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WalMart shoplifter headbutts cashier

Police are trying to identify a man who headbutted a WalMart cashier while shoplifting last week.

An image from a surveillance video shows the man at the store on East Broadway Avenue in Spokane Valley.

A cashier told police he approached the man when he saw him walking toward the west exit with a large bulge in his sweatshirt about 12:45 a.m. July 24.

The man tried to exit, but the doors were locked, so he headbutted the cashier and escaped through a fire exit, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. The thief dropped stolen items in the process.

The Sheriff''s Office released the surveillance photo today in hopes someone will recognize the man.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Jack Rosenthal at (509) 220-6424 or at (509) 477-3186.
  

Exercising man loses BMW, gun, wallet

A car was recovered minutes after it was stolenin north Spokane recently when the alleged thief’s friend turned him in.

The 73-year-old owner, Robert B. Renz, parked his 2006 BMW at 8121 N. Division St. before exercising at the North Park Athletic Club on Friday.

Renz secured his wallet and keys in a locker, but someone opened the locker and stole them, then stole his BMW with a loaded Smith and Wesson .357 revolver inside, according to court documents.

Before he saw his car was missing, Renz was informed by the front desk that a man called and said he knew where the stolen BMW was.

That man told police his friend Matthew J. Gillette, 23, called him looking to sell a gray 2006 BMW. The man said he knew Gillette stole the car from the athletic club, so he called club employees and returned it to Renz.

But the gun and Renz’s wallet containing $400 still were missing. Soon, a person described in court documents as someone “who has been given special police considerations” told police Gillette was at the McDonald’s parking lot on North Division, near the athletic club.

Police arrested him there, and he told them the gun was in his room at the Howard Johnson Inn. He said he dumped the wallet, which included Renz’s military identification, in a Dumpster behind Jack in the Box and spent the cash on Oxycodone “to keep him from getting sick,” according to court documents.

Police retrieved the gun and booked Gillette into jail on charges of theft of a motor vehicle, theft of a firearm, second-degree theft, trafficking in stolen property and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Gillette has felony drug and forgery convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms. He was jailed on $20,000 for the new charges and $20,000 warrant for theft and stolen property charges filed July 10.

Thief strikes children’s music nonprofit

Someone stole about $5,000 in equipment from a downtown cafe and concert house last weekend.

A thief or thieves climbed in an open but barred window in the back courtyard the Village Cafe and Concert House., 171 S. Washington St., and stole recording equipment, guitars, appliances, an air conditioner and power tools, said owner Doug LaPlante.

LaPlante is remodeling the building with a couple of friends and said the bars on the window were so narrow he didn't think anyone could fit through. Apparently he was wrong, and the window has since been boarded up.

“In the last 30 years I don't ever remember it being broken into,” LaPlante said. He recalled playing there in the 1990s. He's leased the space for about a year. It serves as a fundraising spot for LaPlante's nonprofit, the Village Experience, which provides free music lessons, instruments, and recording access to children.

A fundraiser is planned for Aug. 31 at Ugly Bettie's, 211 N. Division St.

Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Spokane man convicted of $700k fraud

A federal jury convicted a Spokane man of 20 felonies Thursday for a scheme that cost a Coeur d'Alene woman her high-end riverside home.

Samuel Thomas Geren Jones, 31, faces up to 20 years in prison for each of 19 wire fraud counts when he's sentenced Oct. 5, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He's allowed to stay out of jail until sentencing.

Jones was convicted of the wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises after a seven-day trial in U.S. District Court.

Jones' co-defendant, Travis “T.J.” Sneed, a former Washington legislative candidate and aide to Jim West, was sentenced last August to about five years in prison.

Sneed, (pictured) who had solicited fraudulent letters of support to present at his sentencing, also is to be on probation for three years, perform 320 hours of community service and pay about $732,000 in restitution. That’s the amount of money loaned to Sneed using victim Dawn Forest’s home as collateral.

“I’ll never see any of it,” Forest said at Sneed's sentencing.

Sneed, 29, is serving his 63-month sentence at a federal prison in Colordao. He testified at Jones' trial.

The scheme developed when Forest allowed Sneed and Jones, who were in a romantic relationship, to live in the basement of her home on South Canal Street along the Spokane River and take out a loan on her mortgage. Forest said she learned her home was being foreclosed by reading the newspaper. Sneed and Jones also bilked three people of about $165,000 by selling them products via the Internet that they never received.

Jones and Sneed were indicted in July 2010.

“This jury's verdict sends the strong message that those who bilk trusting investors will be caught and punished,” Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho, said in a prepared statement.  “In these difficult economic times, fraud schemes pose an even greater threat to our communities.  I commend the hard and thorough work of FBI Special Agent Bryant Gunnerson, prosecutor Nancy Cook and the many others who brought these two men to justice.”

Who is this Coeur d’Alene car prowler?

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Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help identify a man caught on tape trying to break into vehicles at a Coeur d'Alene car lot.

Surveillance video shows the man trying to enter locked vehicles at Midtown Motors, 1008 N. 4th St., July 14 about 4:50 a.m.

Anyone with information on the man's identity is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

2 More WSU Defenders Arrested

Two Washington State football players were arrested in separate incidents over the weekend, marking the third and fourth projected defensive starters to be arrested this offseason. Defensive end/ outside linebacker Travis Long was arrested Friday for suspicion of minor in possession of alcohol by the Pullman Police Department. According to Pullman Police logs, Long's date of birth is listed as July 24, 1991, meaning he turned 21 on Tuesday. Defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi was arrested two days later on suspicion of third-degree theft at 1690 S.E. Harvest Dr., the address of the Walmart shopping center in Pullman. Long and Laurenzi mark the third and fourth starters on the front seven to be arrested since head coach Mike Leach was hired in December/Andrew Nemec, Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here. (Dean Hare Daily News photo of Travis Long)

Question: Ah, is there a problem here?

Murdered man’s apartment burglarized

The family of a Western Washington man shot and killed nearly two weeks ago went to his Liberty Lake apartment to collect his things, only to find it burglarized and his newly purchased assault rifle missing.

Ryan Crews Mumm, 20, had been living in the area attending Spokane Community College, according to news reports.

He was shot and killed July 14 at Blue Stilly Park in Arlington in what police described as a dispute over $20 of marijuana. Suspect Dennis R. Watters, 41, of Tulalip, is in jail.

Mumm grew up in Arlington, and his family lives there. His sister, Jessica Olson, traveled to Liberty Lake to remove his items from the apartment at 22809 E. Country Vista Dr. and found it burglarized. An open rifle case sat on the living room floor. Olson said Mumm had bought a firearm at Cabela’s a couple months ago.

Liberty Lake police Detective Ray Bourgeois obtained a search warrant for Cabela’s firearm records that indicated the gun was a Romarm AK-47 assault rifle purchased by Mumm on Feb. 12. He entered the gun as stolen.

Reward targets Davenport Hotel thief

A Spokane man who stole laptop computers from a convention at the Davenport Hotel is wanted by Crime Stoppers after ditching drug addiction treatment.

 Sean Alexander Blair, 31, hasn't reported to the Washington Department of Corrections since leaving rehab on April 25. A no-bail warrant was issued July 11 for his arrest.

He already was facing felony theft and drug charges when police identified him last year as a suspect in Nov. 17 thefts at the Davenport Hotel, which occurred as the Tri-State Grain Growers convened at the upscale hotel in downtown Spokane.

Blair was sentenced to drug rehab as part of his sentence for felony property crime convictions. He told his rehab counselor he liked the feeling meth gave him; addiction experts say financial problems and family issues may contribute to his use.

Anyone with information on Blair's location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Boy home alone meets ‘prolific burglar’

Spokane police arrest burglary suspect Jay M. Shippy, 23, on Monday. (SPDphoto)

A 13-year-old boy home alone came face to face with a man police describe as a “prolific burglar” after the thief smashed in a basement window Monday, authorities allege.

The boy was at his home in the 400 block of West Carlisle Avenue while his mother was at work when he heard a knock on his door about 12:35 p.m. He looked out the window and saw a man identified by police as Jay Michael Shippy, 23, walking away.

Shippy already is charged in Spokane County Superior Court for a string of burglaries, including one in January at the home of prominent lawyer Carl Oreskovich. He was out of jail awaiting trial when he was arrested Monday.

The boy heard another knock a few minutes later, then heard a window being broken. He heard the basement door knob turning and yelled “hello” before running out the front door to his neighbor's home to call police.

The boy saw the burglar running from behind the home, and they met in the driveway before the boy ran to the neighbor's and the man ran eastbound, according to court documents.

Officer Nate Spiering chased Shippy in his motorcycle before arresting him a few blocks from the Carlisle home. Shippy had a backpack with jewelry inside as well as gardening gloves.

Shippy already is awaiting trial on 23 felony charges related to an alleged burglary spree with Randle “Kyle” Phelps, 29, and Jessica L. Davis, 25.

Shippy is accused with Davis of burglarizng Oreskovich's home on Jan. 19. The longtime lawyer told police he arrived home about 5:30 p.m. and saw an unknown man and woman standing in his home, according to court documents. One ran out the front door and the other the back. Oreskovich reported missing $300 in coins, a laptop and gold jewelry. He told police he'd left his door unlocked, according to court documents.

After Shippy was arrested in April, he directed deputies to Oreskovich's home while giving a tour of places he'd burglarized. Shippy was released shortly after his arrest because charges weren't immediately filed.

Shippy pleaded not guilty to the charges in June after being summonsed to court and was allowed to stay out of jail on his own recognizance. Now he's back behind bars.

Pot thief shot in head sent to prison

A Spokane man who was shot in the head while trying to steal marijuana plants from a home last fall has sentenced to prison.

Joseph A. Gariepy, 41, was shot by Darcee Kapfer as he and Raymond Paul Bates, 49, tried to steal marijuana plants from Kapfer's home at 1023 E. Gordon Ave. on Oct. 3. He was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison last week after pleading guilty to eight felonies.

Kapfer, who was legally allowed to possess the plants because of a state authorization card, is not facing charges. She did not notify police about the shooing but said in an interview with detectives that she shot the would-be thief after he grabbed a piece of wood. Kapfer reportedly told police, “I'm pretty sure I hit him. I'm a pretty good shot.”

Bates was arrested Oct. 3 with a gunshot wound to his head; a tipster later told police she'd removed a bullet from Gariepy's head shortly after the shooting.

Police compared Gariepy's DNA to blood stains found in the getaway car, a brown 1976 Ford Courier truck located near an alley in the 4500 block of North Division Street three days after the shooting.

Officers noted a wound on Gariepy's right ear consistent with a bullet when he was arrested Oct. 27.

Gariepy was sentenced last week to 87 months in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree burglary, second-degree robbery, residential burglary, second-degree theft, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of an unlawful firearm, first-degree possession of stolen property and second-degree malicious mischief.  He is a repeat offender suspect with a 26-year criminal history, according to Crime Stoppers.

Bates was sentenced in December to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance, second-degree robbery and residential burglary.

Boise man arrested for trying to steal full shopping cart of Legos

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Authorities are building a case against a Boise man accused of trying to steal $400 worth of Lego sets. KTVB reports (http://bit.ly/SFeiBu ) 31-year-old Jeremy Mark Liedtke was arrested Monday for attempting to steal the Legos from a Boise store in late June. According to the Ada County Jail, Liedtke was taken into custody on a felony burglary charge and has since been released on bond. He is accused of filling up a shopping cart with Legos and then leaving the store without paying for the toys. Police say that when store employees confronted Liedtke in the parking lot, he fled. A felony warrant had been issued for his arrest. Court records show he will be arraigned next Tuesday in Idaho's 4th District Court on felony burglary and petit theft charges.

Ex-NFL player hopes for return of rings

Police recovered this 1985 Super Bowl ring belonging to to Stefan Humphries after it was stolen in a burglary in June. Other memorabilia still is missing. (SPDphoto)

A former pro football player whose championship rings were stolen when his home was ransacked in Spokane says he’s hopeful he’ll see the memorabilia again.

“But we’ll see,” said Stefan Humphries, former director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute. “It’s like a nightmare.”

Humphries, who played on the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl championship team, said he’s devastated by the loss but won’t let it sour his outlook on Spokane, where he lived for seven years before accepting a job in Nevada last month.

Read the rest of my story here.

La. cop fired for stealing suspect’s phone

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A 27-year-old police officer in Louisiana has resigned after authorities say he stole an iPhone from the scene of a drunken-driving crash.

Cpl. Tommy Stubbs, a police spokesman in Baton Rouge, says the phone wasn't in the car when the driver got out of jail. Stubbs says a tracking feature showed that its name had been changed to “Jake Chustz's iPhone,” and the driver recognized the name as that of an officer who had worked at the wreck June 2. He filed a complaint.

Stubbs says Chustz (SHOOTS) was booked late Wednesday with felony theft and malfeasance in office, and resigned early Thursday. He had worked for the department for five years.

An online jail listing shows he's free on $10,000 bond. A message left at a listing for Jake Chustz wasn't immediately returned.

Rose Bowl ring stolen in Spokane found

A Rose Bowl championship ring belonging to former Spokane doctor and ex-pro football player Stefan Humphries was among items recovered during a recent police investigation into a series of burglaries in the Spokane area.

But police still are looking for a Denver Broncos AFC Championship ring and a gold and diamond 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl pendant belonging to Humphries, the former medical director at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute now working in Nevada. (Humphries was the drummer in the team's Super Bowl Shuffle video.)

Members of the Spokane Police Department's targeted crimes unit located the ring and other stolen property in a hotel room in Post Falls, Idaho, after arresting repeat offender Jonathan R. Andersen, 24, on June 21. Anderson was driving a vehicle stolen from Dishman Dodge on East Sprague Avenue that contained thousands of dollars worth of stolen gold, silver and diamond jewelry.

Then on July 3, Joseph Whipple, 24, (pictured) Solomon Monkiewicz, 20, and a juvenile were arrested for a burglary in the 2300 block of West Rainer Court. Police linked the three to a home in the 1800 block of East Decatur and found tens of thousands of dollars in stolen property there.

High-end watches and firearms remain missing, along with the NFL ring and pendant.

Whipple, Monkiewicz, Andersen, Milo Laulaulo, 25, and Kelsi Bendewald, 22, faces a slew of felony charges for the burglaries, including property and gun charges. Bendewald and Laulaulo were with Anderson when he was arrested last month.

2 arrested in Spokane Valley burglary

Two men were arrested on suspicion of burglary Monday after a Spokane Valley man and his daughter arrived home in the middle of the day to find a possibly armed burglar walking from their backyard.

Nathanial Brooks Hubbard, 20, and Robert E. Best, IV, 25, are accused of ransacking a bedroom in the home in the 3500 block of South McDonald Road and stealing a gun and several 50 cent and $1 coins.

The homeowner said he'd left about 10:45 a.m. and returned about 2 p.m. to find his back slider door partially open then saw a man later identified as Hubbard outside.

A sheriff's deputy responded and located the suspect vehicle near East 40th Avenue and South Woodlawn Drive, east of the Painted Hills Golf Course. The deputy and Valley police corporal stopped the car and identified the driver as Best and Hubbard the passenger. Sheriff's K-9 Ekko searched the car for others passenger; Ekko's handler found the stolen handgun under the front seat.

Hubbard and Best had the stolen coins in their pockets. They were booked into jail for first-degree burglary.

Man arrested in stolen lawnmower caper

A man wanted for violating his Department of Corrections probation was arrested after escaping a garage burglary in Greenacres on a stolen lawnmower, police say.

Robert G. Morey, 22, is accused of stealing firearms and valuable coins from a home in the 5500 block of South Conklin Road before riding away on the Craftsman riding lawnmower.

The homeowners called police Thursday evening and said they'd returned from the lake for the holiday to find their home burglarized.

Earlier, about 9 a.m., Spokane County sheriff's deputies had responded to a report of a man armed with a rifle or shotgun riding a lawnmower in the area of Linke and White roads.

Deputies found the lawnmower about seven miles away in the 19200 block of East Belmont Road. Then about 1:30 p.m., deputies heard reports of a suspicious person walking in the area where the lawnmower was recovered.

Deputies located Morey sitting on an embankment and confirmed he had a DOC escape warrant.

Morey was arrested and told deputies his girlfriend had dropped him off on “some road” after an argument, so he saw an open garage door and took the lawnmower as well as the guns and coins, according to the sheriff's office. Morey showed deputies where he'd ditched the guns.

The burglary was reported later that night, and deputies realized the stolen items matched what Morey told them he'd stolen. He was interviewed again at the jail and admitted to stealing a shotgun, rifle and pistol though he said he dropped the pistol when he stolen the lawnmower because he could' carry everything.

“Morey told deputies he took the guns because he was prohibited from having firearms and wanted one,” according to a news release by sheriff's spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin.

Morey said he abandoned the lawnmower when it ran out of gas.

He was booked into jail on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, first-degree burglary, theft of a firearm and second-degree theft.

Morey is on probation after pleading guilty to obtaining a controlled substance by forged prescription and second-degree burglary last year.

51-time felon accused in car prowlings

A 51-time felon who was told by a judge 10 years ago that “the system's had enough of you” is back in jail for property crimes police suspect are related to his severe heroin addiction.

 Brian Lee Danner, 40, was stopped last week in the area of North Cedar Street and Northwest Boulevard while driving a green 1995 Jeep Cherokee belonging to another longtime felon, Johnie Leo Vick, Jr., 42.

Spokane police Officers Nick Geren and Brian Eckersley, along with Sgt. Joe Peterson, were looking for the Jeep after learning of vehicle prowlings in Spokane involving it and a 1984 Chevy Blazer also registered to Vick.

Vick was arrested the same day as Danner, June 26, when police located him working on the Blazer at Auto Zone, 2526 N. Division St. Danner had heroin on him when he was arrested, police say. Also arrested was Rabecca Hearn, 26, who police say received stolen purses from Danner.

Police believe Danner often smashes car windows to steal purses and other valuables. Danner told police he'd been prowling vehicles to support “a severe substance abuse problem,” according to court documents. Vick also told police he's a heroin addict who prowls cars to support his habit.

Vick, who has a neck tattoo that says “Ladies Love Outlaws,” could not be booked into jail because of medical reasons; police sent charging recommendations to prosecutors and expect him to be summonsed to court once charges are filed.

Danner remains in jail on $10,000 bail for charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of stolen property.

Police searched Vick's vehicles on Monday and seized suspected stolen identifications and credit cards.

Danner's remarkable criminal history, which includes at least 41 adult felonies and 10 juvenile felonies, includes 25 convictions from 2002 for second-degree possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to two years in prison by Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark.

His co-defendant, Shelly M. Ose, received nine years in prison when Judge Greg Sypolt rejected a plea bargain. Their criminal records were similar. (Ose's sentence was reduced on appeal to about four years.)

At the time, Clark said she saw no reason to give Danner, who was returned to prison for the fourth time, an exceptional sentence. She did give him a warning, however: “I'm going to remember you, Mr. Danner. The system's had enough of you,'' she said.

Her warning apparently had little effect on Danner.

He went to prison again in 2006 for property crimes in Stevens County, then returned for his sixth stay in 2010 for - again - property crimes.

Clark isn't likely to see Danner this time around; she's assigned to juvenile court but does sometimes handle adult felonies.

Car stolen at knifepoint during cleaning

A woman was carjacked as she vacuumed her Chevy Camaro at a car wash near Browne's Addition Saturday night, Spokane police say.

Larry D. Vermillion, 43, is accused of stealing the woman's car at knifepoint from the Brown Bear car wash, 1821 W. Sunset Ave., about 8 p.m., then drunkenly driving through downtown Spokane before colliding with a taxi cab.

Phyla J. Beell flagged down police and said the man told her “Steve” sent him before he threatened her with the knife, according to court documents. Beell told police she climbed out the driver's window of her 1993 Camaro because the driver's door doesn't open.

Beell contacted a friend inside the Sunset Junction, and the two chased the stolen Camaro down West Third Avenue before losing site of it on South Howard Street.

Police say the Camaro crossed lanes, went the wrong way and slowed down to about 5 mph to drive through a parking lot before running a red light at Third and South Browne Street and being struck by the taxi.

Vermillion was booked into jail on charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree assault and attempting to elude police.
  

Alleged mail thieves jailed without bail

A federal prosecutor said she's “appalled” by the number of people who had their mail stolen in in a suspected regional theft ring and may seek aggravating circumstances against four suspects.

“This is an ongoing, every day thing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Byerly said. “This is their job.”

Dominque M. Ryan, 18; her sister, Candice J. Thompson, 22; and Thompson's boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29,  are in federal custody without bail after their arrests Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno denied requests by Ryan and Thompson's lawyers, Bevan Maxey and Jeffry Finer, to be released. Finer has appealed the decision and cites, among other reasons, the fact that the U.S. Probation Office recommended she be released to live with her father in Tacoma.

Ryan's boyfriend, Kyle K. Croson, 21, is at large. Peltier's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, had his bail hearing postponed until Tuesday. Peltier has a misdemeanor warrant in Pierce County.

The suspects face months to a couple of years in prison if convicted of stealing mail, which is a federal offense.

Ryan, who had methamphetamine and marijuana with her when she was arrested, has no criminal history and works at a call center. Thompson has convictions for driving while license suspended and failure to transfer car title.

The women have been deeply affected by the drug overdose death of their mother, according to court testimony. Lawyer Jeffry Finer said he's worried Thompson is “chasing her mom's history.”

Thompson's three-year-old daughter was in their apartment in 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue when law enforcement arrived Monday. The child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Finer said it's difficult to discuss that with Thompson. “Whenever we touch on that issue, she breaks down,” Finer told Imbrogno.

Investigators recovered about 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho in the apartment and in two cars Monday.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their daughter to live with Ryan and Croson.

He, Thompson and Ryan cried in court on Thursday.

“I love you, too” Peltier said to Thompson as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

He then turned to two friends in the audience and, through sobs, denied the allegations.

“It wasn't us,” Peltier said. “It wasn't us.”

9.5 tons of garlic stolen in Austria

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian police did not need sniffing dogs to locate this suspected heist — 9.5 tons of garlic.

The Austria Press Agency says police stopped three overloaded and sagging vans about to cross into Hungary from Austria on Wednesday and found them packed to the roof with the pungent cargo. After questioning the five men in the vehicles they charged them on suspicion of receiving stolen goods.

Police say the garlic apparently came from Spain and estimate its value at €30,000 ($37,500). The men — all Romanian nationals — were not named, in line with Austrian privacy laws.

APA cites one officer as saying it was clear what the vans were carrying even before their doors were opened.

“All three vehicles really stunk like garlic,” he says.

60+ felonies sought in burglary ring

Spokane County sheriff's detectivs are recommending about 60 felony charges against four suspects in a burglary ring that victimized more than 20 people.

Denis Buljubasic, 27; Bojan Derzic, 31; Susan Burke, 50; and Dwayne Gunderson, 28, are accused of a burglary spree that was discovered after three of them were stopped for stealing fuel in Spokane Valley in April.

The three were in a stolen van and had checks with them that were traced back to a garage burglary on the South Hill. Police believe they were forging checks and depositing them at local banks. They used the cash to buy methamphetamine and gamble at Northern Quest Casino, detectives say.

Detectives linked them to garage burglaries in the South Hill, Airway Heights and Otis Orchards area by checking pawn shop histories.

Sheriff's property crimes Detective Mark Renz forwarded his charging recommendation to prosecutors today, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Derzic faces charges of second-degree burglary, unlawful production/possession of a financial instrument, first-degree theft, forgery, second-degree theft, second-degree vehicle prowling, first-degree trafficking in stolen property, third-degree theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, money laundering, residential burglary and identity theft.

Burke faces charges of second-degree theft, forgery identity theft, money laundering unlawful production/possession of a financial instrument and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Gunderson faces charges of possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

All are out of jail. Burke failed to appear in Kootenai County District Court in April on property crime charges. Derzic left jail on $50,000 bond on May 24 on a car theft charge in Spokane County Superior Court.

Prosecutors will review the case, file charges, and the suspects either will be arrested on warrants or they'll be summoned to appear in court for an arraignment.

Burke alerted detectives to a large burglary ring that detectives connected to Dean Blackford.

Car prowling surge reported in Spokane

Spokane police are combating a surge in vehicle prowling with a new public awareness campaign aimed at preventing it.

The “Remove it or Lose it” campaign, which officially begins July 9, aims to help citizens remember to keep valuables out of plain sight in their cars, park in well lit or high-traffic areas, keep their doors locked and to call 911 if they see someone prowling cars.

Police report a 38 percent increase in vehicle prowling in the past year.

A prowling suspect was arrested Tuesday morning near North Monroe Street and East Augusta Avenue.

Spokane police Officer Chris Johnson arrested Shabrawn M. Rautio, 20, after a witness reported seeing Rautio smash a car window and steal a red backpack.

Johnson spotted Rautio walking south on Monroe carrying a red backpack. He lied to Johnson about his name but eventually told him the truth. Police returned the backpack to its owner “who was extremely grateful for the return of her things,” according to a news release by Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

In another news release, Officer Brian Eckersley outlined the dire stakes of property crime and the steps that must be taken to prevent it.

“There is always somebody looking to take something from you. There are several out right now, looking in car windows and checking for unlocked doors,” Eckersley wrote. “Where is your purse, phone, lap top, jewelry or hand gun?  Are you sure?”
  

Shelter-seeking prowling suspect busted

A man arrested for prowling a car in Spokane Valley had a radio control car with him, and police are trying to find the owner.

Justin Wayne Croson, 27, told the maintenance manager at an apartment complex in the 2400 block of North Cherry Road that he was just sitting in his car when confronted Tuesday, but the manager knew he didn't own the vehicle.

Croson then told sheriff's deputies he was homeless, had fought with his girlfriend and was sitting in the car to get out the rain. He said he didn't know the owner of the car but denied looking through the glove box.

Deputies say the glove box and center console were open, and that the gas-powered radio control car was sitting on the a passenger seat. The vehicle owner said she'd left her car unlocked but that the glove box and console had been closed. She also said the radio control car wasn't hers.

Croson said “his ex-babysitter gave him the radio control car but could not remember his babysitter's name, address or what type of radio control car he was given,” according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, Spokane County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Croson was booked into jail on a second-degree vehicle prowling charge. The radio control car is a red, silver and blue Red Cat Volcano S30 valued at $229.  If you can prove you own it, call (509) 477-6612.
  

Heaps of stolen mail found in Spokane

About 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were recovered in Spokane on Monday.

Police had been investigating the thefts since a woman reported seeing a white car with two men and two women stealing from mailboxes on May 24.

Spokane police Officer Glenn Bartlett reported contacting a suspicious vehicle that was circling a neighborhood on May 26. The occupants he contacted later emerged as suspects in the mail thefts when their names were attached to bank accounts where altered checks had been deposited.

Detectives with the Spokane Financial Crimes Task Force identified the suspect vehicle as a 1997 Dodge Intrepid belonging to Kyle Croson, 21. Police searched Croson's apartment in the 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue on Monday. Candice J. Thompson, 22, and her boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29, were arrested.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their three-year-old daughter to live with Thompson's sister, Dominque Ryan. Ryan is Croson's girlfriend.

Peltier said they started “mailboxing” about two weeks after arriving in Spokane. He said Croson and Ryan frequently “mailbox” but that he and Thompson hadn't done so recently because they were out of money for fuel. Investigators searched the apartment as well as the Dodge Intrepid and a Chevy Malibu, where they recovered the stolen mail.

Thomspon said they stole mail “hoping to find cash inside of graduation cards,” according to court documents.

Croson, Thompson, Peltier and Ryan are charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

$10k diamond earrings stolen in Valley

Two sets of diamond earrings valued at $10,000 were stolen from a Spokane Valley home on Saturday, and Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve the case.

One set contains 14-karat, white gold, with two solitaire diamonds suspended by a thin gold wire. The second set consists of three diamonds suspended by a small gold wire.

Homeowners in the 2800 block of South Skipworth Road left about noon and returned at 8 p.m. to find their master bedroom ransacked and the earrings gone.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.
  

Home burglar caught on tape - who is it?

Detectives are looking for help in identifying a man who burglarized a home in north Spokane County earlier this month.

A photo released today from the homeowner's game camera shows a man wearing gloves leaving the backdoor of the home in the 3100 block of East Deer Park-Milan Road. The homeowners returned from an eight-day vacation June 8 and discovered the break-in, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The man's accomplice, identified by police as Christopher John Steinbaugh, 32, was arrested last week on a residential burglary charge.

Detectives are asking for anyone with information on the man's identity to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and reference case #12-176653.

Steinbaugh already is charged with property crimes for arrests in March and May, including one that occurred when a sheriff's detective recognized him at a pawn shop.

Duo arrested for mall-related crimes

A woman and man arrested at the Spokane Valley Mall with stolen credit cards led to an investigation into a series of property crimes.

Tabitha Dawn Creel, 30, and John Andrew Howard, 29, are accused of buying gift cards with stolen credit cards, then trying to return the gift cards for cash.

Howard and Creel was arrested at the mall May 30 after allegedly trying to use a stolen credit card. Creel told deputies she's a heroin addict, and police found heroin in her purse as well as a digital scale.

She said she often pawned stolen items for Howard that included guitars, laptops and an air compressor.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office burglary task force completed an investigation into the duo Tuesday that calls for them to be charged with 26 felonies, including vehicle prowling, possession of stolen property, money laundering, trafficking in stolen property, possession of a deadly weapon, possession of heroin, identity theft and forgery.
  

Suspect arrested in fitness center thefts

Detectives have identified a suspect in a series of thefts at fitness centers in Spokane and Kootenai counties.

James D. Tilley, 28, was arrested Tuesday on 16 felony charges related to gym locker break-ins and car prowlings at gyms across the region, including at Spokane Community College and Whitworth University. Other agencies, including police in Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene, are investigating similar incidents.

Detective Mark Stewart believes Tilley would steal items from lockers, including car keys that he'd use to prowl vehicles in the parking lot. Stolen items included jewelry and a gun that has been recovered.

Cour documents say the formal charges relate to break-ins at the Valley Fitness Center, 14210 E. Sprague Ave., on March 10, April 5, April 13 and May 8 and Global Fitness, 9233 E. Montgomery Ave., on April 19 and May 17, as well as thefts at the Whitworth University men's aquatic center on April 25.He's also accused of breaking into a car at Whitworth on May 11, then pawning a laptop he'd stolen.

Police identified Tilley as a suspect after an employee at Global Fitness obtained the license plate of the thief's car on May 17, and police traced it to the mother of Tilley's girlfriend.

A sheriff's deputy realized TiIley matched the description of the thief, and witnesses identified Tilley through a photo montage.

Stewart connected Tilley to the use or attempted use of stolen credit cards and also viewed surveillance video from the Zip Trip at West 10th Avenue and South Maple Street that showed Tilley arriving at the location with a backpack just before a citizen found backpack there with stolen wallets and other items taken in the gym thefts.

Police are recommending Tilley's girlfriend, Lindsay K. Nickerson, 27, who they believe drove Tilley to and from many of the break ins, also be charged. She has not yet been arrested.

Homeowner spots suspected prowlers

A Spokane Valley homeowner spotted two suspected prowlers looking at his car early today, leading police to arrest a suspect.

The man opened the front door to his home in the 2800 block of South Davis Road after seeing two men - one with a flashlight - looking into his Subaru Legacy about 2:30 a.m.

The men ran west from the home. The homeowner said he saw them start looking into other vehicles because they through he'd stayed at his home. The man's wife called 911, and Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Dale Wells searched the area of 13500 East Redlin Road, where the man said he'd last seen the prowlers.

Wells found Jacob S. Mager, 24, hiding between two gardens inside a fenced yard. Others deputies arrived and Mager was arrested without incident.

The homeowner identified Mager as one of the men he'd seen at his Subaru. Mager told Wells “he was walking with his friend “Mike” and had no idea “Mike” was prowling vehicles, according to the sheriff's office.

A woman who owns the yard where Mager was hiding told Wells she wants to pursue trespassing charges against him, so Mager was booked into jail on a count of second-degree trespass. He already posted bond and is out of jail.

Insurance agent gets 2 years for fraud

A former insurance agent and executive director of the Spokane Food Bank has been sentenced to two years in prison for fraud.

James K. Sokolis, 56, is to be on probation for three years after his release and pay about $356,000 restitution, which is the amount he admitted to stealing from a Coeur d'Alene insurance company.

Sokolis previously owned and operated Rockwood Insurance in Coeur d'Alene.
He sold his share of the business in August 2010 and was hired to work for the new company. He was fired after admitting to misusing client money.

Sokolis “had been juggling his clients’ funds for months, hoping to come up with enough money at the right time to bring all policies current,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, Chris Bugbee.

He pleaded guilty in March to three counts of insurance fraud and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Coeur d'Alene.

Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, commended the sentence in a prepared statement.

“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who are entrusted with other people’s money have an obligation to act honestly and for the benefit of their clients,” she said.

Bugbee described Sokolis as a “very well-respected” professional who has devoted much of his life to community service.

In addition to leading the food bank, Sokolis coached and served on the board for Spokane Youth Sports for about 20 years. He also served two years on the board for the Seattle YMCA and spent six years as the youth director of his church, according to the sentencing memorandum.