VOLUME 16 OCTOBER 1999 NUMBER 10
Kirby Sits in Bay County Jail--Again
BY TAMMY DeGRAY AND DOROTHY SCHECTER
Mike Kirby, age 52.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Thompkins, Chief of Security, Bay County Jail, Panama City, Florida.)In February 1991, A.R.C. published an article with a similar title. As we said then, a case of illegal activity is rare among radio collectors, but Mike Kirby is the exception. We're sorry to report that he has continued these activities up to the present. The following is a warning about Kirby to newcomers to the hobby and will bring those who know about Kirby's past up-to-date. (Editor)
"Organized Scheme to Defraud" -- that's the charge against one Mike Kirby, who at this writing sits in the Bay County jail in Panama City, Florida, awaiting arraignment on September 30. That charge will ring a familiar bell to longtime A.R.C. readers who remember Mr. Kirby's victimization of radio collectors as far back as 1989. At that time, 57 readers reported to A.R.C. that they had been offered items for sale by Mike Kirby of Panama City. Of these, 36 paid Kirby money, but only one actually received the merchandise; most of the others eventually received a refund, if they were persistent.
As the February 1991 article reported, A.R.C. acted as a clearinghouse for information on Mr. Kirby and forwarded information to the U.S. Postal Inspector. The Postal Service followed up on the numerous complaints, and on October 18, 1989, Kirby was arrested. However, he was released the same day after consenting in writing to (1) cease representing that persons sending him money for merchandise would receive the merchandise in a reasonable time, (2) make refunds to all persons not receiving merchandise, and (3) return any new orders received. Over the next several months, Kirby returned most of the payments he had received.
However, once again in 1990, he began responding to ads, receiving payments and not shipping merchandise. Our 1991 article left off with Kirby's 1990 arrest and release pending trial. Since then, we have had no more complaints from our subscribers and assumed that his activities had been curtailed by the long arm of the law.
Wrong. In August of this year, we learned that Kirby was still at it from Steve Finelli, an alert subscriber, and then via the Internet, where a warning from David Stinson advised people to send any information on Kirby's activities to Detective Robert Luther of the Panama City, Florida, Police Department.
As a result, we decided to do a little investigative reporting on our own of Kirby's history of illegal activities. As best we could determine, the following summary of his activities is accurate.
Update on 1990-1991
According to the Bay County Clerk of Courts, Kirby's 1990 arrest put him in court in September 1991. He was sentenced to 30 days, 250 hours of community service, and 5 years probation on a felony charge of scheming to defraud a California ham radio operator of $600. Though the victim got his money back, Kirby was charged because of the number of complaints about his using the mails to defraud. "Scheming to Defraud" is a third-degree felony and carries maximum penalties of 5 years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
As an interesting aside, Kirby had been a seemingly upstanding member of the community. He was a science teacher in the Jinks Middle School, and the Panama City News Herald headline of January 4, 1991, -- "Teacher Arrested for Fraud" -- must have been a jolt to the students returning from the holiday break, not to mention an embarrassment to the school administration.
The Record -- 1991-1999
The Bay County jail records show that Kirby had a total of three arrests in 1991 -- all of which resulted in release on the same day; one arrest in 1992 for which he spent 14 days in jail; two arrests in 1994 resulting in less than two months in jail; one in 1996 resulting in probation, and now in 1999, a new charge. The grand total is nine arrests with brief sojurns in the Bay County jail.
Along the way, he received the required sentences of 5 years, subsequently reduced to probation and fines with no time served in state prison, and with all conditions reimposed. But, he has violated those conditions, and once again finds himself in what must be his home away from home -- the Bay County jail.
A.R.C. Advertising Policy
In general, Kirby is an anomaly among radio collectors, as overall, we receive very few reports of problems. When we do, we spend considerable time helping individuals to resolve their differences. If several complaints accumulate about one person, however, we refuse his advertising until the conflicts are resolved. The number of complaints about other individuals in no way has matched the number accumulated by Mike Kirby. Many readers may not realize that this complaint service is part of our efforts to enforce A.R.C.'s advertising policy, if you contact us in writing about the problem.
As for investigative reporting, the A.R.C. staff may decide to give up radios for the police beat. Exchanges with the Panama City court, the Bay City jail, and the Postal Inspector in Mobile, Alabama, were full of interesting asides. When one of the officers was identified as "Bond" and an earlier investigator as "Sam Slay," we knew we had arrived and were destined for screen tests.
(Tammy DeGray and Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)