EVERETT — Alison White is not someone to scam.
When she grew suspicious that a Lake Stevens man and woman had pulled a fast one, she was determined to hold them accountable.
In January, White wrote them a $2,500 check as a deposit for a used motorhome that she never was given. Police believe the Lake Stevens pair stole the motorhome and its title from an Everett widow in October 2013 under the pretense they were going to buy it. Later, they allegedly sold it to a Snohomish County man, having already cashed White’s check.
That’s the gist of the police report.
The story not told in the official record is the measures White took to turn up the heat on the suspects, 41 and 39, and the kinship she formed with the other alleged victims.
“We want to help so others don’t get ripped off,” the Bellevue woman said.
To White, the pair she had assumed were husband and wife seemed like an average American family living in suburbia. She’d answered their Craigslist ad to sell a 1995 Chevrolet Dutchman motorhome. They talked about wonderful camping trips they’d made in the motorhome with their kids in summers past.
“They were great at gaining trust,” she said.
White tapped into the sense of determination she’d developed from her time as a teacher when she wanted to make sure a lesson was truly learned.
She used her knowledge of the law and how to do legal research, which she gained as a young woman working summers for her father, a criminal defense lawyer.
And she doggedly pursued the pair with the cyber-sleuthing skills she has honed in recent years working for a high-tech company.
On three occasions, she tried to confront the Lake Stevens pair face to face after she became convinced she’d been swindled.
The first time, in January, she knocked on the door of the house where they were living at the time, in the 7400 block of 19th Place SE. She held the pink, leather-bound Bible her grandmother had given her. The pair often had referred to the good Lord and Jesus Christ when they were negotiating the deal with her, she said. She figured she would test their religious sincerity by suggesting they work out their differences over scripture.
Neither came to the door that day. Two other people did.
“You should have seen the looks on their faces,” she said.
They called the police on her when she picked up a piece of trash from their yard.
A week later, White showed up again in the Lake Stevens neighborhood.
This time she brought a handmade sign with her and walked along the public sidewalk in front of their home. On one side with a fluorescent pink background was the message, “Honesty is Good!” On the other side were the words, “Up With Integrity Now!”
With her that day was “Fuzzy Bear,” her 136-pound Newfoundland dog. They paced the sidewalk in the snow for two hours, eliciting honks and waves from neighbors driving by.
“I had to make the point that you can’t get rid of me,” she said.
Again, a Lake Stevens police officer paid her a visit after receiving a complaint from someone in the home. He determined that she was well within her rights to picket.
In February, she texted them during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win.
White continued to gather information. She made a spreadsheet describing each contact she’d had with them. She tracked down court records and an alias the woman had used. She traced their family tree. She even did a computer query to find previous Craigslist ads they’d taken out based on repeated words that were misspelled.
Eventually, through public records requests, White was able to discover the names of the widow who had initially owned the motorhome and the Boeing worker who ended up buying it. The man told a Snohomish County sheriff’s detective that he bought the motorhome from the suspects for $8,500. The sellers handed over a vehicle title with the allegedly forged signatures of the Everett widow and her deceased husband.
White and her new acquaintances shared their stories with one another, including the questionable hard-luck tales spun by the pair about being homeless after a fire and needing kidney dialysis. “We call ourselves ‘Team Justice,’ ” White said. “It’s really been a team effort among the three of us.”
They joined White the day she was prepared to argue her case in Small Claims Court. She never got the chance. The Lake Stevens pair didn’t show up and the judge ruled in White’s favor.
White turned over her documents to detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. They did their own investigation. Earlier this month, the man and woman were arrested at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Lynnwood for investigation of forgery, theft, vehicle theft and making an illegal vehicle transfer. They were listed as transients in court records.
The case has been forwarded to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges.
White said the moral of her story is simple: “Trust, but verify.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.