Friday, May 28, 2010

"Stupid Crook Tricks"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Time now for another exciting episode of Stupid Crook Tricks, the hard-hitting series that presents actual cases of bumbling incompetence by some of the most inept criminal masterminds in America.

All of these stories are true. The names have been eliminated to protect the dumb, de-dumb-dumb, dumb, de-dumb-dumb-duuuumb.

I am especially proud of the current crop of crooks because they are essentially hometown boys gone bad.

I realized there might be a local connection when I read a recent story in The Stamford Advocate about a couple of idiots who called a bank in Fairfield to say that they were coming to rob the place.

Noelle Frampton of the Connecticut Post reported that the dimwitted duo asked for a bag containing $100,000 in large bills. Naturally, bank officials alerted the cops, who were waiting for the pathetic pair and arrested them when they showed up to collect the loot.

“I would classify these individuals as not too bright,” said Sgt. James Perez, Fairfield police spokesman. “They should have spent time in school instead of trying to rob a bank.”

This got me wondering whether stupid crooks have ever struck my hometown of Stamford. To find out, I called two sources in the Stamford Police Department whose identities I cannot reveal except to say that they are Assistant Chief Jon Fontneau, a former neighbor of mine, and Capt. Richard Conklin, both of whom have been on the force for nearly 30 years and have pretty much seen it all.

Fontneau, who was commander of the narcotics and organized crime unit before being promoted to assistant chief earlier this year, recalled one young man who not only had a long rap sheet for dealing dope but was, of course, a dope himself.

“We were on Stillwater Avenue looking for guys with warrants,” Fontneau said. “Even though we were in an unmarked car, the vehicle was like a heat-seeking missile because it was well known to just about everybody who’s a bad guy. Not only that, but we were wearing jackets that said ‘POLICE’ in large letters on the sleeves and on the front and back. This kid waved us down, jumped in the backseat and asked if we wanted to buy drugs. Then he said, ‘Hey, you guys look like cops!’ Maybe it was the police raid jackets that tipped him off.”

Then there was the marijuana moron who tried to hide his stash under a rock in front of police headquarters.

“It was on Stamford Historical Society property,” Fontneau remembered. “A couple of society employees saw this guy, who was on his way to the courthouse for a drug case, put something under a rock. They went outside, lifted the rock, found marijuana and called us. The irony is that the narcotics unit overlooks the property. Sgt. Chris Gioielli went out and put a note under the rock saying, ‘You are under arrest. Look up at the police station.’ We watched the kid come back and lift the rock. He looked perplexed. He read the note and looked up at the department. Two officers exited headquarters, walked over and arrested him.

“His father was aghast,” Fontneau continued. “He claimed police planted the drugs. He said, ‘I know my son has done some bad things, but I didn’t raise him to be this dumb.’ You can’t make this stuff up.”

Conklin didn’t make up the story of the bumbling burglar who lost his case because he tried to drink it.

“He broke into a home, looked around and found the liquor cabinet,” Conklin recalled. “So he started to imbibe. Eventually, he passed out. The owners of the house came home, saw the place had been broken into and heard this guy snoring loudly. It was a very easy case to solve.”

Both Conklin and Fontneau had other stories that will have to wait until the next exciting episode of Stupid Crook Tricks.

“We always say thank goodness for stupid crooks,” Conklin said. “They make our jobs a lot easier.”

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, May 14, 2010

"The Dog Listener"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I may be an expert in animal husbandry because I am a husband with a lot of animals, but I am going to the dogs. That’s because my wife, Sue, thinks our dog, Lizzie, is a better listener than I am.

I thought I heard Sue say so after I read about an Associated poll in which a third of married women said their pets are better listeners than their husbands.

Most of those women said that dogs listen better than cats (we have three cats and they’re even denser than I am), but the wives added that both animal species are preferable to men when it comes to paying attention to whatever it is that wives are saying.

I told Sue that the poll was unfair because Lizzie’s ears are longer than mine, but Sue didn’t want to hear it. So I called my neighbor Alan Christiansen, aka the Dog Listener, for a consultation.

Alan is a professional dog trainer and the owner of Dog Gone Good (, a Long Island-based company that caters to canines. Even though Alan is not a doctor, he makes house calls so he can teach basic obedience to a clueless man’s best friend.

“Men don’t have a habit of listening,” Alan said during a recent visit. “Dogs do.” Lizzie, who was listening to every word, kissed Alan.

“Lizzie used to be a better listener,” Sue said, “but she’s old now and I think she’s getting a little deaf.” Lizzie, who will be 15 in July, ignored the remark.

“Dogs tend to take on the traits of their owners,” Alan said, “so maybe she’s taking after Jerry.”

“That could explain it,” Sue noted.

“What?” I said.

Alan, who is 64, first made a connection with dogs when he was a boy.

“I was one of six children and my mom would save everything,” he recalled. “She even saved the grease from cooking and used it to make soap for the laundry. Little did I know that my clothes smelled like hamburgers. All the dogs in the neighborhood would follow me. They must have been thinking, ‘This guy smells great!’ I just thought they liked me because I was a nice kid.”

Alan has had many dogs, as both pets and clients, ever since.

“One of my customers was a lady who had a French poodle,” Alan said. “She wanted to know if she should speak French to the dog.”

“I speak French to Lizzie,” I told Alan. “When she’s standing by the door, I ask her if she has to go oui oui.”

Another customer used to fly her dog in a private jet and wanted to know where on the plane would be the best place for the pooch to sleep.

“I told her anyplace but the cockpit,” Alan said.

“Lizzie sleeps in the backseat when I drive her in the C-A-R,” I said, adding that I couldn’t pronounce the word without setting off Lizzie in a frenzy of excitement.

“Maybe I could teach her how to spell,” Alan offered.

I politely declined.

Alan doesn’t have a dog now, but he and his wife, Phyllis, often baby-sit for Franklin, their son’s miniature long-haired dachshund.

“He drinks only Poland Spring water,” Alan said. “If we give him any other kind, he’ll turn up his nose.”

“Franklin is a classy guy,” said Phyllis, who calls herself the Dog Rescuer because she rounds up all the dogs that neighborhood kids let loose. Then she returns them. “They come to me,” Phyllis said. “And they listen better than Alan.”

“Do you think dogs are better listeners than husbands?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” Phyllis answered. “But after 27 years, you learn to live with it.”

“Otherwise,” Alan said, “I’d really be in the doghouse.”

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima