It’s common practice. When a Cody police officer is publicly recognized, fellow officers attend as a show of support.
So when police chief Chuck Baker told patrol officer Scott Burlingame to attend the April 21 city council meeting, he thought someone else was to receive acknowledgement.
In reality, the FBI wanted to recognize Burlingame for his efforts in apprehending Allisson Bebiano, a 29-year-old Brazilian national.
So when the police chief told council members the FBI wanted to honor Burlingame, the patrol officer was genuinely surprised and honored to receive FBI recognition for his investigation last fall into alleged crimes involving local ATMs.
“Officer Burlingame was key in identifying and arresting Bebiano, who was not only defrauding financial institutions in Wyoming, but across many other states,” Baker said.
According to Cody police, Bebiano is alleged to have stolen about $1 million over five years.
Charles Jones, supervisory senior resident agent with the FBI in Cheyenne, and a few other agents attended the presentation.
Jones commended Burlingame for his role in solving the complex crime involving Bebiano.
The FBI says the Brazilian national had traveled in and out of the U.S. roughly 15 times since 2014. When in the Cody area last October-November, Bebiano used the alias Douglas Machado for vehicle rentals and lodging.
“Scott did a phenomenal job identifying the person who was taking money from ATM machines,” Jones said of incidents in Cody and Powell captured on security video.
Bebiano was arrested Nov. 25 and held in the Park County jail charged with 14 criminal counts of forgery and two counts for allegedly possessing a forgery device. When placed in federal custody, the suspected thief faced up to 160 years in prison on charges that he illegally withdrew nearly $8,000 from bank accounts by making ATM transactions at Cody and Powell Big Horn Federal Savings Bank branches.
“I don’t know how you put the pieces together on an international fugitive,” Jones said to Burlingame.
FBI agents were able to make a federal case through Burlingame’s hard work, he told council members and Mayor Matt Hall seated before him.
Baker added his praise.
“This recognition of officer Burlingame’s outstanding efforts elevates all of the Cody PD, and we are proud of his efforts,” Baker said.
A few days after the FBI recognition, Burlingame was quick to recognize help received from fellow officers, including the CPD detective division.
At home, his wife and sons backed him as well.
“They definitely gave a lot of support during all of this, knowing it was a big case that I was working on,” he said.
Grunt cop work
Patience, attention to detail and a dose of luck each played a part in Burlingame’s successful investigation, as did his total of 16 years as a law officer, 11 with the Cody police force.
Despite hitting a couple of dead ends, Burlingame persistently stuck with the case so that from start to finish, the investigation took just 27 days.
“That timeline was pretty remarkable, as well as how all the pieces fell into place,” Burlingame said. “It was a lot of grunt cop work.”
Not until he visited with Jones when the agent was in Cody did Burlingame realize the magnitude of the alleged fraud or thefts Bebiano is believed to have committed.
Because the case is ongoing, those details are not available. Spokespeople for the FBI and Wyoming Attorney General’s Office said they could not make statements or release additional information about the case.
On any given day, Cody police may find themselves dealing with anything from traffic stops, stray dogs and nuisance complaints to drug violence, thefts and domestic violence incidents.
Burlingame was on duty when a Park County dispatcher radioed to tell him about a local fraud case reported on Nov. 12.
“A lot of times in these situations, they’re hard to investigate,” the officer said recently as he recalled the investigation. “Most (fraud victims) are elderly people who give information over the phone or the internet.”
So his initial thought was, “OK, what can I do with this?”
Burlingame called Max Mazur at Big Horn Federal Savings Bank headquarters in Greybull. The bank’s head of security said he had noticed a trend at the Cody and Powell branches’ ATMs indicating fraudulent activity may have occurred.
“He said a substantial amount of money had been taken out of the Cody ATM,” Burlingame said.
Piece by piece
When a fraud notification system flagged several suspect transactions, Mazur reviewed ATM security footage. To him, it looked as if the same man who seemed to use multiple credit or debit cards kept returning to the cash dispensing machine.
“(Mazur) sent as much surveillance footage as he could,” Burlingame said.
Mazur also provided a couple of vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers.
Over the next few weeks, Burlingame watched the video. Suspecting rental cars were involved, he tracked down vehicles through different rental companies, and compared rental timelines to when ATM thefts were taking place.
Through one rental company, he learned Douglas Machado with a Brazilian ID number had rented a GMC Yukon at a Salt Lake City airport with the same Minnesota license plate as in the videos.
Neeki S. Carter, special agent with the FBI in Casper, recounted details of the investigation in a sworn statement filed in federal district court Dec. 5
She said on Nov. 17 Burlingame contacted hotels in Cody, attempting to locate a temporary residence for the suspect later identified as Bebiano. He learned a Douglas Machado had stayed at the Holiday Inn on Nov. 2-5 and then had re-registered Nov. 5-8. Comparing hotel registration information, he found Machado had identified his vehicle as a GMC Yukon, the same model seen on ATM video.
“Then we kind of hit a dead end when the withdrawals stopped,” Burlingame said.
On Nov. 21 Mazur called back to say there had been more attempts at illegal withdrawals.
“Once we knew the suspect was staying here through an extended period of time, we saw the likelihood of catching him was much better,” Burlingame said.
The officer planned a stakeout, hoping he might spot the brown-skinned, black-haired, clean-shaven male suspect of average height. He drove to Big Horn Federal by the Stampede and 17th Street stoplights and spent most of the day in a squad car hoping he could catch the suspect pulling up to make a withdrawal. Nothing happened.
But the next day, Nov. 25, he’d just finished school patrol when dispatch told him the suspected thief had been seen at the Sunlight Credit Union ATM directly north of Big Horn Federal.
“I was able to visually identify him driving down the road,” Burlingame said. “I knew I was seeing the same suspect I had seen in all the surveillance footage.”
This time the vehicle involved was a rented white Nissan sedan with Montana license plates.
When Burlingame made a traffic stop near the Greybull Hill, the driver handed the officer a Brazilian ID and passport with the name Allisson Mar Bebiano.
“He got out of the vehicle, I gave him his Miranda rights and he requested a lawyer immediately,” Burlingame said.
Shortly afterward, Bebiano was booked into the Park County jail.
After Burlingame took Bebiano into custody, the Cody Police Department issued an intelligence bulletin to other law enforcement agencies, hoping someone would identify the suspect, now with two possible names, and the vehicles he’d been driving.
“I got a call from an investigator from Green River,” Burlingame said. “He advised me he’d had a similar crime with a substantial amount of money, and a similar suspect had hit Lander as well.”
Among items found in the Nissan were 23 debit or credit cards issued from various banks, about 30 ATM receipts showing successful and unsuccessful transactions, about $13,000 in U.S. currency, Brazilian IDs for Bebiano and Machado, hotel room keys for Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn and Hilton Hotels and equipment associated with forgery transactions, according to Carter.
In 14 transactions made at Park County ATMs from Oct. 29-Nov. 25, $7,960 was found missing from multiple accounts at various institutions. None belonged to the man accused of withdrawing the funds, nor did any money come from Park County bank accounts.
Bebiano, whose native language is Portuguese, appeared in Park County Circuit Court where he entered his initial plea of not guilty.
When the feds took custody of him, they seized all evidence. Burlingame’s job was done.
Job well done
“When we searched the vehicle, there was a lot more information that was passed on to the FBI, and they ran with it from there,” Burlingame said.
He said Jones told him the information he’d provided was “pretty much what was needed to wrap up the case.”
“They didn’t have to dig a whole lot further,” Burlingame said.
In her statement, Carter said equipment found can be used to fraudulently encode any card with a magnetic strip with fraudulently obtained financial information, thus creating counterfeit cards. In addition to U.S. banks, the FBI determined fraudulent transactions were associated to numerous foreign financial institutions – some in Spain, France, South Africa, Jamaica, Mexico, India, Hungary and Switzerland.
It appeared Bebiano had arrived in the U.S. on Oct. 5 on a tourist visa and had been granted visitor status until April 4.
He has accepted a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, and remains in federal custody awaiting sentencing.
That outcome could have gone quite differently had Burlingame not pursued the case with dogged determination.
“This actual case was a lot of fun to work,” he said. “Obviously, there’s gratification getting (Bebiano) into custody and federally prosecuted as well.”
For Burlingame, the FBI certificate will serve as a reminder every investigation is not only about the pursuit of justice. It’s about keeping his community safe.
“Ultimately, it comes down to the customers and citizens of Park County,” he said.