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A detective's fruitless investigation of Salahi theft claim

The more we learn about Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple whose appearance at President Obama's first state dinner turned into a national news event, the more we hear about people who've had contact with them -- and the results.

For one Montgomery County detective who crossed paths with them earlier this year, what happened appears to have been a big waste of time.

In May 2009, the Salahis came to Montgomery County for an America's Polo Cup event. They left with the Capitol Polo Club facing more than $25,000 for repairs -- and with a county detective frustrated by a theft claim the Salahis made, one the detective determined to be unfounded after Tareq Salahi faxed him a fabricated document, according to an interview with the polo club president and police records. (For more on this, read Neely Tucker's Dec. 4 item.)

Asked though a police spokesman how much time he spent on the case, the detective estimated 30 to 35 hours over a period of weeks. He took two trips to Poolesville on the western edge of the county, spoke to as many as 10 people and made lots of phone calls and e-mails.

The Salahis. (File Photo.)

So what happened? Two months after the event, according to Montgomery County police records, Tareq Salahi presented himself at the county’s Bethesda police station to allege that two 30-foot flags had been stolen during the event. The report found its way to Detective Bill Heverly.

Heverly spoke with Michaele Salahi, who told him that members of the Capitol Polo Club, where the event was held, were threatening the Salahis' employees, according to an incident report that Heverly wrote on the case. Michaele Salahi told the detective to contact one of her employees, a man who told Heverly he hadn’t had any problems from the Capitol Polo Club.

He “further advised that the only problem he had was that neither he nor any of his contracted employee had been paid by the Salahis for their work during the event despite numerous attempts requesting payment,” Heverly wrote.

Things got murkier still, according to his report. There was disagreement over boards that lined the fields, and whether Tareq and Michaele Salahi could get them back.

On Sept. 5, Heverly wrote, he received a fax from Tareq Salahi purporting to show an invoice from a contractor for $8,920 for material and labor. “The 'invoice' appeared to be very plain and did not look authentic,” Heverly wrote.

He contacted the contractor, Brannock Enterprises, who faxed what Heverly described as a more authentic invoice for only $5,800.

Heverly researched the Salahis on a police database, finding 41 records of contacts with police officers. “In many of the events, the Salahis reported crimes they had been victims of,” Heverly wrote.

In his own dealings with the couple, he concluded:

“The information they gave was different (sometimes very different) from the information that witnesses gave. Of note, these were the same witnesses the Salahis advised the reader to contact. Of particular concern was the discrepancy between the ‘invoice’ that Tareq Salahi sent the writer and the actual invoice sent by the contractor ... The fact that Tareq Salahi would fabricate an ‘invoice’ rather than request another copy from the contractor caused the writer to question the veracity of the information given by the Salahis ... The writer was unable to verify that a crime occurred.”

Heverly classified the case as unfounded and closed it.

There is no indication that police pursued any action against the Salahis. Speaking in general, Capt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery police spokesman, said that just because police declare a case "unfounded" doesn’t mean there was any criminal intent on the part of the person who reported it.

Robert Do, president of the Capitol Polo Club, said the Poolesville-based club donated use of its facility because his understanding was that everything was for charity. The event left the fields damaged because trucks were driven across them while they were wet, Do said.

“It turned out to be a much bigger affair and problem than we had bargained for. [We] ended up with tremendous damages," Do said. "They brought in huge trucks that would drive all over the fields.” Do said.

“We had expenses over $25,000 to repair the facility after they left," said Do. "They left with trash all over, and the trash people, the vendor, didn’t want to come and clean up because they said they weren’t paid. So we ended up taking over that bill as well. We came away as you can imagine quite disappointed, upset with that.”

Do said the club isn’t actively seeking funds from the Salahis. “We’re definitely in the hole at the moment because of it," he said. "But we certainly don’t see any benefit of being in the queue with all the lines of people suing them. I think the queue is very long.”

-- Dan Morse

By Washington Post Editors  |  December 10, 2009; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities , Dan Morse , Montgomery , Updates  
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“We’re definitely in the hole at the moment because of it," Robert Do said. "But we certainly don’t see any benefit of being in the queue with all the lines of people suing them. I think the queue is very long.”

I like that Robert Do guy. He makes sense.

Posted by: 123cartoon | December 10, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

The fact is that there was evidence of a crime -- by the complainants. Under Maryland's broad theft statute, the Salahis could have been charged with attempt theft by scheme for producing the counterfeit invoice. If the justice system had held the Salahis accountable for their consistently illegal conduct, chances are there would be fewer victims standing in line to charge them criminally and to sue them. In fact, chances are there would be fewer victims, period.

Posted by: MdLaw | December 10, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised the Detective didn't think that the inflated theft reports could be linked to insurance fraud and report the fraudulent invoices to a national insurance fraud clearing house to be passed onto their investigators.

Posted by: Greg42 | December 11, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

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