Mayor Chris Beutler today will present the Mayor's Award of Excellence for December to Don Fosler and Krissa Knopik, two Investigators from the Technical Investigations Unit (TIU) of the Lincoln Police Department (LPD). The award will be presented at the beginning of today's City Council meeting, which starts at 3 p.m. in the County-City Building, 555 S. 10th Street.
The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City.
Fosler has worked for the City since 1986, and Knopik has worked for the City since 1997. Sergeant Sandra Myers of TIU nominated them in the categories of customer relations and productivity for their work to stop a group of thieves known nationally as the Felony Lane Gang or FLG. The group operates primarily in states in the south, east and Midwest. They steal IDs, checks and other personal items and then use the stolen items to commit forgeries, identity thefts and frauds around the country.
The gang usually travels in groups of four to six. A male acts as the leader while the others break into vehicles, stealing checkbooks, IDs and credit and debit cards. The females use disguises to resemble the photos on the stolen IDs and attempt to pass stolen checks. They use the drive-thru lanes farthest from the bank to make identification more difficult.
In May 2012, local financial institutions contacted TIU about a group of women in a white SUV passing stolen checks using stolen IDs. Fosler and Knopik began compiling information and told the banks to contact LPD immediately if any of the suspected FLG members hit town. During this time, a group of gang members passed more than $30,000 dollars in stolen and forged checks at Lincoln and Omaha banks. The investigators continued to educate local banks, and worked with Omaha Police to develop suspects. The officers also educated members of LPD about the gang and enlisted their help.
In late May, a local bank alerted LPD that activity was occurring at several of its branches consistent with FLG. Fosler and Knopik notified other banks and law enforcement officials and gave descriptions of the suspects and vehicle. When a local bank notified LPD that an FLG member was in its drive-thru, officers made their first FLG arrest.
In June, gang members were again in the area driving a silver SUV. Fosler and Knopik canvassed branch banks that were being victimized. After an alert bank teller called 911 to report FLG activity, officers arrested three women from the gang.
In late June, Fosler received information from Omaha and Iowa police departments that FLG activity was again occurring. Again, the information was passed on to the banks, and a 911 call led to four more arrests of FLG members. LPD has now arrested eight individuals associated with the gang, and felony charges are pending.
It's believed the gang was responsible for more than $80,000 in losses to Lincoln and Omaha banks in May and June alone. During this time, Fosler and Knopik continued to serve search warrants, obtain phone records, distribute information and contact car rental agencies. The exchange of information among law enforcement agencies has proven invaluable. LPD has now identified some of the upper- and middle-tier leaders of the group in Florida, and charges are forthcoming in those cases. LPD has received calls from law enforcement agencies in 19 other states. Several have now issued arrest warrants for other FLG members and have cleared cases relating to the gang's activity.
It's estimated that the FLG has fraudulently obtained close to $1 million nationwide. Because of the hard work by TIU, specifically Fosler and Knopik, the Felony Lane Gang has not been back to Lincoln or the Midwest. Sgt. Myers said the two officers are to be commended for their investigative skill AND their ability to forge positive and productive relationships with the banking community and other law enforcement agencies. Fosler and Knopik continue to dig into the group's financial records and activities and to share the information.
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are loss prevention, safety and valor. Consideration also may be given to nominations that demonstrate self-initiated accomplishments or those completed outside of the nominee's job description. All City employees are eligible for the Mayor's Award of Excellence except for elected and appointed officials. Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public. Nomination forms are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: personnel) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Personnel Department, which oversees the awards program.
All nominations are considered by the Mayor's Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor. Award winners receive a $50 gift certificate, a day off with pay and a plaque. All monthly winners and nominees are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $250 gift certificate, two days off with pay and a plaque.