We had to go through some hoops to interview the new chief of the San Francisco Police Department, George Gascon, for today's report about the Fraud Unit. We first made the request last Thursday, and followed up in person Friday. At the Hall of Justice, a press officer said I'd know first thing this morning when/if the chief would be available -- his schedule was full.
So, I got a call around 11:40am today from Sgt. Williams at the SFPD Public Affairs Office. First, he questioned me about several points of the story. Then, he said, "We're surprised you're even doing the story again." I had to explain that a follow-up from our investigation last September was warranted. (You can see the investigation here and read the blog from then here.) That's when we first reported that the owner of the SF Window Factory could not get the SFPD Fraud Unit to investigate his complaint that a former employee had raided his small business' bank accounts for $50,000 to $60,000. At the time, we pointed out Chief Heather Fong had reduced the number of inspectors in the unit from 19 to 6, and that the backlog of cases was seven to eight months. (Now, there are 8 inspectors in the fraud unit, but the backlog is even longer.)
Eddie Feinstein Mug Shot
The story was worth updating because that former employee, Eddie Feinstein, appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court this morning facing charges for similar activity at a small company in LA. It appeared the LAPD was able to crack the case, after the SFPD failed to pick it up.
After explaining that to Sgt. Williams, he said he'd call back. Around 1:30, Williams called to say the chief would be available at 2:50. We showed up on time, but the chief was stuck in a meeting. As we waited, we noticed this new door installed in the corridor that leads to the chief's office.
You used to be able to walk past that area, down a long hallway with historic photos of the SFPD, right up to the reception area for the chief's office. No longer. The non-descript door is there -- no sign to say that's where the chief works. Just a blank door with a keypad and a new security camera. One of the press officers told us, this is the first day the door's been closed and that "it's intimidating."
All that said, Chief Gascon did something Chief Fong never would -- he agreed to a pre-arranged interview. To get answers from Chief Fong, we had to catch up to her at some public event.
By the way, Eddie Feinstein made his $110,000 bail on these latest charges. But, after coourt today, the bailiff slapped handcuffs on him and took Feinstein into custody for a parole violation out of Ventura County. As we reported, Feinstein has a record with several felony convictions, including fraud, forgery, grand theft and elder theft.