2007’s Head-Scratching Crimes

BERLIN – Throughout the course of each year, hundreds of criminals are arrested and prosecuted in the resort area for a wide variety of offenses ranging from the gravely serious to the downright silly and 2007 was certainly no different.

Crime is rarely funny and often tragic, but there are those occasions when perpetrators’ actions are just so ridiculous they make for perfect “Cops and Courts” section fodder and lively water cooler talk throughout the area. The following is a quick look at some of the highlights from 2007:

Bogus Bin Laden

In January, a West Virginia man who earlier told Ocean City Police he was Osama Bin Laden and that he had numerous weapons was arrested after leading resort cops on a high-speed chase through town.

The OCPD first encountered Tena Bergeno, 26, of Charleston, West Va., on Jan. 5 when he claimed to be the terrorist and warned them he had a stash of weapons. He was evaluated at the hospital and later released. Two days later, resort police observed Bergeno again and when they attempted to question him, he took off in a car and led police on a high-speed chase through the downtown area, colliding with several cars along the way.

When the police finally stopped Bergeno, the suspect threatened them with a blender pitcher as the officers approached him. He was eventually taken into custody and charged.

Cash, Charge or Pot?

A Bel Air man found out in May cash, not marijuana, is the currency of choice in Ocean City after attempting to purchase items from a resort convenience store with a bag of dope.

Michael Autry, 27, of Bel Air in May walked into the 7-Eleven on 94th Street and grabbed a bag of chips and three bottles of Gatorade. When the clerk rang Autry up, he fumbled around in his pocket and was only able to produce a $1 bill.

The clerk told him that wouldn’t cover it and Autry went back to his pockets again, this time producing a baggie of marijuana. The now frustrated Autry reached into the baggie and about half of its contents on the counter.

Autry was later arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and misdemeanor theft.

Naked Rodeo On Assateague

Two Ocean City men were arrested on disorderly conduct charges and other offenses in August after attempting to ride wild ponies and tackle sika deer on Assateague Island.

On Aug. 18, Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) responded to a campsite in Assateague State Park for a report of two highly intoxicated men, later identified as Thomas A. Chapman, 33, and Anthony J. Marchiano, 27, both of Ocean City. Witnesses also observed Chapman running nude around the campsite.

When NRP officers made contact with Chapman, he continued to yell profanities until he was placed under arrest. Chapman was charged with disorderly conduct and attempting to feed, touch, tease, frighten or intentionally disturb wildlife in a state park.

Drug Bust At Barrack

In March, a Seaford, Del. man, who went to the Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack to retrieve thousands of dollars seized during a drug bust, was arrested on marijuana and ecstasy possession charges and forfeited even more money.

Ernest Evans, 18, of Seaford, went to the barrack hoping to get back $8,000 seized during an earlier drug bust, but he only got himself in more trouble. The duty officer smelled marijuana on Evans’ person and a later search of his vehicle revealed the strong odor of burnt marijuana.

A search of Evans’ vehicle turned up over 12 grams of marijuana and a search of his person turned up 1.14 grams of ecstasy. Evans was also forced to surrender $8,190 in addition to the $8,000 he was hoping to retrieve in the first place. Evans was arrested on possession of marijuana and ecstasy charges.

Arrested Twice In 24 Hours

An Ocean Pines woman was arrested by Berlin Police twice in less than 24 hours in practically the same place for roughly the same charges in August.

On Sunday, Aug. 19, Berlin Police on routine patrol noticed an occupied vehicle in a Flower Street parking lot. After speaking to the driver, officers learned his girlfriend, later identified as Lisa Sofronski, 40, of Ocean Pines, had entered one of the apartments to purchase crack cocaine.

She was arrested on that Sunday and released after posting a $2,500 bond. Around 2:47 p.m. the next day, Aug. 20, Sofronski was seen again on Flower Street. A consent search of her person revealed a glass pipe.

Wrong Moon Gets 30 Days

An Elkton woman got a big surprise in August when she appeared in court representing her sister for what she thought was a routine traffic violation and found she was standing trial for driving while intoxicated.

In May, resort police arrested a woman who turned out to be Belva Moon on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. However, Belva Moon at the time gave her sister’s name, Elsie Moon, to police. When Belva Moon returned home to Elkton, she told her sister she had used her name when she got a traffic ticket and the sister did not think any more of it until she received a summons to appear in court in August.

When Elsie Moon appeared in District Court, the arresting officer immediately recognized she was not the woman he arrested for DWI back in May. Elsie Moon began crying hysterically when she learned the mistaken charges she was facing were as serious as DWI. The real Belva Moon at first refused to return to Ocean City to clear her sister’s name but was eventually taken into custody and charged and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Street Fire Leads To Charges

Maryland Natural Resources Police responding to a fire in the middle of the street near Carey Rd. in northern Worcester County made four arrests on drug and alcohol charges in September.

Maryland Natural Resources Police on routine patrol noticed a large fire in the middle of the roadway at Nelson and Swamp Roads. About 15 people consuming alcoholic beverages were gathered around three parked vehicles blocking the roadway near the fire in the street.

Further investigation at the scene recovered suspected marijuana and a large amount of alcohol.  NRP officers then arrested a Delaware man and three juveniles from Delaware and charged them with possession of marijuana and possession of alcohol by a person under 21.

Different Clothes, Mask

An Ocean City man was arrested in February when he re-entered a store he had shoplifted beer from an hour earlier wearing different clothes and a mask covering his face.

On Feb. 23, Norman Henry Smith, 46, of Ocean City, entered the 7-Eleven on N. Division Street to buy a cup of coffee when the store clerk observed him concealing a 32-ounce bottle of Budweiser in his coat. When confronted about the hidden beer, Smith fled the store.

About an hour later, Smith returned to the same store wearing different clothing, a hat and a mask concealing the bottom half of his face. The clerk recognized Smith as the man who had stolen the beer an hour earlier, although Smith now appeared intoxicated. Smith entered the store and, unprovoked, threw the empty beer bottle he had stolen earlier at the clerk behind the counter, just missing him.

Smith continued to scream at the clerk and attempted to come behind the counter to prevent the employee from calling the police causing the two to get into a scuffle. However, the scuffle ended when the clerk pulled out a steel bar and hit Smith with it several times.

Smith then fled the store again, but OCPD officers reviewing surveillance tapes of the incidents recognized the suspect and later arrested him.

Diners Run Out On

Bill, Into Another Car

After only paying for a portion of their bill at an Ocean City restaurant, a couple who dined and dashed in May found their night to be a costly one as they fled the establishment, ran a red light and plowed straight into another vehicle before fleeing the scene of that accident.

On May 4, a couple later identified as Karen Lynn Price of West Chantilly, Va. and John Canova of Elkridge, Md. failed to pay a large portion of their bill at a mid-town Ocean City restaurant, and when they tried to flee the scene with restaurant employees chasing after them, they ran a red light and crashed into a Mercedes driving southbound on Coastal Highway.

The pair then fled the scene of the accident, but were both apprehended about an hour later and arrested on numerous charges ranging from theft to leaving the scene of an accident. To compound their troubles, a search of their vehicle turned up a small quantity of marijuana and possession charges were tacked on. At the end of the day, they were in a world of trouble over around $60 they failed to pay on their restaurant bill.

Boardwalk Minstrel Busted

In August, a Connecticut man was arrested for leaving a small child unattended just hours after he was observed strolling the Boardwalk playing a guitar and singing with another man.

OCPD officer were dispatched to a downtown motel around 3 a.m. one night in late August to check on the welfare of a small child, who could be heard hysterically crying and yelling for his father from one of the rooms. The child told police he was on vacation with his father, Alexandre Rybalko, 48, of Stamford, Conn., and that his father had left him alone several hours earlier. While police were interviewing the child, Rybalko arrived on the scene. The officers realized he was the same man they had seen on the Boardwalk around midnight playing a guitar and singing with another man. The officers also realized they had not seen the child with him three hours earlier, which gave them a timeline of just how long the boy had been left alone. Based on the known timeline of the events, Rybalko was arrested and charged with leaving a child under age 8 unattended.