From reading his most recent arrest affidavit, it looks like Darren Patrick Scheper had a good thing going there for a while. As his friends would later tell police, Scheper's hustle was to break into cars, steal whatever valuables he could find inside, and if he was lucky enough to find a wallet stuffed with credit cards, he would then race over to as many big-box stores as he could get to before the cards were canceled.
It worked for a good long while. Tiffany Jackson, with whom Scheper shared a Willowbrook apartment, a romantic relationship and a newborn baby, would later admit to police that she had an inkling that the stuff Scheper and his buddy Jonathan Otto would bring to their apartment was illegally obtained.
Still, who was she to complain about this bounty? As John Lennon once put it, and as Jackson quoted him on her Facebook page, "Living is easy with eyes closed." (She also loves to quote Lady Gaga and Ayn Rand.) The self-professed Republican Christian would later tell police she kept some of the swag, including a brand-new laptop, and pawned the rest.
So yeah, everybody was happy there for a bit, but on July 7, the 29-year-old Scheper blundered bigtime. It started out like all his other capers: with a car break-in and theft of a driver's license, assorted valuables, and two Visa cards, an American Express card and a MasterCard.
When the the cards' owner found out and started canceling them, he was told that they had already been used at Wal-Mart and Target. Also, the victim was told, the thieves had used one of the cards to rent a room at a Holiday Inn Express at FM 1960 West and Stuebner-Airline.
The man called the Holiday Inn and was told that the $99 room was still occupied. The man called Harris County Precinct Four's Constables' office, who in turn sent Constable B. Gheen to pay the hotel a little visit.
The hotel's manager told Gheen that two white males in a brown 2000 Toyota Corolla had rented the room using the victim's name and Amex card. The transaction was filmed, the constable was told.
Next, the manager let Gheen into the room, which was then empty. Gheen asked the manager to call him if the crooks returned. Two and a half hours later, the manager called Gheen and told him that some of the guys were back at the hotel, trying to get in the room. The cop returned and detained Jonathan Otto, Scheper's alleged accomplice in the break-ins. Otto told him that Scheper had rented the room and invited him to "chill" there.
Gheen told Otto to invite the whole gang over, and seconds later the old brown Corolla was back. This car was registered to Brian Thomas Ottman and driven by Timothy Joseph Bacon.
After Bacon got over his initial shock at seeing this uninvited guest at the hotel party, he gave Gheen consent to search the car. Inside were two of the stolen credit cards and an ID card and bag of mail belonging to the victim. Also found: several bags of merchandise from Target and Wal-Mart, much of it with tags still attached.
Otto and Bacon told Gheen the merchandise belonged to Gheen and had "probably" been purchased with stolen credit cards. Bacon also admitted that the very shirt on his back had also "probably" been purchased with a stolen credit card. They went on to tell Gheen that Scheper's apartment would have still more swag on the premises.
And so that was where Gheen went next. Since Scheper's father was the lessee, he gave Gheen consent to search the whole place, including Scheper's room. Inside, Gheen found Scheper's two roommates: Brian Thomas Ottman and Tiffany Jackson, along with lots of new merchandise.
That was when Jackson told him about her easily overcome misgivings over the provenance of all the stuff Scheper and Otto would bring to the house. Gheen also verified that Jackson had sold several items to area pawn shops and ascertained that her laptop had been purchased with a hot card.
Otto then told Gheen that Ottman would cash checks that Scheper had stolen, and Jackson added that Scheper was in possession of "someone's" driver's license. (The victim in this case had his license stolen but it was not found.)
Scheper, Otto, Ottman, Jackson and Bacon have all been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Bacon, 22, was convicted of aggravated assault in 2007 and sentenced to two years' probation after he attacked a man with a pair of scissors. He also has a pending car burglary case that was filed six days before this incident.
Otto, now 21, got popped in 2008 for assaulting his mom and then stealing more than $1,500 worth of golf clubs from a neighbor's car. Sentenced first to probation, Otto, who describes himself as "a single white male with many ex girlfriends," wound up in prison after he tested positive for methadone, crystal meth, cocaine and hydrocodone, and admitted using ecstasy. He also tried to falsify urinalysis tests and skipped several others. Since then, he's been convicted of car burglary and burglary of a building.
Scheper, the alleged ringleader, is on the run. He has three assault convictions, including one of a family member, and one DWI.
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Ottman's sole Harris County convictions are for cocaine possession and weed in a drug-free zone. His last Facebook status update was "party time all the time can u dig." He also flashes a wad of cash that looks impressive at first, until, like one of his friends, you count it up and it comes to $92. There's also a strange entry from last month that finds a stranded Ottman pleading to be picked up from a Spring motel.
Jackson, 23, was clean up until this bust. She has already accepted a deal for three years' probation and a $300 fine.
Five days after the case was made, none of the rest of those arrested have bonded out.
And PS: As dumb as it is to rent a hotel room with a stolen credit card, leaving your wallet in your car is not far behind.