A man convicted five years ago of stealing nearly $143,000 by scamming numerous people and public agencies faces new charges that include theft and impersonating emergency responders, officials said.
Michael Alan Selmer, 29, was charged Thursday with crimes that include two counts of felony theft, two counts of criminal impersonation, forgery, two counts of computer crimes, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, and warrants out of Marion and Douglas counties and from Tennessee, said Cmdr. Jason Myers, a Marion County Sheriff's spokesman.
Selmer was convicted in 2003 of several counts of first-degree and aggravated theft in four cases. One included taking money for already-occupied apartments in Keizer.
Selmer was sentenced to four years in prison, but he was released from Santiam Correctional Institution on Nov. 14, 2006, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jennifer Black. His post-prison supervision was scheduled to last until the end of 2008, Black said.
In this recent case, Marion County investigators received information about a possible fraud case in Arkansas about five months ago, Myers said.
A law enforcement agency contacted Marion County detectives, saying that Selmer said he was selling police radios online. After a purchase was made, the products never arrived, Myers said.
Selmer purported to have his own ambulance services and solicited donations of police, fire and medical equipment and supplies, Myers said. Investigators think Selmer had used eBay and craigslist.org to sell those stolen items online, Myers said.
Investigators said Selmer often used fake business names, such as Northwest Emergency Services, Cascade Rescue and Emergency Services II, Cascade Rescue and Southwest Emergency Services.
During the afternoon of Feb. 14, detectives arrested Selmer driving in a reported stolen pickup in downtown Salem, Myers said. The white pickup, stolen in Eugene, was outfitted with concealed blue and red flashing police lights and police radios with frequencies that included the Marion County Sheriff's Office and Salem Police Department, Myers said.
Investigators also think Selmer responded to area vehicle crashes and other calls in his false cover, but Myers said law enforcement officials do not think he interacted with the public at those scenes.
Selmer was held on a number of outstanding warrants and arrested on new charges Thursday, Myers said. Selmer is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Monday in Marion County Circuit Court annex.
Prosecutors and law enforcement investigators who worked on the 2003 case said they're not surprised that Selmer was arrested again.
"His general MO was to pretend that he either owned an ambulance company or was a paramedic or he was a firefighter," Marion County Deputy District Attorney John Turner said Friday. "He would be either buying or selling emergency equipment."
The 2003 cases spanned incidents from mid-2001 to August 2003 and included 32 theft victims. Some victims were people, others were businesses that sold medical products or fire equipment.
In November 2002, about seven families were displaced from a Keizer apartment complex after Selmer charged deposit money and rent from the prospective tenants, although there were no vacancies. Selmer was a former apartment manager at Carlton Square Apartments at the time he was charged.
Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Douglas Brown, who investigated one of the cases against Selmer, said he first ticketed Selmer on a citation of driving without a license in 2002.
About a year later, Brown was on patrol and noticed a vehicle on Interstate 5 with a flashing light on its dashboard. Brown thought it was suspicious because he didn't recognize the vehicle.
The incidents led Brown to a more than yearlong fraud investigation into Selmer's activities, he said. Six search warrants were executed in the Marion and Albany areas, Brown said.
Brown learned that Selmer would order police and fire equipment from vendors and have it shipped to various addresses, never paying for purchases. Other items were stolen.
"I found it difficult to believe that anyone would take him at his word," Brown said Friday. "It perplexed me that people would do business with him, but I came to the conclusion if a person is a big enough liar, they'll look you in the eye and lie."
In another scheme, Selmer created an emergency-services company and hired several others underneath him, supplying them with vehicles equipped with light bars, titles and uniforms.
"They'd drive around in vehicles with lights or sirens, not having any idea what their job or title meant," Brown said.
Some of the workers were young, would-be firefighters and paramedics, but none of them was trained, he said.
"He had a fantasy of being a firefighter/rescue person," Brown said. "And in connection with that, he discovered he could acquire equipment and then sell it and make money."
Brown and Turner said Selmer responded to real-life emergency calls but did not know of anyone seriously injured as a result. In one incident, Selmer offered his company to provide security and medical services and a man was kicked in the head at an event in Molalla, Brown said.
"People never checked him out," Brown said. "It was very bizarre."
Selmer also used lights and sirens while driving, without training, which also is dangerous and illegal, Brown said.
Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District has a pending $500,000 judgment filed against Selmer, office administrator Heather Ritchie said. At the time, Selmer was using letterhead for APSE Public Safety Equipment.
In 2000, Selmer was given a contract by the board to fix a water-tender fire truck and emergency radios, Ritchie said.
"He was supposed to fix some equipment," Ritchie said. "He tore it apart and left it."
Selmer also never returned radios he was supposed to fix, and also kept a medical gurney Selmer was supposed to sell for the fire district, Ritchie said.
Salem resident Rory Rutherford claims he was bilked out of $300 from Selmer when Selmer offered to fix his wife's car in 1999.
Rutherford said the two met when Rutherford, a small-business owner, was painting Selmer's rental house. Rutherford said he took up Selmer's offer to fix the car for a cut below a retail mechanic's price.
"He was just a real nice guy," Rutherford said. "He was just a real small guy, and I kind of felt sorry for him."
Selmer and the car disappeared, Rutherford said. The car later resurfaced at a mechanic's shop in Keizer, and it cost him almost $2,800 to get the car back and make the repairs, Rutherford said.
Rutherford filed a small-claims suit against Selmer. Rutherford later heard of the allegations into the Keizer apartment complex and firefighter/paramedic claims.
"I couldn't believe it," Rutherford said. "I'm still waiting for my money."
rliao@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 589-6941
RUTH LIAO Statesman Journal