No thanks to MVA, one that got away is reeled in by officer


January 17, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Originally, this was to be a story about a slithery impostor who might have "pulled a Dontay Carter" -- that's cop talk for getting a fake driver's license from the Motor Vehicle Administration -- and who slipped through the cracks of the Maryland criminal justice system. As of today, the story is a bit different, but still intriguing.

The main player in this account, one Charles Maurice Nutt, might have pulled a fast one on the MVA; police suspect as much. However, Nutt is no longer wanted. He's in jail. How he got there is a long, bumpy story, so fasten your seat belts.

Back we go to Nov. 26, 1993. Officer Scott Griffin, an eight-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, stops a car for a minor traffic violation in Lansdowne.

Inside the car are a man and a woman. The man shows Officer Griffin a Maryland driver's license. According to the license, the driver is one Edward T. Diggs, 30 years old. The officer, a bit suspicious, runs a check on this Diggs fellow and discovers that he is wanted for a parole violation.

So Baltimore County police take Diggs into custody and turn him over to officers of the state Division of Parole and Probation. They also are suspicious. They start asking questions. They start checking records. Somehow they arrive at this conclusion:

The man they have in custody cannot be Edward T. Diggs. Diggs is dead. He died Aug. 27. (He actually might have violated parole before passing away -- or might have seemed to violate it because death prevented him from reporting to a parole officer. I could not determine by press time which was the case.)

Anyway, the man in ,14,5,10,5p5,7,7p custody had obtained a driver's license using Diggs' name and vital statistics. Simply stated, he had assumed the identity of a man wanted for a parole violation. The cops and parole agents have a few chuckles about that. But they're less amused by this question: How did "Diggs" obtain the driver's license?

I have been wondering the same thing for weeks but, after making inquiries to the MVA, still do not have an answer.

Baltimore County police tell me they confiscated the bogus driver's license and told MVA about the case. I assume someone is conducting an investigation -- and that what this man did will be difficult to pull off in the future.

In late November -- ironically just a couple of days after this story started to unfold in Baltimore County -- the MVA announced a new high-tech system designed to make the Maryland driver's license more fraud-resistant. The new security measures were instituted largely in reaction to Dontay Carter, the teen-age killer who, with frightening ease, obtained a replacement driver's license in the name of the 37-year-old man he murdered in 1992.

But enough on the driver's license angle for now. Back to the story. Back to November.

Parole and probation agents determine through a fingerprint check that the man posing as Diggs also goes by the names Gregory Jones and Eddie Mabray. As Jones, he is wanted for a parole violation in Anne Arundel. So the agents transport him there. He goes to District Court. Bail is set at $500. Jones posts it and is released.

A few days later, on Dec. 6, the fingerprint unit in Baltimore County determines that the man who had been detained by Officer Griffin in Lansdowne and transported to Anne Arundel County by parole agents is really Charles Maurice Nutt, 40, who, according to records, has a tattoo on his left arm. And, records show, this Charles Maurice Nutt is wanted in New York City on drug charges.

But by then, of course, Nutt is out on bail.

Is this weird or what? Sounds like the cops let one slip by.

But cut them some slack here, because it turns out that Nutt has used some 19 different aliases over the years. Baltimore County police -- apparently the only ones that did any hard legwork on this case -- learn about Nutt's activities during the investigation. They learn a lot about him. But they don't know where to find him.

Until -- stand by for a Major Ironic Twist -- the original cop on this caper, Officer Scott Griffin, goes to rent a video at a store on Reisterstown Road.

It's Thursday, Jan. 13, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Officer Griffin is off duty. He keeps Charles Maurice Nutt's photograph with him. This guy had lied to Officer Griffin, see, so Officer Griffin wants to find him.

And what happens? On his way to a video store, Officer Griffin spots the guy.

The store is in the city, so Griffin calls city police. They come and stop Nutt. They remove his jacket, find the tattoo on his left arm and arrest him for violation of probation. Baltimore County police charge him with uttering a false statement. And he is being held in the county on a detainer for New York police. Hopefully, the MVA is looking into this affair, too.

Sgt. Steve Doarnberger, the Baltimore County police spokesman, says Nutt had an interesting response when cops asked about all the aliases. Why had he used so many different names? According to Doarnberger, Nutt said: "I'm tired of getting Publisher's Clearinghouse mail under the name of Charles Maurice Nutt."

Great. Blame Ed McMahon.

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