Chris Kunz, WKYC-TV
ERIE, PENN. - Up to $50,000 was offered to the person or persons who called in the tip that led police to Facebook shooter Steve Stephens.
But who is actually going to get the money? How much will they get? And who makes the decision?
WKYC's Consumer Investigator Danielle Serino found out how the rewards system works, and let's just say... it's complicated.
Every agency has its own way of doing things, and in some cases, the tipster won't get anything at all.
In fact, we found out, whoever was directly involved, may only get a small portion of the reward money that was offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Marshals Service.
None of those agencies will give any specifics on the tipster or tipsters, citing policy.
What we do know is the tipster is an employee at an Erie, Pennsylvania McDonald's. When Stephens came through the drive-thru, the employee recognized him and stalled him, telling him his fries weren't ready to give another employee time to call 911.
Stephens fled when police arrived and shot and killed himself a short time later.
The only agency that confirms they will pay a reward is the U.S. Marshals Service, which has pledged up to $10,000 to the total amount.
The FBI's portion of the reward is up to $30,000. We learned what they give is based upon the arrest and, here's the key word: ”successful prosecution” of a fugitive. But since Stephens committed suicide, this is a unique case.
“We'll interview people. Once that happens, of course FBI agents that are involved with the case, along with administration, also headquarters in D.C., will make that determination if it’s going to happen and how much is going to be paid to whom," said FBI special agent Vicki Anderson.
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms told us in a phone call that it’s offered up to $10,000 and will make its decision on who will get what, if anything, after talking with the other agencies involved.
"The folks that are doing the investigation will sit down and look where any tips may have come from, how productive those leads were, and they'll work from there,” said Suzanne Dabkowsky of the ATF.
There's also Crime Stoppers. They may contribute more money, and they don't need a conviction, just an arrest of a wanted felon and/or indictment.
Anyone who calls can remain anonymous. That's because you're only assigned a code number. You use that number to call back to check on the status of your report. The agency’s board of directors decides whether a payout is warranted, and you could get up to $2,500 in cash.
Crime Stoppers tells us that since 2010, tipsters have helped them make 1,080 arrests, and since 1984, the agency has paid out $1.4 million. Those numbers could have been much higher because, believe it or not, many people don't ask for the reward.
WKYC also asked the other agencies for statistics on the average percentage they pay out of total rewards offered, but couldn't get an answer. The FBI did confirm, though, you have to pay taxes on any money you get.
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