Theadora Ross, a 26-year Dallas, Tex., police veteran, was in charge of the city’s Crime Stoppers program for seven years beginning in 2003. The program accepts anonymous tips about criminal activity and fugitives, and pays out rewards for information that results in the arrest and indictment of criminals.
The program is designed to protect the identity of the tipsters, while also offering a means for the person to remain anonymous while collecting the reward.
Each would-be tipster would be issued a tip number by Ms. Ross. If the tip resulted in an arrest or indictment, Ross would present a limited amount of information about the tipster to the North Texas Crime Commission and recommend authorization of a cash reward.
Once the reward was authorized, the tipster could call the Crime Stoppers office, present the previously assigned tip number and be provided a code word.
The tip number and code word were then emailed to a bank in Dallas where tipsters could receive their reward by presenting the tip number and the code word in person at the bank.
The program is an effective way to protect the identity of tipsters while encouraging a steady flow of helpful crime stopping information. There was just one potential problem – it relied in large part on the honesty of the officials administering the program.
According to a federal indictment unsealed on Thursday, Ross and Malva Delley conspired from Feb. 2005 to May 2010 to defraud the Crime Stoppers program of at least $250,000 in money earmarked for legitimate crime fighting efforts.
Ross was arrested on Wednesday and has pleaded not guilty.
The one-count indictment charges Ross and Ms. Delley with conspiring to commit wire fraud by transmitting false financial information from the Crime Stoppers office to the bank.
If convicted Ross faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of all proceeds of the alleged fraud.
It is not clear from court documents whether the alleged fraud was discovered through an anonymous tip.