When many of us hear about detective work, we think violent crimes and homicides. But there’s another detective team at the Fullerton Police Department handling something that affects many of us quite directly: our property.
For Det. Josh Earnest, who joined the Property Crimes Unit 1 1/2 years ago, the job is a mix of working fraud cases, surveillance detail and jumping on any other cases involving property – including arson and vandalism.
“I just wanted to learn the other side of police work,” says Earnest. “I worked in patrol for eight years.”
Recently, Earnest went the extra mile in helping resolve a fraud case where a man disputed a $9,000 phone purchase of a transmission at a local car dealership. Earnest tracked down the man and arranged a meeting with the dealership for the man to pay for the transmission and avoid jail time.
“It was just a little different way of handling it,” says Earnest. “They were able to (recover) their money.”
The dealership was so impressed that a letter was sent to Chief Dan Hughes. The letter commended Earnest for “the job he did to assist in the collection of the funds that we had been defrauded of. Josh went beyond the call of duty, pulling this case from the stack of many and not only locating the person, but taking the time to meet him at our location to assure that we were paid what was owed to us.”
A couple of other recent cases Earnest helped solve included that of a man printing fake money – the suspect had $4,000 in bogus bills – and catching three suspects stealing upwards of $50,000 in water mains.
Earnest and his colleagues at the FPD take all the wins they can get since not all of the cases in Property Crimes have quick resolution – especially when it comes to identity theft. It can be difficult tracking suspects down, especially since many scams involve suspects out of state.
“In a lot of our cases, (the suspects) live out of the country,” Earnest says.
Things also get tricky when handling fraudulent tax returns, since such cases involve the Internal Revenue Service, which can slow down the process.
“A lot of what we do is phone calls, emails,” Earnest says.
Despite the frustrations that come with investigating financial crimes, Earnest seems to handle his work with an upbeat attitude and good sense of humor.
And he’s also grateful.
In December 2007, while on patrol, he was hit by a drunk driver.
“I was driving westbound on Commonwealth and a girl ran a red light and hit the side of my car and I was ejected out of my car,” he says.
The other driver didn’t make it, and Earnest was left seriously injured with a broken hip, jaw and shoulder. He was off of work for six months but made a full recovery.
“I’m back to as good as it’s gonna get,” he says. “I just get the oil can out every once in a while.”
He says his biggest fear when he woke up in the hospital was the idea that he wouldn’t be able to return to work.
“I figured as long as I could go back to work, I’ll be all right,” he says.
And Earnest is all right – even when he’s called out in the middle of the night for a case.
“I don’t mind coming in (at that time) because I know I’ll be able to file cases on people,” he says.