Bounty hunters nationwide relieved with arrest of South Carolina bounty hunter in West FargoFARGO – Bounty hunters across the nation expressed relief Tuesday when a South Carolina man who calls himself a bounty hunter was arrested in West Fargo after allegedly breaking down the wrong door in a hunt for a fugitive, then lying to police about it.
By: Emily Welker, Forum News Service, INFORUM, Forum News Service
FARGO – Bounty hunters across the nation expressed relief Tuesday when a South Carolina man who calls himself a bounty hunter was arrested in West Fargo after allegedly breaking down the wrong door in a hunt for a fugitive, then lying to police about it.
“Ever since the first airing of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter,’ there have been so many yahoos out there saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to jump in, it looks like fun,’ ” said Lenny Biggers, a bail bondsman and private investigator with Renegade Fugitive Investigations in Muskogee, Okla.
Rene Anthony Charles Greeno, 27, of Summerville, S.C., and Tanner James Olson, 21, of West Fargo, were arrested about 11:20 a.m. Tuesday at 619 5th St. E. in West Fargo by members of the U.S. Marshals Service’s High Plains Fugitive Task Force and the Cass County Drug Task Force on Cass County felony warrants for criminal trespass.
Greeno was found hiding in a bathroom behind a shower curtain.
Greeno was charged in Cass County District Court with criminal trespass, a Class C felony, and misdemeanor counts of false information to law enforcement and criminal mischief.
Olson is charged with criminal trespass and false information to law enforcement.
Biggers said his involvement with Greeno began 2½ years ago when the self-styled bounty hunter came to him asking for a job. A background check revealed Greeno to be a fugitive himself, Biggers said.
Biggers said he and other fugitive recovery experts were so concerned about Greeno publicizing himself as a bounty hunter, several of them offered to pay the state of Indiana’s transport costs if they would issue a national warrant for his arrest.
“He is a psycho,” Biggers said.
The Cass County warrants were issued Friday after prosecutors allege Greeno, along with four others including Olson, kicked in a Fargo woman’s apartment door in late September while they were searching for a male fugitive.
Greeno and his team didn’t find the man, but their search did lead them to Jessica Jones, of Fargo, who was wanted on drug possession and weapons charges.
Court documents filed in the cases state Greeno, Olson and two others working as bounty hunters – Brooke Starkweather, 20, and Jeremiah Opheim, 29, both of Moorhead – allegedly lied repeatedly to Fargo investigators about breaking into the woman’s apartment.
Starkweather and Opheim face charges of felony Class C criminal trespass and misdemeanor Class A giving false information.
According to court documents, during an investigation by Fargo police, Starkweather and Opheim both told police they wanted to come clean about the case, but that Greeno had threatened to kill them and their family members if anyone was jailed in the case.
Opheim and Starkweather were also arrested Tuesday. A fifth wanted bounty hunter, Dustin Fredrickson, 25, of Moorhead, turned himself in, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Orr said. Fredrickson was charged with felony Class A criminal trespass.
A man identifying himself as Greeno left voicemail messages at The Forum late Monday and early Tuesday saying he was innocent until proven guilty and intended to take the matter to trial.
He also disputed Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel’s statement that North Dakota requires a license for people to carry out fugitive recovery.
“No one in the state of North Dakota needs to be licensed as a bounty hunter,” said the message. “They are wrong if they think I am going to leave the city of Fargo.”
Vettel said Fargo police had made it clear to Greeno that if he continued to operate in the city, he could be charged for operating without a license. “We have evidence that what he attempts to do in other jurisdictions is not in accordance with the law,” Vettel said.
Biggers said the conduct alleged in the criminal complaint against Greeno is something other industry professionals deplore.
“Kicking doors down and acting like he was a police officer, that’s not how we do things here,” said Biggers, who added that fugitive recovery workers must follow the laws of each individual state in which they operate.
They are required to have bail papers on them when they take in a fugitive, Biggers said, and often must secure a governor’s warrant first.
Biggers said Greeno is an example of a problem that’s recently been plaguing his industry, as more people are drawn to bounty hunting by the proliferation of reality shows on the subject.
Their tenuous grasp of the legal requirements of the job is damaging the profession’s reputation, with the public and with law enforcement, he said.
“If people like Greeno continue, it’s going to put us out of business,” Biggers said. “If we end up in a dangerous situation, we’re going to pick up the phone and call police and they’re going to laugh at us.”
Matt Philipenko, of Fargo-based Philipenko Films production company, said he was hired by Greeno to produce promotional video for a reality show for a Charleston, S.C., Fox TV affiliate that Greeno told him he starred in.
The company signed a contract and shot several hours’ worth of video, which included fake firearms and actors posing as fugitives, Philipenko said.
But when Philipenko began to hear that Greeno was facing arrest warrants out of other states, he pulled the plug on the shoot, and on working with Greeno. Philipenko doesn’t believe there’s a TV show, either.
“Just a fruit loop,” he said.
Orr said Greeno’s publicity-seeking was also a red flag for him.
Initially, he said, Greeno and his team contacted the U.S. Marshals Service with information about a fugitive in Fargo they said they found, on the condition they be allowed to publicize their business when the person was arrested.
“That’s not something we do,” Orr said.
He also said self-styled bounty hunters like Greeno can create safety risks for his marshals and other legitimate law enforcement agents.
“When people like this are operating, it puts everyone on edge,” he said. “Things can go wrong.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541