Venmo Transactions Reveal Alternative Timeline

Young man using cell phone at a bar with friends.

Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst

Case Summary: A fatal incident occurred in a small town when a young man left a local bar and was later found deceased following a single-vehicle crash on a back road. The initial narrative told by friends of the deceased and the bartender who was working that evening portrayed a seemingly straightforward case of a patron having a few drinks, playing games, and leaving alone.

According to their statements, the man had spent several hours at the bar playing darts and billiards, while enjoying drinks with friends.  He paid for his drinks and departed alone.  Three hours later, his crashed vehicle was discovered wrapped around a tree along a secluded back road.  His family filed a lawsuit against the bar, alleging that Decedent was served alcohol while visibly intoxicated.

Digital Discrepancies:  The initial analysis seemed to align with the narrative provided by the man’s friends and the bartender.  Credit card statements from the bar matched their stories, indicating the decedent’s presence and activities at the establishment.  However, close examination of photos on the decedent’s phone revealed a different timeline, involving additional locations.  The most recent pictures on his camera role contradicted the initial story, showing that he had continued his night at a second bar.  Review of the metadata confirmed that the photos were taken an hour after the man had left the first bar.

New Witness Account:  The additional witness confirmed that Decedent continued drinking at the second bar and appeared to be the more intoxicated of the pair.  The friend assumed that Decedent would walk or Uber home instead of attempting to drive his own vehicle.  

The use of digital forensics played a pivotal role in untangling the truth and uncovering crucial information from Decedent’s Venmo transaction records.  The mobile payment helped to corroborate the revised timeline established by the photos on Decedent’s phone. 

This case highlights the potential for digital payment platforms like Venmo to provide crucial evidence in relation to dramshop claims and underscores the importance of thoroughly examining digital records beyond credit card statements to validate incident timelines.  As technology continues to evolve, similar techniques may be extended to competing digital payment platforms, such as PayPal, CashApp, and Zelle.  Valuable insights into a person’s activities and/or events leading to an incident can be extracted from digital transactions for drugs, prostitution, or even rent payments.

Categories: Mobile Forensic Analyst | Mobile Forensics | Timothy R. Primrose

Tags: Cell Phone Downloads | Cell Phones | Digital Evidence | Digital Payment | Impaired Driver | Venmo


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