It's a story that Dick Wolf would approve of: A receptionist helped the cops catch a career criminal by setting aside a paper cup he used—all thanks to the armchair detective knowledge she acquired from watching crime dramas like Law & Order: SVU! Of course, the cops initially declined to take evidence—Detective Eliot Stabler would totally rage out about that.

According to the NY Post, Justine Faeth, 24, "was in the company's lobby at 6 E. 39th St. on June 15 when smooth-talking ex-con Kevin Moore, 50, walked in at around 1:30 p.m." He then "distracted Faeth by asking for a glass of water, and after drinking half of it, blew his nose in a tissue, put the rag in the paper cup and left it on the front desk, she said." The old "can I have some water and blow my nose out" scam! Before she knew it, Moore had left with an iPod, cellphone and wallet! But that's when life-imitates-art inspiration struck:

"When they are trying to get DNA from a suspect on 'SVU' and that person is unwilling to give them a sample, they trick them into drinking water and then use that as evidence," Faeth told The Post yesterday.

"I knew to save the cup at least for fingerprints -- the show taught me that," she said. "It's amazing what you can learn on a TV show."

So the worker said she made sure the cup remained set aside until the cops came.

The only thing is that the cops said the DNA evidence wasn't necessary, because it wasn't a rape or murder—so she threw away the evidence... only for detectives to come back and ask for it! Luckily, the garbage crew hadn't taken her trash and the police traced the DNA to Moore, who is believed to be behind at least similar robberies (including ones where he pretended to ask about lessons at Alvin Ailey Dance Studios and took a tour of a gym, where he robbed a back office).

As for the initial cop's claim that they didn't need the cup, police spokesman Paul Browne said, "We do not know that the officer said that."