By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
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Havard's research revealed that Target wouldn't investigate until the sixth return, so he would do the con a total of five times in his own name, then use a fake drivers license and do it five times in another name. He then pulled in other people to repeat his performance five times each in various names, also using fake identities. After calculating how many Target stores were in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, he sent out his minions with handfuls of forged bar code stickers.
"He had 30 people working for him," Weldon claims. "He would have tens of thousands of dollars' worth of store credit." Havard would use the credit to purchase other high-dollar items, such as televisions, video cameras, video game systems and computer games. He sold these items to kids at Winston and other schools out of the trunk of his car. Kids snapped up $200 game systems for $100, receipt included. There were always willing buyers.
"The people he sold to knew it came from illegal sources," Weldon says. "They didn't care. For a couple of months, he [Havard] was bringing in $10,000 to $15,000 a day."
Havard rationalized his crimes: No one was really getting hurt except insurance companies and big corporations. The bar code scam lasted about four months. A couple of people in the ring got sloppy and were arrested; Havard was investigated but never charged with a crime, Weldon says. "Doug's always good at squeaking out at the last minute."
While he schemed, Havard was making straight A's and playing sports. His goal was getting into an Ivy League school to study business. Havard boasted about his various scams but led others to believe he got his fat roll of cash from playing the stock market. "I think that's where his father thought he was making money," Weldon says. "He was smart but not a computer whiz or a hacker. He never tried selling grades.
"Havard was good at knowing what would be useful to people in the future," Weldon adds. "If he had stayed straight, he'd have been a billionaire in 15 years."
But some of his rip-offs got too close to home. Havard and one friend, a student from a very wealthy family, collaborated in stealing about $170,000 in jewelry and other goods from the buddy's $3 million home while his parents were out of town. The parents discovered the loss, apparently after Havard offered an unusual collectible watch to a dealer, who recognized it and knew the owner. The matter was settled privately, with neither boy facing charges.
During his junior year at Winston School, Havard nearly got busted. While working as a clerk at a retail store at NorthPark, he began stealing credit cards from customers. "He had four or five credit-card scams," Weldon says. "He's a businessman diversifying his portfolio." An investigation cost Havard his job at the store, though he was never charged with a crime. There was always another scam to take its place. He and a buddy started cruising the parking lots at NorthPark, looking for expensive SUVs loaded with fancy accessories like front grilles. They'd write down the license plate numbers, drive home and look up the addresses of the owners on the Internet. Late at night, they'd drive by the houses, steal the grilles and sell them on eBay.
"Really, I don't think he ever slept more than four hours a night," Weldon says. "He was always working. He'd be on the telephone 12 hours a day. He'd complain about his $4,000 cell phone bill."
Though Havard was worth several hundred thousand dollars by the time he was a junior in high school, by Weldon's estimation, money almost seemed beside the point.
"It was the lifestyle, the power, the control," he says. "He wasn't born into a mobster family, and he wanted to be one."
When Havard met Jeremiah Simmons, he found someone who could teach him the ropes.
Havard's fascination with crime drew him to the life Simmons was born into. Members of his family have struggled with drugs and tangled with law enforcement for generations.
Though both his parents now live in the Dallas area, Simmons grew up in Cleveland. His father was in the Air Force, but by the time Jeremiah entered grade school, his parents had ended their tumultuous marriage. Jeremiah and his half-brother, five years older, lived with his grandmother and aunt in West Point, Georgia.
Though Simmons was a good student when he attended, he dropped out at age 15. "It wasn't like anyone was telling me to go to school," Simmons says. "I was raising myself."