective and her lieutenant.
"I followed up on that tip you got from your mother-in-law boss."
"After some quick checks with the guys in Dakota, Ramsey, Hennepin, and Washington, there does seem to link between Avon ladies and these home invasions."
"You think that Avon ladies are involved in robbing their customers??”
"Sort of, but that is something new."
"Yeah, going over all our reports and what the others sent me, there is something else that is even more common and goes back at least two years, still waiting for the St Paul and Minneapolis files."
"Yeah those big city bozos don’t like to share with us hick sheriffs. What’s the other thing?”
"Well, this is going to sound weird, but it is the way that the victims were tied up."
"Told you it was weird, but it seems that many of the victims made specific mention about how elaborately they were tied up."
"We got some kind of bondage freak going around just tying woman up?"
"No, not just tying them up. There definitely seems to be something else going on too. But it was this tying up thing that took it back a couple of years."
"Listen to this from a victim almost two years ago.
‘I was tied up and gagged, really tied up and gagged. I was Linda Anderson’s double and stuntwoman for five years on her detective show’"
"I remember that, one of the more outlandish female cop shows."
"That’s putting it mildly. Anyway she goes on. ‘Linda didn’t like being tied up, but the producer liked having some women tied up at least every third episode, so her character was tied up close to two dozen times, and since she didn’t want to do it, that meant I was. In all the long shots, medium shots, and close-ups that didn’t show her face clearly, big wide gags and blindfolds covered most of it, it was me, not Linda. I must have been tied up in every possible position, but never like those two did. They must have used all the rope they could’"
"Interesting, and others say the same thing."
"Yup, so far forty three victims have made some kind of remark about how elaborate it was and how long it took to tie them up."
"And those go back two years?"
"Yup, all the way up to the present."
"What’s with this yup stuff, you think that you are Gary Cooper?"
"Did he ever play a detective?"
"I don’t think so. But how does this tie into the Avon angle?"
"It looks like that an Avon lady just happened to walk in on one and they got the idea to copy her client address book."
"So it was just an accident?"
"Yu, that’s right."
"Well that clears that up, but it doesn’t bring us. Or anybody else any closer to catching these guys."
"True, but there was another common thread."
"Many of the victims stated that the robbers stayed around for quite awhile after tying them up and then suddenly left."
"How could they tell, weren’t they all blindfolded too?"
"Yes, but, this is another weird part, several of the victims, the ones where there were more than one, said that they made them do things."
"Yes, things and not what you would expect."
"There was nothing that could be called sexual."
"Well, that’s good to hear."
"Yes, but they were made to do things like race."
"Four of them stated that they were put on their stomachs and told to race to the sound of the robber’s voice, or else.
"Race on their stomachs?"
"They were already very well hogtied, gagged, and blindfolded, then all of them were put on their stomachs and told to race."
"OK, that is weird."
"But, three of them stated, that all of a sudden, the robbers just left, almost like what they had been waiting for occurred."
"Wait wasn’t there something about a delivery van
at one of them."
"Not just one, neighbours reported seeing a FPS van in the neighbourhood around the same time in sixty-five of the hundred and twenty cases."
"That sounds like more than coincidence."
"Exactly. But what had me stumped is that they happened all over the seven county area."
"And that there is more than one FPS facility in the area."
"Eight to be exact, one major regional hub, and seven delivery centers."
"It would take an awful lot of coordination and planning to make that work."
"That’s what had me stumped too. But then I got a package via FPS and noticed that it had a tracking number on the shipping label."
"So, maybe that’s how they can trace stuff that gets lost."
"Not just FPS, the shipper can track it through the system also, in fact anybody with a computer can track any package through the system from the time it gets to FPS to delivery."
"So if they knew about when a FPS truck was usually in a given area, they could just wait until it came and take delivery of the package."
"Exactly. Now two of the victims said that they noticed charges and almost immediate refunds on their MasterCards from one of those home shopping TV sites."
"Most of the others say that they really don’t pay much attention to the actual transactions listed unless things are really different from what they expected."
"So there could have been more?"
"A lot more."
"OK, except for that making them race while they are hogtied bit, it sounds like they had a pretty neat plan."
"It does, and it wasn’t just having them race."
"Some of the single victims were stood up and told to hop around; some were made to go up and down the stairs"
"While tied up?
"Yup, sorry boss, but suddenly just left."
"Weird, but at least that’s all they did, no assaults. Right?"
"No, just the making them move around while tied up."
"OK, sum it up for me."
"This is what I think. They watch the FPS trucks in affluent neighbourhoods; get a good idea of when the trucks are usually making deliveries when there would only be one person in the house.
Then they would order small expensive items from a shopping site, have them sent to the target house, track the shipment online, and on the promised delivery date, waylay the house’s occupant, and wait for the delivery."
"Playing these weird tie-up games while waiting."
"Sounds good. But if they are buying the stuff, how are they making money?"
"I’m guessing that they have somebody in customer service at the shopping site who cancels the order and refunds the credit card after the item is in the FPS system."
"That explains those charges and immediate refunds."
"And after they started copying the Avon customer lists they had both addresses and credit card numbers."
"Except for the tying up stuff, it is actually pretty clever."
"I’m sure they could have immobilized their victims just as well with much simpler wrist and ankle ties. The ropes around the knees, elbows, upper bodies, hogties, seem to be purely for the robbers enjoyment."
"Seems that way, good job!!!! What’s next?"
"I was thinking that we could to talk to FPS and see if we can get anything from their tracking system."
To be continued...