Mayor Chris Beutler today will present the Mayor's Award of Excellence for December to Investigator David Wiggins, Jr. with the Technical Investigations Unit of the Police Department. The award will be presented at the beginning of today's City Council meeting at 3 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 555 S. 10th St. The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City.
Wiggins has been a Lincoln Police Officer for seven years. He was nominated by Sergeant Sandra Myers in the categories of customer relations and productivity.
Wiggins' job duties include investigating forgeries, embezzlements, frauds, identity thefts, vulnerable adult abuse and other financial crimes. He was nominated for his work solving two cases involving counterfeit checks and credit card fraud in the last year. Both cases involved groups operating throughout the Midwest.
The first case began in December 2012 when LPD began to see mail theft resulting in the manufacturing of counterfeit checks, which were used at local discount stores. Further investigation showed checks with the information of Lincoln victims were being passed in Des Moines, Sioux City, along the Interstate 80 corridor and into Colorado. A fictitious Colorado name and address were usually printed on the checks.
Wiggins began working on the case in June 2014 after seeing more cases of missing mail and counterfeit checks. He identified six suspects in Colorado who were passing checks in more than 100 communities in eight surrounding states. Wiggins began working with all the jurisdictions to compile information and build a case. He identified more than 60 forgeries in Lincoln with a loss to local businesses totaling more than $25,000. In Nebraska, the group passed more than 240 forged checks with a loss to businesses totaling more than $80,000. Many victims were dealing with identity theft issues and trying to clear their credit histories.
Wiggins established this group arrived in the Lincoln area in December 2012 and continued to operate in the Midwest as recently as July 2014. Sgt. Myers wrote that Wiggins worked with municipal, state and federal agencies. Federal indictments for mail theft, identity theft and forgery are imminent. The estimated total loss in all the states involved is more than $250,000.
The second case involving credit card fraud began when a person from Illinois called LPD to report that a credit card was used in the Lincoln area without their authorization. The individual still had the credit card that was used.
Wiggins obtained video and sales receipts. Then the case began snowballing when several stores noticed that the same people who had used the original victim's credit card were using other credit cards for purchases at different times. They also were using the cards at stores in neighboring states.
Wiggins again worked with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as loss prevention officers at many of the stores. He identified one of the individuals using facial recognition software, and other associates were identified after that. As of September, the investigation uncovered more than $40,000 in transactions in the Lincoln and Omaha area between March and August of last year. The group of about ten people used the credit card numbers of more than 70 victims.
Myers wrote that Wiggins' dedication to his job and his continued "digging" resulted in the determination that the frauds were committed by the same group of people.
Both cases began with fairly simple investigations and then multiplied into multi-jurisdictional operations. It was not until Wiggins brought the jurisdictions together that the magnitude of the crimes was realized. Myers wrote, "It was because of Dave's hard word and determination to bring some closure to the victims that both of these cases are now going to be prosecuted federally."
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are loss prevention, valor and safety. 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: hr) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Human Resources 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.