Surrey County Council
Last fall, a Maryland man’s frequent activities at a local casino resulted in robbers using a GPS tracker to follow him home.
Days later, they bound and gagged his two children, then stole $6,000 in cash plus an iPhone 6.
If that wasn’t crazy enough, Mario Guzman (a pseudonym) was also followed by someone else less than a week earlier. His wife, Alicia Guzman (another pseudonym), had hired a private investigator to keep tabs on her husband, according to a Montgomery County Police report. (Ars has changed the names of this feuding couple to protect their privacy interests.)Mario Guzman regularly drove 50 miles, six days a week, from his home in Germantown to a casino in Baltimore, according to a recently-released police report that Ars obtained Tuesday from the Montgomery County Police Department.
The report notes that Alicia Guzman suspected her husband of adultery and “gambling with large sums of money.”
On November 11, 2015, Greg Townsend of Montgomery Investigative Services, Inc., followed Guzman as he made his way from home to the Horseshoe Casino as per his routine.
After watching Guzman enter the casino, Townsend returned back to Guzman’s car so that he could place his own GPS tracker on the Audi. (Weeks earlier, Mario Guzman had even hired his own private investigator to check for such devices that he suspected would be put on his car at his wife’s behest, which had not yet occurred.)
However, Townsend noticed two people in an Acura parked next to Guzman’s Audi.
They “were watching Townsend.” After a few minutes, the Acura drove away, but not before Townsend wrote down the license plate.
Townsend then resumed his mission to put his own GPS tracker on the Audi, but found that there was already a GPS tracker there, near the rear passenger side tire.
The PI then moved this tracker towards the driver’s side of Guzman’s car and put his own underneath the undercarriage between the front and rear doors.
Townsend then returned to his own car nearby.
After a short period, a different-colored Acura drove up, and Townsend watched as two people got out and began examining the underside of Guzman’s car along the passenger side.
Townsend managed to take a video of this pair, but was unable to note the new Acura’s plate.
Montgomery County Police Detective Thomas Thompson wrote in the police report that he “believes this suspect was trying to retrieve the GPS tracker that he or someone in his organization placed under [Mario Guzman]’s vehicle.
The suspect obviously couldn’t find the GPS tracker because Townsend placed [the tracker] in a different location on the vehicle.” Before departing, the suspect briefly opened and closed his own trunk.
Townsend resumed physical surveillance on Guzman’s Audi, and after an unspecified period of time, Guzman returned with a woman.
Both Guzman and the woman got into the Audi, and they drove off.
The investigator then began to follow the Audi as it drove into a “wooded area of Baltimore.” The police report flatly notes “[Mario Guzman] eventually went home for the evening.”
A terrifying scene
Six days later, on November 17, Guzman’s two children, aged 21 and 14, were at home. (The police report makes no mention of Mario or Alicia Guzman being at home, suggesting that they weren’t there.) The 21-year-old man and his younger sister went out to get something to eat in the evening. Upon their return at 8:10pm, they opened the garage door.
Two masked suspects suddenly appeared, drew guns, and ordered them to the ground.
The Guzman children complied and were promptly bound and gagged with zip ties and duct tape. One of the suspects kept an eye on the girl while the man was ordered into the house at gunpoint.
“Where is the money?” the gunman barked.
The 21-year-old showed him the various locations where the family stored cash, and the first gunman eventually gathered up $6,000 in cash belonging to Mario Guzman.
They also took the 14-year-old’s iPhone 6. Within minutes, the two suspects fled the scene.
The Guzman children managed to escape from the zip ties and called 911.
The police report does not specify whether the cash came from Mario Guzman’s casino winnings.
When Alicia Guzman learned of the incident, she told Detective Thompson that she had hired Townsend to put a GPS tracker on her husband’s car.
Detective Thompson, along with a forensic specialist, verified that Townsend’s GPS tracker was indeed still there. (The Supreme Court famously ruled in 2012 that the police cannot put such a GPS tracker on a suspect without a warrant, but that ruling has no bearing on individuals, be they private investigators or robbers.)
Authorities then ran DNA swabs from the duct tape used to gag the children and found one match in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
The match belonged to Kevin Darnell Carroll, a convicted felon with an “extensive criminal history.” According to The Washington Post, Carroll was arrested last week on charges of armed robbery, first degree burglary, and many others.
Carroll’s accomplice, described by police as a “black male,” remains at large.
The future of crime?
Law professors who specialize in privacy and surveillance told Ars that they had never heard of a case like this.
“This mundane surveillance warfare, if you like, among the perpetrators, the suspicious spouses, and ultimately the police (DNA swabs) nicely sums up the world we live in today,” Elizabeth Joh, a professor at the University of California, Davis, said in an e-mail.
Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said that this is a good reminder that technological innovation can be used for good as well as for ill.
“As technologies become more widely available, we shouldn’t be surprised that they are put to illegal uses,” he said in an e-mail. “Criminals have always been on the leading edge of tech adoption, from telephones to pagers to mobile burners, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see more of these stories in the coming years.”
Mario Guzman, Alicia Guzman, and the hired PIs immediately did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.
Thompson was not available to respond to Ars’ further questions.
“Members of the police department cannot comment on any additional details of this case until it has been adjudicated,” Officer Rick Goodale, a Montgomery County Police Department spokesman, told Ars by e-mail.