A 19-year-old New Hanover man allegedly masqueraded as a law enforcement officer and obtained otherwise protected and confidential information from a cell phone carrier, according to authorities.
On the recommendation of the Montgomery County Investigating Grand Jury, county detectives this week charged Matthew Thomas Baumgartner, of the 2800 block of Homestead Court, with two counts of impersonating a public servant in connection with alleged incidents that occurred over a four-day period in June 2013.
“He identified himself as a law enforcement agency and it’s just not true,” alleged Assistant District Attorney John N. Gradel, explaining the nature of the charges lodged against Baumgartner. “The cell phone carriers relied on his representations as a law enforcement agent and turned over the records immediately.”
The danger, Gradel alleged, is that Baumgartner held himself out as a law-enforcement professional when he had no training in the field.
“You can’t hold yourself out to be something you’re not, there’s just too much at stake. Anything could happen. Holding himself out to be something he’s not, he’s akin to a ‘Keystone Cop,’” added Gradel, who oversees the district attorney’s grand jury investigations.
Baumgartner was arraigned on the charges before District Court Judge Maurice Saylor and was released on $20,000 bail to await his March 5 preliminary hearing. If convicted of the charges, he faces a possible maximum sentence of two to four years in prison.
An investigation of Baumgartner began in October 2013 as authorities looked into allegations he displayed illegal emergency warning lights on his personal vehicle. Baumgartner subsequently sent state police an email message, identifying himself as a “Cyber Investigator,” and complaining that someone had accessed his Facebook profile and sent a photo of his vehicle to state police, according to the grand jury presentment.
“This matter will not be taken lightly by myself or my agency now that we have an active case on it ready for follow up,” Baumgartner allegedly wrote to state police Cpl. David Egleston, including the address “Cyber Crime Response Agency,” of which he claimed to be president.
County authorities indicated they were not familiar with such an agency and determined that the agency’s website advertised that the agency investigated “spies, terrorists and pedophiles” and offered to help locate wanted and missing persons, according to court documents. However, the website included a disclaimer indicating, “Cyber Crime Response Agency is not a law enforcement agency,” according to court papers.
When authorities reviewed Baumgartner’s Facebook page they observed photos of a man resembling Baumgartner “holding a pump action shotgun, wearing a badge,” and “with what appears to be a handgun in a holster on his left hip and a badge on his belt…,” according to the presentment. Baumgartner also claimed to have spent two years in the U.S. Army Reserve but authorities determined he was discharged from the U.S. Army while still in training because he “could not pass the physical fitness test standards,” according to court documents.
Authorities alleged the information contained on the website and Facebook page appeared to be “deliberately misleading.”
Armed with a warrant to search business records of Cyber Crime Response Agency, authorities searched Baumgartner’s home on Nov. 14, 2013, and located several assault-style rifles, BB pistols and a semiautomatic pistol, some found in or near Baumgartner’s room, but which were legally owned by a relative of Baumgartner, according to court papers.
Inside Baumgartner’s bedroom, authorities found a camouflage tactical vest, an instruction manual for lock picking and a set of professional lock picks, court papers alleged. Inside Baumgartner’s Dodge Charger vehicle, “which resembled an unmarked police car,” authorities uncovered a bulletproof vest, handcuffs and investigator badges, according court papers.
“There were papers relating to various investigations conducted by CCRA including the investigation of a sexual assault and the investigation of a stolen cell phone,” according to the presentment.
Baumgartner, according to court papers, allegedly told a female acquaintance he would investigate her claim that she had been sexually assaulted by someone she met online and pledged to help another friend track down a lost and missing cell phone. The friends believed Baumgartner was associated with a law enforcement agency, according to court papers.
Investigators uncovered alleged communications between Baumgartner and the cell phone carrier Sprint in which Baumgartner requested and received confidential cell phone information using forms utilized by law enforcement agencies to request information from cell phone carriers on an emergency basis, according to the presentment. Grand jurors alleged Baumgartner “blatantly impersonated a law enforcement official” when he submitted the paperwork to Sprint.
“Baumgartner pretended to hold a position in the public service with the intent to induce Sprint to act on reliance of that pretense,” grand jurors concluded in the presentment.
The grand jury determined that while the CCRA website was “clearly misleading” it was not criminal in nature.
“Baumgartner’s possession of realistic looking badges, police equipment and military equipment are cause of concern but do not rise to the level of criminal activity. Also, the fact Baumgartner possessed lock picks is not a crime, but why he possessed them is also a matter of concern,” the grand jurors concluded.
Follow Carl Hessler Jr. on Twitter @MontcoCourtNews