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A French bulldog named Queen was reportedly stolen from a home in Newington (courtesy FCPD)

Fairfax County police are looking for a man who allegedly stole a Newington resident’s dog.

Officers were called to the 7500 block of Tralee Woods Court at 7:50 a.m. on Monday (Nov. 27) in response to a reported burglary, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“The victim was alerted by a family friend that her dogs were running loose in the neighborhood. The family friend was able to retrieve two of the three dogs,” police said.

However, the third dog — a French bulldog named Queen — was not found.

According to the FCPD, detectives believe the suspect went into the home and tried to abscond with all three dogs, but he only managed to get away with Queen.

“Surveillance footage showed the suspect carrying Queen to a four-door Nissan, possibly an Altima or Sentra, and leaving the area,” the FCPD said, describing the man’s clothing as a “white t-shirt, gray shorts, and blue Crocs.”

The department is asking anyone with information about the incident to contact its West Springfield District Station at 703-644-7377. Anonymous tips are also accepted through Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS or online.

Police say these ATMs were damaged in a reported theft attempt and an armed robbery in Lincolnia on Nov. 7 (courtesy FCPD)

Fairfax County police are investigating potential connections between some recent ATM break-ins and armed robberies in the Lincolnia area.

Officers responded to the TD Bank in Pinecrest Plaza at 6566 Little River Turnpike around 3:08 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday) after getting a call that three people were attempting to “forcibly access” the ATM, according to a news release from the Fairfax County Police Department.

The individuals were reportedly unsuccessful, as officers found that the ATM was damaged but no money had been stolen, police said.

However, just minutes later at 3:13 a.m., police were called to the 7-Eleven at 4818 N. Beauregard Street — just outside the Plaza at Landmark shopping mall — for an armed robbery, according to the FCPD.

“The suspects entered the store, implied they had a firearm and threatened the employee,” police said. “The suspects gained access to two separate ATMs at the business and left with an undisclosed amount of money.”

The FCPD believes the incidents were related, and detectives are investigating whether they might also be connected to a pair of ATM thefts, one of them involving a firearm, that occurred in Kingstowne last Thursday (Nov. 2).

On November 2 at 3:42 a.m., three suspects entered the 7-Eleven at 6147 Franconia Road in Kingstowne. The suspects displayed a firearm and stole money from the ATM. That morning, an employee reported someone attempted to steal money from the ATM at the Burke and Herbert Bank at 5519 Franconia Road. Detectives are investigating to determine if these cases are connected to the overnight incidents.

Alexandria police also responded to two robberies on Nov. 2 where the suspects reportedly took ATMs. In one case, they showed a handgun in the process.

The FCPD told FFXnow that “as of now,” it doesn’t have any information on the Alexandria incidents, but it is “diligently pursuing all leads to ensure the safety of our community.”

“Our dedicated detectives are collaborating closely with our regional law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate any potential connections,” the FCPD said.

Police arrested a man suspected of larceny and carjacking after he crashed at a Shell gas station in Tysons (via FCPD/Twitter)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A stolen vehicle wound up on top of a gas pump after a brief police chase near Tysons Corner Center yesterday (Monday).

Fairfax County police arrested a man suspected of larceny and carjacking after he crashed into the Shell gas station at 8103 Leesburg Pike around 4:36 p.m., according to the police scanner on Open MHz.

“The suspect was running from the mall after committing a larceny when he carjacked a second victim in a parking garage,” the Fairfax County Police Department said. “He left the location at a high rate of speed and crashed a short distance away.”

According to an update from FCPD, an officer responded to a store in Tysons Corner Center at 4:32 p.m. after loss prevention personnel reported seeing the man — identified as a 20-year-old from D.C. — steal “over $2,500 worth of merchandise.”

Upon seeing the officer, the man fled into a nearby parking garage, police say. Scanner traffic suggests the garage was the one outside Bloomingdale’s.

The FCPD says the man then tried to open the door of a 2013 Kia Optima that entered the garage.

“The victim, a teenager, was alarmed and drove away, with [the man] holding onto the door and being dragged for a short distance,” police said. “The victim stopped a short distance away and exited the car.”

Per the police scanner, an officer told the dispatcher at 4:32 p.m. that the man “carjacked somebody” and took off onto Route 7 (Leesburg Pike), jumping a curb in the process.

The officer said the suspect initially headed west before attempting to make a U-turn at Gallows Road. However, he lost control of his vehicle and “took out a gas station,” according to police.

The man got out of the car and briefly went into the convenience store but then came out and surrendered to police.

Officers said at 4:36 p.m. that no further police assistance was needed, but a Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department unit should be called.

“They got a fuel leak here. He nailed one of the gas pumps, took it out,” an officer said.

Police also requested an ambulance to treat injuries to the man, reporting that he sustained “facial injuries” after getting “dragged by the vehicle.”

The FCPD confirmed that the man was taken to a hospital for injuries not considered life-threatening, and the person who got carjacked didn’t get injured.

The man has been charged with carjacking and grand larceny, the FCPD announced today (Tuesday). He’s currently in custody at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond.

Fairfax County police vehicle with lights (file photo)

A Fairfax County Public School basketball coach is facing embezzlement charges.

Drew Smerdzinski, 33, of Herndon, embezzled money from a school event, the Fairfax County Police Department said today (Friday).

According to the FCPD, detectives began an investigation in July after the police department received a tip from FCPS about the possible misappropriation of funds by an employee.

Smerdzinski turned himself in yesterday (Thursday) after detectives obtained a warrant for him on Wednesday (Oct. 4). He was suspended from his position after his arrest, police said.

Smerdzinski was employed at James Madison High School in Vienna, but “the embezzlement occurred in relation to his role as a basketball coach,” an FCPD spokesperson says. He’s not listed in the school’s staff directory.

He was charged with felony embezzlement and released on an unsecured bond.

FCPS declined to comment, citing the police investigation.

Police allegedly found merchandise stolen from Macy’s at Tysons Corner Center after arresting a trio of shoplifting suspects (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Three people were arrested earlier this week for stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from Tysons Corner Center businesses, police say.

At 9:09 p.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 19), a worker at Sunglass Hut in the mall reported that the store had just been robbed, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Using the mall’s surveillance cameras, detectives with the department’s Tysons Urban Team unit determined that there were three suspects and they were still inside. One man and two women — all New York residents — were located and arrested.

“Approximately $15,000 worth of stolen merchandise was recovered,” the FCPD announced yesterday (Wednesday). “The stolen merchandise was found to belong to several businesses inside Tysons Corner Center to include Express, H&M, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle, Guess, and Sunglass Hut.”

The 20-year-old man has been charged with two counts of grand larceny, petit larceny, larceny with intent to sell , and conspiracy to commit larceny, according to the police department. When not committed against a person, Virginia defines grand larceny as thefts of $1,000 or more.

The two women, who are aged 19 and 20, have been been charged with two counts of grand larceny, larceny with intent to sell, and conspiracy to commit larceny.

All three individuals are being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on no bond, police said.

The arrests came just days after the FCPD reported late last week that its detectives had “busted” three other people — also identified as New York residents — for allegedly attempting to use a stolen credit card to buy $21,000 worth of merchandise from Louis Vuitton in Tysons Galleria.

As part of a summer crime prevention initiative, the police department cracked down on retail theft in June, which it said resulted in a drop in cases countywide that month. Incidents at Tysons Corner Center have continued to decline from 103 in May to 62 so far in September, according to FCPD data.

“Since the Summer Crime Prevention Initiative in June, we have seen a decrease in shoplifting incidents at 1961 Chain Bridge Road,” the department told FFXnow. “We recognize that shoplifting tends to increase in the fall toward the holiday season and will take steps to address this trend.”

Fairfax County police vehicle (file photo)

Shoplifting and assaults have gone up in Fairfax County so far this year, the county police department’s mid-year crime data shows.

The department released the report in coordination with the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), which ranks the nation’s 70 largest police departments by four crime categories: homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The report covered data from January to June.

Of all the reported offenses, shoplifting saw the largest uptick in the county, with numbers up by 50% to 3,736 incidents. There were 2,489 shoplifting incidents reported in the same time frame last year. Residential burglaries also increased by 20 incidents.

The county reported 15 carjackings — a small increase from 13 last year. There have been 45 more auto thefts, but thefts from vehicles and of vehicle parts have both declined. The Fairfax County Police Dpartment targeted those crimes last month as part of a summer-long crime prevention initiative.

“Our unwavering commitment to public safety drives our efforts to implement targeted patrols and deploy advanced crime prevention strategies, ” a news release read.

The number of assault offenses increased more than 13%, jumping from 4,348 to 4,931. In addition, about 15% more people have been charged this year with assaulting family members, a category that increased from 702 by the end of June in 2022 to 816 in 2023.

However, murders and forcible sex offenses decreased from 12 to 10 and 194 to 192, respectively.

Despite upticks in some categories, the police departments said the county is still the safest of its size.

“When all MCCA police departments are ranked by violent crime rating, we are proud to say Fairfax County remains the safest jurisdiction of its size,” the FCPD said.

Gholam and Karen Kowkabi own Divan, a Persian restaurant in McLean (staff photo by David Taube)

A Vienna couple who own multiple restaurants in the D.C. area, including Divan in McLean, pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this week to evading over $1 million in taxes and stealing COVID-19 relief funds.

As part of the plea agreement, Gholam Kowkabi, 63, and Karen Kowkabi, 64, will give the IRS the $1.35 million that they failed to pay in taxes related to their D.C. restaurants Ristorante Piccolo, Catch 15 and Tuscana West, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. announced on Monday (Aug. 14).

Gholam must also pay the Small Business Administration $738,657 in restitution for spending money from Covid loans intended to support Ristorante Piccolo on a “waterfront condo in Ocean City, Maryland, as well as personal investments, vacations for his family, and college tuition for his child,” according to the Department of Justice.

Those “personal investments” included Divan, a Persian and Mediterranean restaurant that opened at 1313 Old Chain Bridge Road in December 2021, per the press release.

A general manager for Divan said the restaurant had no comment on the case.

“This defendant robbed a program intended to help fellow restauranteurs and other small business owners who were struggling to stay afloat amid the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said in a statement. “He also created an elaborate scheme to hide assets and play a shell game with the IRS so he could avoid paying the more than one million dollars in taxes that he and his business owed. Our Office will continue to vigorously prosecute such frauds.”

Prosecutors say the Kowkabis admitted to “willfully” avoiding paying federal employment and income taxes and associated penalties from 1998 to 2018 by buying property through a separate entity and falsifying business records of the D.C. restaurants to hide personal purchases.

According to the DOJ, Gholam also obtained over $1.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds from May 13, 2020 to July 27, 2021 that businesses could use to cover payroll costs, rent and other expenses.

In these applications and loan agreements, Gholam Kowkabi fraudulently and falsely promised that the PPP, EIDL, and RRF proceeds would be used only for business-related and eligible purposes as specified in the applications. Instead, Gholam Kowkabi used a portion of the PPP funds, EIDL funds, and RRF funds for unauthorized purposes and for his own personal enrichment, including the purchase of a waterfront condo in Ocean City, Maryland for more than $500,000, two joint venture investments totaling more than $237,000 for the construction of homes in Great Falls, Virginia, and more than $78,500 to open Divan Restaurant in McLean, Virginia. Gholam Kowkabi spent more than $11,000 of COVID relief funds on his home mortgage, more than $14,000 on vacations, more than $62,000 on personal legal expenses, more than $20,000 on home improvement, and more than $5,500 on college tuition payments.

In addition to paying restitution to the SBA, Gholam has agreed to forfeit the Ocean City condo and the two joint ventures that were used to build the Great Falls homes and open Divan.

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion, which carry financial penalties as well as potential prison sentences totaling 25 years.

Karen Kowkabi pleaded guilty to five counts of willfully failing to pay taxes, a charge that could result in up to one year of jail time and fines.

“Tax evasion and misappropriation of COVID-19 relief funds undermine the integrity of our tax system and harm honest taxpayers,” Kareem Carter, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s D.C. Field Office, said. “IRS Criminal Investigation remains steadfast in its commitment to upholding tax compliance and pursuing those who attempt to evade their tax responsibilities.”

Sentencing hearings have been scheduled for Dec. 1, 2023.

This isn’t the first time Gholam has faced prison on tax-related charges. In 2006, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for taking at least $2 million in sales taxes from D.C., becoming the first person convicted under the District’s then-new law imposing jail time for sales taxes evasion, the Washington Times reported at the time.

Parked Fairfax County police vehicles (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Fairfax County Police Department is turning up the heat on vehicle thefts and break-ins, as summer enters its final month.

The department announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it will focus on auto thefts this August as part of its 2023 Summer Crime Prevention Initiative, which previously boosted enforcement around retail theft and driving under the influence.

“The Summer Crime Prevention team will intensify its efforts to prevent theft from vehicles and vehicle parts by implementing strategic and focused enforcement measures,” the FCPD said. “Officers will be stepping up their patrol efforts and focusing on areas of Fairfax County that have been historically targeted.”

Earlier this summer, the department was investigating a slew of thefts from cars in Reston that it said took place throughout May and June. More than 30 unlocked vehicles were targeted, with the suspects taking cash, purses, credit cards and other valuables.

As of June 27, police had recorded more than 1,000 incidents of people breaking into vehicles or entering unlocked vehicles so far in 2023. There had been over 580 stolen cars and motorcycles, exceeding the 440 thefts reported at that time in 2022.

The FCPD reported a total of 1,362 vehicle thefts in 2022 and 1,207 in 2021, according to an annual report published in May.

For this month’s crime prevention campaign, the FCPD says its officers “will migrate throughout the county to help deter and educate community members on ways to combat vehicle-related theft.”

“Airbags, laptops, cell phones, and other high-value property can all be easy targets if someone gains access to your vehicle,” the department said.

The department noted that community members can take some precautions to avoid being targeted:

  • Lock your car and avoid leaving your keys in the car.
  • Park in public places with lots of streetlights.
  • Keep the windows rolled up when you park.
  • Install car alarm systems and/or GPS systems.
  • Do not leave any personal or valuable belongings inside your car.
  • Do not leave your car turned on and unattended.
  • Do not leave a spare key where it can be found.
  • Utilize Security Cameras and floodlights.
  • Know where you’re going.
  • Practice proper automotive maintenance.
  • Always stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not store important personal documents in your vehicle.
Saks Fifth Avenue at Tysons Galleria (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Three people arrested for recently attempting to shoplift from Saks Fifth Avenue in Tysons Galleria were part of an “organized retail theft crew” based in Philadelphia, Fairfax County police say.

The three individuals — one man and two women — were seen picking up “multiple high-end handbags and other luxury merchandise” at the store on July 13, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Officers with the department’s Tysons Urban Team (TUT) had tracked the trio to the store after getting a tip from Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s regional loss prevention team that their vehicle — a gold Chevrolet Impala with Pennsylvania tags — had just left the company’s Chevy Chase store.

“With this information, TUT officers utilized [license plate reader] technology and learned that the vehicle had entered Virginia and was in the immediate vicinity,” the FCPD said. “The vehicle was located and observed by TUT units heading in the direction of Saks Fifth Avenue in McLean.”

After taking merchandise at Saks in Tysons, officers saw the individuals start toward the store’s exit without paying, according to police:

The vehicle’s occupants were observed by the TUT team entering the store. Once in the store, they selected multiple high-end handbags and other luxury merchandise and headed toward the exit without paying. When approached by the store’s Loss Prevention team, the two suspects ran. TUT units were already in the area and were able to take one suspect into custody. The other suspect was found in a nearby dumpster after a brief search of the area. The driver of the vehicle was soon located and taken into custody, as well.

The FCPD says approximately $15,000 worth of merchandise has been recovered. Some may be from another retail store that reported a theft by one of the suspects.

All three individuals face charges of grand larceny, larceny with intent to sell or distribute, conspiracy to commit larceny and organized retail theft.

A 26-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man, both from Philadelphia, have also been charged with resisting arrest. A 32-year-old woman faces additional charges of drug possession and eluding police by disregarding a law enforcement officer’s signal to stop.

They were all transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and initially held without bond. Fairfax County General District Court records indicate that the man has been released on recognizance, while both women remain in custody.

The women had bond hearings this morning (Tuesday). A preliminary hearing in the case has been scheduled for Sept. 27.

The FCPD has said that organized retail theft — where large quantities of merchandise are taken through theft or fraud with the intent of reselling the goods — has significantly increased over the past year. Police attributed a drop in incidents last month to enhanced enforcement and education efforts as part of a summer crime prevention initiative.

Shoplifting incidents in Fairfax County for 2023 (via FCPD)

Thefts at retail businesses in Fairfax County dropped sharply in June after spiking this spring, local police say.

The Fairfax County Police Department reported on Thursday (July 6) that there were 573 shoplifting offenses last month, down from 642 offenses in May and 603 in April. The department attributes the decline to its increased focus on retail thefts as part of a 2023 summer crime prevention initiative.

Before that, shoplifting had dipped down to 577 incidents in March after over 600 were recorded in both January and February.

“The summer months, particularly June, are notoriously the highest for shoplifting crime in Fairfax County,” the FCPD said. “However, with our efforts this month, we were able to achieve a significant decrease in this crime across the county.”

For the summer initiative, the department says officers increased patrols and community engagement in areas where there are frequent calls for service related to shoplifting and retail theft. Police also met with affected busineseses “to discuss the crimes occurring and offered tips about how they can keep their businesses safe.”

Notable incidents included an arrest of two people who allegedly stole over $10,000 worth of merchandise from a retailer in Tysons and an arrest on July 1 at Springfield Town Center that led to the recovery of $37,000 of allegedly stolen merchandise.

An officer assigned to the Springfield mall recognized two men who were wanted on felony charges for a previous theft, according to the FCPD.

“Upon seeing officers converging on them, the two men fled on foot but were quickly taken into custody,” police said. “Officers completed search warrants on their vehicle and hotel room which resulted in the recovery of security tag removal devices and over 15 large bags of stolen merchandise.”

The merchandise came from incidents in both Fairfax County and a neighboring jurisdiction, according to police.

The summer crime prevention initiative is focusing on different issues each month based on data trends, the FCPD says. For July, teams of officers from each district station are working with the DUI squad to crack down on drivers who are under the influence or otherwise present a danger on the roads.

“Officers will be strictly enforcing traffic laws associated with impaired driving and educating the public about the importance of safe driving habits,” the FCPD announced on June 30.


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