“A caller pretending to be a police officer was apparently convincing enough to talk some managers into sexually abusing fast-food employees.” So is the premise for the new Netflix docuseries Don’t Pick Up The Phone about the chilling story of a strip-search phone call scam—streaming Dec. 14.
It was local podcaster Javier Leiva who first featured the prank caller scammer—the first two of his calls reported in 1992, and one of the last in March 2004—on his Pretend podcast back in October 2019. His coverage of the nationwide prank later drew the attention of WAG Entertainment, who approached Leiva about his work in September 2021 and tapped him for the docuseries to provide his research and contacts to help piece the story together.
“They interviewed me for five hours about some of the most famous parts of the crime,” he says. (Peep his appearance in Episode 3!)
The crime itself is an interesting one. For 10 years, hoax caller David Richard Stewart was accused of pretending to be a police officer to convince fast-food managers to strip-search employees. Stewart would remain on the phone with the managers and ask them to ask their female employees to do other tasks like jog naked and perform jumping jacks.
Some of the managers ended up violating employees such as Louise Ogborn, an 18-year-old McDonald’s employee who was strip searched and forced to perform sexual acts on the manager’s fiance.
“These are people who would have never done that if they weren’t following an order from an authority figure,” says Leiva.
Ogborn’s act was caught on closed-circuit camera, launching an investigation that led to Stewart being charged and arrested with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy in 2004. However, Stewart was acquitted of all charges two years later.
“People are fascinated with con artists because they’re more likely to fall prey to a conniving scammer, unlike serial killers,” says Leiva. “This documentary shows how a master manipulator can convince ordinary people to commit crimes on their behalf.”
Leiva adds: “It’s kind of cool to think these stories that I found are something somebody thought would make a great docuseries on Netflix. If you told me five years ago when I started this podcast I would end up on Netflix, I would have laughed.”
Certainly, the crime is no laughing matter—but it is next-level to see a local face on Netflix (!).