Trailers Are for Travelers 

What were million-dollar Irish scam artists doing living in this trailer park?

Page 6 of 8

Hay had a different set of health problems, Pickard says. "Mr. Hay had at one point probably weighed 650 pounds, and he basically told us he owes his life to Linda for helping him lose weight," she says. "He's a shadow of himself, maybe 300 pounds. She would only let him eat certain things. He was in bad physical straits until she kind of took him under her wing and made him lose weight."

But while their motives may be obscure, what is clear is that the three charmed practically everyone they met, including lawyers and the police. "They're really the salt of the earth," Horowitz says. "They don't have a single incident of ever hurting an individual. You'll find nobody who's ever crossed their path who didn't come out richer. When they stayed with people, they'd leave them money."

When asked for examples of this kindness, people tend to bring up their highly doted-upon dogs. Davenport, Hay, and Broderick had three of them, which they reportedly treated like children. One was so elderly and blind that they would push it around in a baby carriage. Granada says he also sometimes spotted Davenport shuttling the dogs about the trailer park in a basket on the back of his bicycle. "They sure do love those dogs," Horowitz sighs. One of the obstacles to negotiating their eventual plea agreement was that Davenport wanted to release some money to the people who took care of his dogs because he appreciated their kindness, Horowitz says. "Literally, him and Linda spent more time in jail because they wanted to pay back these people."

People were also charmed by the group's close emotional bonds with one another. "They're very devoted to each other," Pickard says. "If you travel across the country in a trailer, a married couple and a three-hundred-pound man sleeping on the floor, you have to get along." Horowitz says that although Davenport was originally booked into Camp Parks, once he learned that he would not be allowed to send daily letters to his wife he asked to be transferred to the less accommodating Santa Rita Jail. The two of them are said to be equally fond of Hay, who also complains that they are not allowed to correspond with each other, despite having no other close friends in this country.

If the gift of the con artist is the ability to get strangers to sympathize with you, this group had it in spades. Even the investigating detectives found it hard to speak ill of them. There's a rather sweet postscript in Pickard's police report in which she notes that after arresting Davenport, San Leandro officers made an extra trip back to the trailer park to pick up his medication. "They were very kind, gentle people," Pickard remembers, and admits to being impressed by the scope of what they were able to pull off. "They found something that worked and they worked it. ... Their thoughts were along the lines of 'We're not hurting anybody -- we found a flaw in the system and we're exploiting it.' It's true that in their minds they weren't doing anything wrong."

Not surprisingly, the federal government saw things differently. The prosecution against Davenport, Hay, and Broderick was transferred from state to federal court after the United States Attorney's Office argued that it should have jurisdiction because the case was essentially wire fraud, and not burglary and forgery. The government's reasoning: At the end of each sales day, individual Home Depot stores transmit their sales information via a T-1 line back to the retailer's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Authorization for returns also cross over the same line. Since the bar-code switch meant that false information about sales and returns moved over the T-1 line, the US Attorney's office claimed that this constituted deliberate use of interstate wires for fraudulent purposes.

It's a claim refuted by Hay, who calls the charge "completely bogus." He writes, "Any offences we committed were over and we had left the store before this transaction was transmitted to their head office at 9:00 each night -- and to be guilty of wire fraud the wire has to be an integral part of any scheme."

Both Giller and Horowitz believe the argument for federal jurisdiction was weak at best, since their clients never knowingly used the wires. But in the end, they decided it wasn't worth challenging in the face of the overwhelming evidence against the three. "We focused on negotiating, because whether or not we were right on that we still had to face the music in state court," Horowitz says.

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