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That call went to Jakob's own phone, the FBI would later discover, and was answered by his girlfriend, Chelsea Potter.
Potter declines to comment about the call. She also denies she and Jakob were anything more than friends.
FBI investigative documents show that in March 2008 the Gerald city clerk secretly swore in Jakob as an "undercover federal agent" at Chief McCrary's request. The clerk told the FBI that the chief would not tell her Jakob's name and informed her that no one would know his identity.
Gerald mayor Otis Schulte says he and the town's board of aldermen learned of Jakob at about the same time and were told the mission was "top secret" and that none of the officials would meet the officer.
Schulte adds that he and an alderman did unexpectedly meet Jakob at city hall two months later. "He tells us, 'My boss thinks we're doing such a good job here that when I leave, we're going to leave my police car here,'" says the mayor.
That encounter came only two weeks before Schulte and his fellow officials made Jakob a city employee on May 8. "None of us caught it [at the meeting] that night — that you couldn't be a federal officer and a reserve police officer for the city at the same time," Schulte says. "Not anyone on the council, not our city attorney."
A week later, halfway around the world, Chief Zelch saw the headlines about the fake cop in his hometown.
"I was at a base near the Iranian border and they had FOX News on, and there it was!" he says with a laugh. "In Ryan [McCrary]'s defense, I could see how somebody could be fooled for a little while. But the moment we start working together, I need to be satisfied that you are indeed a certified cop."
Bill Jakob and Debra Lovell were pen pals for four years while Lovell served time in a state prison for several violent crimes. When she got out in early 2008, she asked Jakob — whom she believed to be a federal officer — to look into suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of her sister's adoptive father. Jakob agreed, and on March 8, 2008, he drove to St. Joseph to meet with Lovell and interview her sister, Melissa Baker.
"He was slick as shit," Baker recalls. Jakob, she says, recorded their interview. "[He] told me that what I was saying had to be true or I could be punished under penalty of law. It didn't appear to be anything but on the up-and-up. He goes: 'We already have his records from the hospital, the blood work that they did, and we can't tell you anything definite, but yes, they did find a chemical in his system that shouldn't have been there.'"
Baker says after Jakob left, she never heard from him again.
"My sister and I come from a family of criminals," she adds. "You'd think we'd have spotted this guy from a mile away."
Not long afterward, Jakob made his Gerald debut.
FBI investigators would learn that he'd told local police officers and their friends that he'd worked stints for the DEA and for "border patrol" in the South. When an officer asked him how to apply for a job with the latter, Jakob purportedly told him that "during the hiring process they make you take a language test. The language was not a real language, it was made-up. Jakob said they were just trying to determine if you could learn it."
Jakob said he joined the "Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force" in East St. Louis "back in the 'good old' days," and was "given money to go to the strip clubs to bust 'crack heads.'" He liked to refer to his gun as his American Express card, as in: "Never leave home without it."
But he also tried to keep his cover. The FBI heard that Jakob had made it known that it was a crime to disclose the identity of a federal agent and that the instant anyone ran his license plate, a GPS-like "ping" would go out to federal law enforcement.
For a time Jakob operated undercover in Gerald, trying to collect information at local eateries and posing at the station as a suspect under arrest. He sported all the law-and-order accoutrements: a badge he purchased off the Internet, a 2003 white Crown Victoria he bought for $3,500 and pimped out with antennas and radios, and a .45-caliber handgun. (The department offered him a Glock; Jakob preferred his own sidearm.)
On April 24, 2008, Jakob began operating in the open.
That morning he and a friend, fellow Mason John Erfurdt, were en route to a shooting range when Jakob got a call from the Gerald PD requesting his help.
Though Erfurdt, then a jailer for the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, knew Jakob to have toiled at different jobs, he says he believed Jakob was a credentialed federal agent. (Erfurdt had even accompanied Jakob to St. Joseph two months earlier to meet with Melissa Baker; he says Jakob told him it would count toward state-mandated professional-development hours.)
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