Laurence R. Penn, Senior Forensic Animation/Video Specialist
The storm which hit our area on Wednesday July 21st, 2021, was a wild one with extremely gusty winds, torrential rainfall, and golf-ball sized hail leaving streets blocked by downed power lines, cars riddled with dents, and homes extensively damaged by wind and fallen trees. After a lengthy and circuitous commute, constantly having to find alternate routes due to road closures, I returned home to find my family’s yard covered with shredded leaves, torn from the trees in the adjacent woodland by the barrage of hail. A huge, towering oak in our front yard was no match for the wind that whipped and twisted everything in its path, splintering it at the base of the trunk, sending it crashing into the power lines and fence. Our utility pole snapped, and lines were down along our driveway. As I stood in awe of the destruction, I could still hear parts of the tree cracking and snapping as it continued to settle into the drenched ground under its immense weight. Luckily, the tree fell in a direction that spared damage to nearby homes.
Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst
Apple is working to fight against child sexual abuse by scanning photos that are uploaded to iCloud for CSAM (child sexual abuse material). Apple is also trying to battle the child grooming chain by analyzing incoming and outgoing pictures in the Messages application for sexually explicit imagery. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft already have parameters set in place to monitor this form of illegal content on cloud-based platforms.
Apple will use an encrypted database of known CSAM images provided by different participating child safety organizations to scan these photos. An algorithm called NeuralHash will run each photo uploaded to iCloud from an Apple device through the CSAM database and will attempt to search for a match, even if the photo was altered, resized, or cropped.
Robert T. Lynch, P.E., Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer
Often in lane change collisions involving commercial vehicles on a highway, the exposed lug nuts from a steer tire on the commercial vehicle will create obvious damage to the door(s) of a passenger vehicle, with little to no damage to the truck itself. The lug nuts will dig into the side of the vehicle and create a circular swirl pattern from the rotating wheel which is imprinted onto the doors and/or panels while the vehicles are in contact with each other.
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer
Call Your Next Witness, a podcast about civil defense and insurance coverage strategy hosted by Brian Gibbons and Georgia Coats, featured Justin Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer and President of DJS Associates for the August 4th episode. Their discussion included potential challenges of Autonomous Vehicles, the use of Biomechanical v. Collision Reconstruction engineers, and the importance of experts “staying in their own lane.”
Listen to the full podcast here:
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.
Yuri A. Apel, Senior Electrical / Automotive Engineer
Over the past two years there have been more than 10 reported cases of 2017-2019 model year Chevy Bolt electric vehicles catching fire. While not much information has been released by GM and their battery supplier LG Chem, there have been multiple attempts to repair the problem.
After several attempts of rectifying the battery issue with software updates and warning customers not to charge their vehicle indoors (in case of fire), GM has finally opened a Recall Campaign to replace the batteries in 2017-2019 model year Chevy Bolts.
Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst
Venmo, owned by PayPal, is a mobile payment service that allows users to pay and request money from other users. Once money is received, a “Venmo Balance” is created. Money in the Venmo Balance can be utilized for future transactions through Venmo, or can be transferred to the linked bank account.
Venmo data can be utilized in forensic investigations and can be subpoenaed, or the data can be requested directly from Venmo by the owner of the account. Below is some of the data I received from Venmo, which contains transaction history for the month of September in 2020. Venmo retains all of a user’s transactions, dating back to when Venmo was created in 2009.
Note the different datatypes presented in the table below including timestamps of when the transaction occurred; whether a payment was made or if money was transferred to the bank; whether payment failed or was complete; description of what the transaction was for; parties involved in the transaction; amount of money transacted; where the money came from; and, where the money was transferred to. Within the notes column, there are some illegible characters. These characters represent emojis. Emojis are not viewable in this format, but if you look below the table, we can still view the emojis employed.
Venmo data can be evaluated to discover associates of a given person of interest. Frequent transactions with someone may bring a new suspect to light. In a drug investigation, investigators may analyze Venmo transactions to trace activity back to a drug dealer.
Case Study: After being pulled over for a routine traffic violation, police found three grams of cocaine in the defendant’s vehicle. During his deposition, the defendant stated that he gets his cocaine on Thursday nights and typically spends $500. The defendant refused to give up the name of his drug dealer. Upon review of the defendant’s Venmo account activity, weekly transactions with “Pablo Escobar” in the amount of $500 every Thursday around 7:30pm were uncovered. The note that described what the transactions were for included the snowflake emoji. “Snow” is a known slang for cocaine. Of course, Pablo Escobar was not the name listed in the account activity, but we were able to ID the drug dealer based on the first and last name available.
Venmo data has endless applications in the forensic world. Showing that someone paid their friend $15 for Applebee’s provides investigators with a potential witness and location of where the person of interest was prior to an incident. Venmo data may be overlooked in scenarios involving a DUI. Learning where the driver was drinking can lead to statements from the bartender or wait staff indicating how much the person drank. If you ever have a case that you need to know what events occurred prior to an incident, consider collecting data from Venmo, social media platforms, or the person’s cell phone.
Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.