"Catch me if you can" - Twitter-taunter and wanted fraudster nabbed in Mexico

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Privacy, Twitter

The fugitive jeered "Catch me if you can" over Twitter at her only follower.

Wanda tweet

That follower was San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who went out and did just that.

According to the LA Times, Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, who had been convicted of insurance and disability fraud before skipping town and crossing the border, was arrested Thursday in Rosarito, Mexico by the Fugitive Task Force.

Authorities said that the case, along with the taunting tweet, had been turned over to the US Marshal and the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team.

Podgurski is a former Amtrak clerk who was convicted of disability and insurance fraud in January.

On Monday, she was arraigned in San Diego Superior Court on a charge of failing to appear while on bail.

She was convicted of 29 felony counts relating to insurance fraud.

The 60-year-old woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in absentia, after being convicted of receiving more than $650,000 in disability and insurance payments paid out for injuries which the court found that she had faked.

Podgurski claimed that she had injured herself by falling at home and needed medical care from visiting nurses.

Wanda Lee Ann PodgurskiBut prosecutors said she was feeling sprightly enough to travel during that time, hitting the Dominican Republic, New York, Seattle, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale, and feeling hale and hearty enough for a 16-day tour of China with a boyfriend.

Steve Walker, a spokesperson for the San Diego County District Attorney, told Ars Technica that Podgurski wasn't actually caught "through her Twitter account", but he declined to give any details about how she had been caught in Mexico.

But as Ars's Cyrus Farivar points out, it wouldn't exactly have been rocket science to track her down via IP address if she hadn't concealed her identity or location online.

If she was tweeting via mobile phone, of course, she might as well have painted "I'm right here" across her own forehead.

Thank goodness some criminals, at least, aren't savvy enough to read about proxy servers, or Tor, or Privoxy.

They also apparently can't tear themselves away from online bragging or taunting long enough to read news accounts of the woman who bragged on YouTube about robbing a bank, or maybe the burglars who gave police a heads-up on Facebook when it was official break-in day.

The moral: don't get too braggy online if you don't want to get caught.

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6 Responses to "Catch me if you can" - Twitter-taunter and wanted fraudster nabbed in Mexico

  1. Is the sentence "Thank goodness some criminals, at least, aren't savvy enough to read about proxy servers, or Tor, or Privoxy" really the most sensible thing to put here? It reads more like a friendly tip for criminals to go check out these things...

  2. Juan Morales · 284 days ago

    What's the main idea of this article? To prevent criminals be catched? I still do not understand this kind of articles where is a detailed explanation of "what went wrong when you was breaking the law?".

    Looks like the criminals must be informed about how to improve their criminal activities so the next time everything just can be right.

  3. otacsof · 284 days ago

    the MORAL is not to get to braggy if you don't want to get caught (doing something illegal)? How about being an honest person being the moral in this case?

  4. Andrew Symmons · 284 days ago

    She should have left well alone now she has a price to pay ! well done law enforcement!

  5. Lisa Vaas · 284 days ago

    Somebody who's this naive about obscuring location when online isn't the sort who reads Naked Security, so no, the purpose of the article isn't to help insurance fraudsters, burglars or bank robbers to be better criminals. They don't read us, obviously, so we can talk about tools to obscure location without worrying that we're holding remedial classes for criminals to better commit their crimes.

    What I left unsaid, and I apologize for the omission (we cover this stuff so much I sometimes get lulled into thinking [wrongly] that we're all on the same page and have the same assumptions), was that obscuring location is useful for people such as activists, for example, who are resisting oppressive regimes and prosecution. There are plenty of people whom the state deems to be criminals who are in fact fighting for human rights, and plenty of reasons, therefore, for technologies such as proxy servers and Tor to exist. There are other people for whom anonymity is crucial, such as those who've been victimized by domestic or sexual abuse.

    These tools, although not foolproof, do good in the world. Of course, as the Prism news has exemplified, the use of Tor is a flag for the NSA to target people for surveillance. The use of Cryptocat, a fledgling anonymizing project for chat that recently was found to have a serious, fundamental flaw and hence has been potentially crackable for 7 months, is another example of how these tools must be used with great caution and understanding of their shortcomings.

    This might have been the wrong place to bring them up, and even if it were the right place, I obviously wasn't in a very articulate mode when I wrote this piece, for which I apologize. But every time I hear about somebody who's ignorant about location masking, I think of those people who have legitimate reasons to know about and practice it. That's why I have a tendency to refer to it. Not because I want people like Podgurski to learn how to evade capture.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.