(WSVN) - Crime doesn’t pay, but helping police crack a case does. Rewards are promised for tips that lead to arrests, but as two South Florida tipsters found out, it’s not always easy to cash in. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin Investigates.
Hilda Garcia was crossing the street with her walker back in June when she was hit by a car and dragged 100 feet.
Victim’s nephew: “Ran her over and killed her instantly, and didn’t even look back.”
The 76-year-old was killed and the driver didn’t stop.
Victim’s nephew: “If you don’t come forward, you will live in a living hell every day.”
After the fatal hit-and-run, the woman’s family and Miami Police pleaded for information about the driver who took off.
Miami Police: “The vehicle we are looking for is a 2005 to 2009.”
These two friends had the information police were looking for. They requested their identities be kept anonymous.
Tipster 1: “I kept seeing, you know, between Channel 7 News and The Miami Herald, that this family was begging for anyone that had any information to come forward.”
The men knew where the damaged car was, so they called Crime Stoppers. But the day after the call — still no arrest.
The tipsters called Miami Police directly and met with detectives.
Tipster 2: “They told us they had nothing. It was a cold case. That if it wasn’t for the tip and the help that we did, the gentleman would have been walking free because there was no evidence whatsoever.”
After the tipsters gave police the location of the car, the officers started looking for the suspect, and that’s when Ricardo Gonzalez turned himself in.
The tipsters said they were promised the $3,000 Crime Stoppers reward.
Tipster 1: “The sergeant said, ‘You guys qualify for the compensation. I’m going to go ahead and get everything processed.'”
However, when it was time to collect the money, the sergeant called and said there was a problem.
Tipster 1: “You guys do not qualify for the reward because your name is all over the police report.”
The issue is, the men did not only call Crime Stoppers, they also called Miami Police, and that made them no longer anonymous. If you’re not anonymous, you cannot qualify for a Crime Stoppers reward.
Suzette Rice, Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers president: “Getting our message out, that you have to be anonymous, and we want to pay the reward out, is very important.”
Anonymity is key with Crime Stoppers because if someone is not anonymous, then they become a witness. Giving a witness a reward can cause problems when prosecuting the case in court, because it can appear that they were paid for their testimony.
Tipster 1: “I was shocked. No one mentioned to me that my name was going to be on the report.”
Even though they won’t be getting the reward money, these men say, they’re still proud they stepped up and did the right thing.
Tipster 2: “I’m very glad that the family got some peace. That the actual person who did the crime is behind bars.”
Thanks to their tip, Ricardo remains locked up.
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