‘Stalking on steroids': Pricey pranks tormenting Utah family, multiple businesses
North Salt Lake police call stalking case the worst they’ve seen; family feels ‘trapped’ in own home
NORTH SALT LAKE — It began in August with a tow-truck company that showed up at Walt Gilmore's North Salt Lake home.
"He said, 'We're here to take a car from your driveway,'" recalled Gilmore. "I said, 'No, you're not.'"
But that was just the beginning.
For the next seven months, the parade of people showing up to Gilmore's house expecting to provide services has been nearly nonstop.
"Electricians, plumbers, people wanting to trim my trees. Tow trucks are the biggest concern to us,” he said. "I’d have up to 20 people per day coming to my home offering services and telling me that I asked them to come."
While some might think Gilmore is the victim of someone's ultimate prank, he said it's no laughing matter — especially since not all of the people who are showing up are offering services or even have good intentions.
"They have police records. Criminals. Felons. Active warrants for their arrests coming to my home. They’re looking for drugs. They’re offering prostitution. And it’s pretty concerning to me, my family, and my entire neighborhood that these folks are there,” he said.
"These are individuals who come to our home in the middle of the night — 10, 11 o’clock, 1, 2, 3 in the morning. Five-thirty this morning I had another one out there, I had to call the police."
North Salt Lake police say they have never seen a stalking case like this one before.
Today’s technology allows him to be at my front door right now. And that is incredibly emotional for my family and me. – Walt Gilmore
"It’s pretty vindictive in what they’re doing,” said Sgt. Mitch Gwilliam. "Stalking is stalking. But this is stalking on steroids. It’s pretty vicious."
Police cannot comment much about the case, saying it's still an active investigation. The person responsible is spoofing numerous numbers — or using a program that makes it look like a call is being placed by a different number other than the phone actually being used — making the calls nearly impossible to trace.
The stalker has also been sending services to Gilmore's house by spoofing text messages.
Police are now using voice recognition programs for the calls that were recorded in an effort to positively identify the person causing the harassment.
Gilmore said his family believes they know who is responsible. They believe it's a man who lives out of state and they have filed a civil stalking injunction against him — which they say he continues to ignore — while hoping that criminal charges can be filed. Court records say the suspected stalker lives in Hawaii.
"This individual doesn’t work. This is all he does,” Gilmore said. "This is a stalking. This is an ultimate stalking issue. We know who the fellow is. A family member knows him but does not have any further interaction with this individual.
"And this is his way of getting back at our family because we don’t want to have anything to do with him."
Stalking is stalking. But this is stalking on steroids. It’s pretty vicious. – Sgt. Mitch Gwilliam
While Gilmore's family is dealing with the situation, he wants service providers to know that if they get a call for service in North Salt Lake, that they should first try to verify whether it's a legitimate call.
Since the stalking began, police estimate that companies have lost a combined total of more than $20,000 in man hours and uncollected service fees. And that's something Gilmore wants stopped.
He said one Utah County environmental cleanup company got a call on a Saturday from a man purporting to be Gilmore, claiming that his entire house was flooding.
"This contractor in Utah County rounded up four of his crews, four different large crews … and they ran up here from Utah County with four big trucks and got to my home, and it’s a scam. There’s nothing wrong with my home,” Gilmore said.
It cost the company an estimated $4,000 to round up the crews and make the trip — all for nothing, he said.
"I’ve had people come down out of Idaho and provide services to my home, and this guy has pranked them,” Gilmore added.
The stalker has even sent pizzas to Gilmore's office in Salt Lake City as part of the spoofing scam.
While the majority of people who show up at Gilmore's house have been understanding, he said the stalker has also taken to hiring people online using a specific website that lists people for hire, in order to spy on his family.
Gilmore has caught people taking pictures of his house, looking inside his windows late at night, and sitting in their cars while parked in front of his house with the headlights off while talking on the phone, possibly with the stalker. The perpetrator will then contact a family member to describe what Gilmore's family is doing, just to let them know he's watching, he said.
"I feel trapped in my home. I feel threatened. I feel as though this individual is stalking us even though he’s several thousand miles away from us. Today’s technology allows him to be at my front door right now. And that is incredibly emotional for my family and me.
"My wife is scared to death constantly. My other family members don’t like to go outside because they don’t know who’s coming. This is very threatening. And it’s not only threatening to my family but my entire neighborhood,” Gilmore said.
All of his neighbors are aware of the situation and help the family watch for strangers.
"When there’s a car that shouldn’t be there, we call the police immediately,” he said.
And as of the end of February, officers had been called to the Gilmore home more than 80 times since November. And that number has grown even higher over the past three weeks.
Oftentimes, those police visits have resulted in people with outstanding warrants being arrested.
Gilmore has put a sign in his front yard to let actual services providers know that they are likely being pranked. A North Salt Lake police car is also now parked in front of his house around the clock. When Gilmore actually needs services for his house, he said he will contact people he already has relationships with.
Until police can collect the evidence they need to issue an arrest warrant, Gilmore said he's not taking the situation lightly, and will continue to do all he can to keep his family safe, and try and warn service providers so they don't lose any more money.