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Jun 15, 2011 9:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Small Arrest Leads to Big Prosecution On Southampton Village Police Chief Resume

Jun 15, 2011 10:36 AM

For new Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings, a trail of rubber checks at a now-defunct Hampton Road rug store in the early 1990s led to a prosecution in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

“Nothing glamorous, just good, old-fashioned detective work that paid off,” the chief, who climbed to his department’s top post last week, explained of the arrest and interrogation he performed with now-retired Village Police Detective Fred Nordt, for which the pair were recognized by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

A detective at the time, Chief Cummings arrested a man in his 20s, a Saudi national, as part of a scheme-to-defraud case involving a series of bad checks written to the shop.

Drawing upon their knowledge of cultural differences toward punishment, the two detectives instilled enough fear of deportation in the suspect during his interrogation that he ended up confessing, and even providing intelligence about a man who made phony passports and had connections to terrorists, Chief Cummings said.

The unorthodox interrogation technique—in which the officers said they would deport the man and report him to Saudi authorities as a thief—worked in part because the degree of harsh punishment that he faced in his home country was apparently too much to bear for the young man.

To the defendant, passing off the bad checks seemed simply a form of “bargaining over a worthless piece of paper,” the new chief added, but when the police explained that it was actually stealing, the defendant felt very remorseful—and willing to cooperate. He offered to provide intelligence on an Egyptian man in New York City who sold phony passports.

Though a lot of informants say they have valuable information, “99 percent don’t live up to their promises,” Chief Cummings noted. In this case, the informant fell into that other 1 percent.

When he was able to get a fake yet realistic passport with a fictitious name from the counterfeiter, the two officers realized they should contact the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

About a year after turning him over to federal authorities, the two Village Police detectives received a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s office thanking them for their role in the investigation and stating that their informant proved instrumental in the prosecution of a 1993 World Trade Center bombing suspect.

For his role, the informant received a DARE T-shirt, Chief Cummings recalled.

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Just goes to show you that big things do happen in little towns. The east end is not exempt from nyc type crime, people take this for granted. We are safe because oftour local police doing their jobs each and every day to keep us that way
By Clarity (65), Whb on Jun 15, 11 10:36 AM