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Tips sought on another ‘Nook’ theft

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Police are again looking for tips on the theft of Nook tablets from the Spokane Valley Barnes and Noble, this time for a break-in early March 5.

Officers responded to an alarm at the store, 15310 E. Indiana Ave., at 5:52 a.m. and found a tire iron on the ground next to the shattered window. They believe the burglary targeted the Nook kiosk because cash registers and other merchandise appeared to be untouched, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Surveillance video released Tuesday shows the thief wearing possibly a heavy fleece jacket with a white North Face logo on he left front chest and on the back right shoulder.

He also wore what appears to be dark blue jeans and dark shoes with a bright red logo on the heel, as well as a tan baseball hat with a light green bill and a blue and black backpack.

Police also are looking for tips on possible suspects in the theft of Nook tablets from the same store March 4.

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

Tips sought on suspects in ‘Nook’ theft

   Property crime detectives are asking for help identifying two men who may have information about electronic "Nook" reading tablets stolen from the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Spokane Valley last week.

The theft occurred March 4 just before 6 p.m.

The Spokane Valley Police Department today released surveillance photos of the men in hopes someone will recognize them.

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

Idaho burglary suspect arrested in Valley

A suspect in a string of burglaries in North Idaho was arrested Friday after a shoplifting incident turned violent at the Spokane Valley Wal-Mart.

 Susan Burke, 50, was out of custody on $5,000 bond awaiting trial in Kootenai County when a store security officer spotted her leaving the store with concealed merchandise Friday about 1:40 p.m.

Employees tried to stop Burke, but she struggled with them and threw her purse toward the door. Employees grabbed it e and found Burke's driver's license inside. They checked Burke's name in store records and discovered she'd been banned in 2010 from all stores for life after getting caught shoplifting twice.

Burke, who is scheduled for trial in Kootenai County in May for property crimes, was booked into jail on theft, burglary and robbery charges after police contacted her at her home at 303 E. Indiana Ave.

Police also contacted a 17-year-old boy who lives with Burke at the home and is identified as her boyfriend.

The boy is charged in juvenile court for an incident last July in which he allegedly failed to call for help after his friend fell in the Spokane River and drowned.

Man arrested for school district tool theft

A tip to Crime Check helped police identify a suspect in a burglary at the East Valley School District maintenance office recently.

Christopher David Evans, 29, was arrested today by East Valley School Resource Officer Scott Streltzoff for the Jan. 27 burglary, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Police released a surveillance photo of the thief Feb. 8 in hopes someone would recognize him. Acting on the tip, Streltzoff spoke with a friend of Evans' last Friday about the location of the stolen tools, valued at $300.

Later that Friday, someone concealing their identity with a hooded sweatshirt returned the tools to the front porch of the maintenance building.

Evans was booked into jail about 2:30 p.m. on charges of second-degree burglary and first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

The East Valley School District thanks everyone for their help.

Deer Park house ‘rental’ actually a scam

Brooke Bear was surprised when several people stopped by her home interested in renting it.

They referenced the ad she posted on Craigslist, but she isn’t renting out the house; she’s selling it, and she never posted an ad on Craigslist.

Bear knew something was fishy, so she hopped online and found the ad, which included a picture and description of her four-bedroom house, located in a rural area south of Deer Park, as well as an email address using her name.

“I was kind of scared,” she said. “I pulled it up and thought, ‘Who is doing this?’ You just kind of go, ‘Ew, creepy.’ ”

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Thief posts Facebook pic of judge’s loot

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in South Florida say a man is facing charges after he was seen in a photo on Facebook holding a judge's stolen nameplate.

Twenty-one-year-old Steven Mulhall was arrested Thursday on violation of probation charges.

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Mulhall pried the $40 nameplate from the courtroom door of Broward Circuit Judge Michael Orlando. He says Mulhall has multiple petty theft convictions and now faces felony charges.

Arrest reports show the nameplate was stolen last month. Authorities received a tip that Mulhall took the nameplate and that the picture could be found on his girlfriend's Facebook page.

The nameplate will be returned to the judge.

A phone number wasn't available for Mulhall.

K-9, ‘copter catch car theft suspect

A sheriff's dog tracked a car theft suspect who fled a crash in Spokane Valley early today.

The K-9, Brax, located Justin C. Luce, 32, hiding near a tree about two blocks from the crash near 600 N. Walnut Road, which occurred after Luce fled a traffic stop near Walnut and Broadway Avenue about 3 a.m., according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Officer Juan Rodriguez located the crashed car unoccupied with a shaved key inside the ignition. A sheriff's helicopter and Brax tracked Luce to the tree.

Police found a backpack in the stolen vehicle that contained marijuana. Officers say it and several burglary tools found in the car belonged to Luce.

Luce is to be sentenced March 26 for a burglary in Kootenai County that's connected to the theft of a high-end triathlon bicycle recovered by Coeur d'Alene police just in time for Ironman.

Luce also has a conviction in Spokane County for car theft that stemmed from a similar police chase in the Valley last April.

Owner finds Craigslist ad for own home

An occupied home in north Spokane was recently listed for rent on Craigslist by someone in Africa.

The owner earned about the ad when a couple arrived at her home asking about it. The woman is trying to sell he home - not rent it - and said she never posted an ad on Craigslist. Several other people have also stopped by the home asking about the rental.

The woman emailed the poster and was told the owner was in Africa, had keys to the home and required a minimum of $1,700 be sent to him through Western Union for rent and security deposit.

Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Brandon Armstrong says the ad was posted through an Internet service provider in Nigeria. The ad has been been removed.

A sheriff's office news release called the case  "a reminder to the public that if a Craigslist offer seems too good to be true, it may very well be," though it's unknown who would consider sending $1,700 to a homeowner you've never meet for a Craigslist rental ad "too good to be true."

Spokane tinfoil robber jailed for theft

A man allowed to remain free pending the appeal of his sentence for robbing a store of a piece of tin foil is back in jail.

David Lee Hickam, 26, was found to have violated the terms of his release when he was identified recently as a suspect in a Dec. 26 theft.

Hickam also was cited or diving with a suspended license Feb. 17. Prosecutors cited that incident as well as the alleged theft of a laptop computer from Huppins, 419 W. Main Ave., as a reason to jail him on $150,000 bond.

Judge Annette Plese agreed, and police arrested Hickam Tuesday. He appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday.

Hickam is appealing a 47-month prison sentence for robbery that began when he stole a piece of tinfoil from Rite Aid, 5520 N. Division St., then pepper sprayed an employee.

 A jury convicted him last July, but he was allowed to stay out of prison after he posted a $35,000 appeal bond.

Spokane thieves target Bogart, Newman

Six stolen portraits of old movie stars led to a Spokane woman's arrest on drug and burglary charges Monday.

A resident in the 3600 block of East 21st Avenue arrived home about 8:40 a.m. to find a silver Toyota parked in his driveway, according to Spokane police. A man walked out of his garage and got into the Toyota, which was driven by a woman.

Missing from the garage were framed portraits of Clint Eastwood, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford and Errol Flynn valued at $500.

Police located the Toyota about 30 minutes later at 2502 E. Hartson Ave.

Suspect Loyalee A. Elton, 41, got in the car and started to drive, but she was stopped and arrested on suspicion of burglary near East 6th Avenue and South Cook Street. Police say she had $900 in her bra and a baggie with methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin inside, as well as prescription pills. The burglary victim identified her as the driver of the Toyota.

Police searched the Hartson Avenue home but didn't find the pictures. Elton told police she didn't know what happened to them.

Kohl’s theft report leads to meth arrest

A report of attempted shoplifting at a Spokane Valley department store led to a felony drug arrest after police searched the suspect's car.

Employees at Kohl's, 16301 East Broadway Ave., called 911 Monday and said a woman was inside placing items by the door as a red Nissan Alitmia circled the parking lot. The woman went outside to talk to the female driver, and employees provided the Altima's license plate number to dispatchers, police said today.

Spokane Valley police Officer Jerad Kiehn passed the Niissan while responding to the store. He stopped the vehicle, and the driver, Whitney J. Longmeier, 26, denied being at Kohl's and allowed Kiehn to search her car, police say.

Kiehn found  a small metal container in Longmeier's purse that contained a plastic baggie with methamphetamine inside, according to police.

Longmeier was arrested on a felony drug charge as well as a charge of third-degree driving while license suspended.

Her passenger, 22-year-old Laurel E. Broxton, 22, was booked into jail on a warrant for a felony drug charge from last year.

Tips sought on Valley school break-in

Police are looking for information on a vandalism and attempted theft at a Spokane Valley elementary school early Saturday.

Officers responded to an alarm at Greenacres Elementary School in the 17915 E. Fourth St. about 2:57 a.m.

They arrived to find a window pried out o the wall on the east side of the school. A projector mounted on a classroom ceiling was hanging by wires.

Officer set up a perimeter and called in a police dog, but officer did not locate a suspect.

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

5 arrested in Adams Co. home invasion

Five people have been arrested for a home-invasion robbery in Adams County Friday that targeted a couple living with their 3-year-old son.

Roger Martinez, 20, of Othello; Julia JiJon, 18, of Warden; Diego Mendez, 19, of Othello; and Rocky Mendoza, 18, of Othello; and a 17-year-old boy are accused of entering the home in the 2000 block of Bench Road, about one mile south of Othello.

Adams County sheriff's deputies responded to the home about 9:40 p.m., where they located a 23-year-old man who had been hit in the face with the butt of a shotgun, according to a news release. He was taken by ambulance to Othello Community Hospital, where he was treated and released.

The man was home with his 34-year-old wife and their 3-year-old son when the men knocked on he door, then forced their way inside once it opened. Two men had a a bandanna covering their faces, a a third held a shotgun, according to a news release.

The men forced the victim into a bedroom and ransacked the home, stealing electronics, alcohol, the couple’s wedding rings, and their car. Three men remained outside the home.

Othello police found the stole car about 3 a.m. Saturday. They recovered the shotgun and arrested the car's two occupants. Three other suspects were arrested later; one remains at large.

All suspects face charges of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, second-degree theft, and theft of a motor vehicle. The juvenile is being held at Martin Hall Detention Center in Medical Lake. The others are booked at the Adams County Jail.

Woman guilty in Oldtown mail theft ring

A woman who led a mail theft ring in the Oldtown, Idaho, area pleaded guilty last week in Coeur d'Alene.

Michelle Ann Mason, 27, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years of probation when she's sentenced June 18 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. She also is to pay $37,790.39 restitution.

Co-defendant Charles Earl Baker is scheduled to begin trial March 27.

Mason admitted to organizing at least six people to steal mail in he Oldtown area. Her co-conspirators opened bank accounts, and Mason deposited counterfeit or forged checks that had been stolen from the mail, then withdraw cash from the accounts through ATMs.

Mason used the money to buy items and pay bills. Her victims included banks, merchants and the intended mail recipients.

Mason pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft Wednesday.

Wishing Star burglar gets prison, rehab

A homeless methamphetamine addict who burglarized a charity and stole Christmas presents for sick children is to spend about three years in prison.

Jermaine Marcell Garland, 29, also will be on probation for 37 months that will include drug treatment, said Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza, who sentenced him Wednesday.

Garland pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree burglary and one count of second-degree malicious mischief for a burglary spree that ended when police tracked his shoe prints in fresh snow.

Garland burglarized the Wishing Star Foundation, a charity for sick children at 139 S. Sherman St., on Dec. 7, as well as other businesses in the area.

The organization was overwhelmed with donations once citizens learned of the stolen Christmas presents.

Garland cooperated with detectives, and Cozza said police supported the sentence.

Cozza said in an email that Garland did not know what the Wishing Star program was when he broke in, and when detectives explained its mission to him, "he was remorseful about hurting kids in that program."

Teen arrested hours after leaving jail

An 18-year-old man allowed to leave the Spokane County Jail after an arrest for burglary this week made good on his promise to return to court - but not in the right way.

Reshawn S. Zinnerman was arrested in connection with another burglary that occurred just hours after he left the Spokane County Jail.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese allowed the teen, who has no substantial criminal history, to leave jail without posting a bond, which is common for suspects who have shown no reason to believe they won’t appear for future court hearings.

But Zinnerman allegedly didn’t take Plese’s standard order to commit no crimes to heart, which she imposed Wednesday afternoon during his first court appearance. About 6:40 a.m. Thursday, A woman living in the 2000 block of East South Crescent Avenue spotted a man she later identified as Zinnerman peering into her bedroom. He ran, but his shoe prints led to the backdoor of a home in the 2000 block of East Nora. Police arrested Zinnerman there and say he told them he’d just been released from jail for a burglary arrest.

Plese wasn’t so nice when she saw Zinnerman in her courtroom the next day - 24 hours after she first met him. The judge imposed A $50,000 for the charge – attempted residential burglary - and a $35,000 bond for the first burglary charge.

That means he’ll have to come with about $8,500 cash to get out - most bail bond companies require a 10 percent payment.

Zinnerman said in an interview at the Spokane County Jail Friday evening that his first arrest was the result of a “stupid mistake.”

 In that case, Zinnerman was arrested for a break-in at 803 E. Wabash Ave. after a woman also spotted him looking through windows at the residence. Police say he stole a bottle of Hydrocodone from the apartment.

Zinnerman said he walked to his aunt’s home after being released from jail. He was to get a ride to his parents’ home in Nine Mile Falls but was arrested before that happened. He said he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and denies trying to burglarize the home.

A graduate of Wellpinit High School, Zinnerman said he’s to begin classes at Spokane Falls Community College this year. He said he hopes to study “anything, really, as long as I’m on the right track.”

“I’m taking this as a learning experience," he said.

Con man admits swindling elderly aunt

Convicted bank swindler John Earl Petersen is pictured in 1997. (S-R archives)

A convicted con man already due to serve more than two years in federal prison has resolved a three-year-old identity theft case in Spokane County.

John Earl Petersen, 61, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months in prison for swindling his elderly aunt out of her life savings.

Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, will serve the time concurrently with a 27-month federal sentence imposed last month for stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Federal prosecutors said in 2008 that Petersen used more than $400,000 belonging to his 95-year-old aunt, Gunly Petersen, for personal use, including a lavish remodel at her home in the 1300 block of South Greene Street. He had moved her into a nursing facility and was to be overseeing her health and finances.

It's the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont.

Petersen shocked federal authorities in December 2007 when he walked out of U.S. District Court in Spokane after reviewing paperwork indicating he would be taken into custody at the hearing.

He sped away in his Cadillac and was arrested five months later in Boulder, Colo., with a blond wig and books about changing identity.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster

Bank manager sentenced for $400k theft

A woman who embezzled  $400,000 from the bank she managed in North Idaho for 12 years is to spend 2 1/2 years in prison.

Mary Ann Head, 59, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene after pleading guilty in December to making false entries in the books and records of a federally insured financial institution - Bank of America in Hayden Lake.

In addition to 30 months in prison, Head will be on probation for five years after prison and is to pay $400,000 restitution and perform 100 hours of community service.

Head began misappropriating ATM funds in 1997 to cover overdraft fees for a longtime customer, according to court documents.

The man never repaid her the $100,000, starting a series of financial discrepancies that soon became a routine way for Head to pay her credit card debt.

Head lived with heavy stress for years as she deceived the bank, but that "pales in comparison to the enormous shame and sadness that weighs upon her."

Head was caught in December 2009 when the bank installed a new ATM.

Her life has since unraveled.

"She has lost all of her friends as news of her case spread through the community," according to her sentencing memorandum. She has sold her home in an effort to have money to pay toward restitution and currently lives in a motel…Her husband has moved to New Mexico to look for work and left her alone in Idaho to wait for sentencing."

Head had no criminal history when she began stealing money from the bank. She has two children ages 37 and 23 and married her husband, Ricky Head, in 1972. She started at the bank as a part-time teller in 1993 and has never worked anywhere else, according to court documents.

No charges in fatal Colville cop shooting

A Colville police officer was justified when he shot and killed a 21-year-old car prowling suspect who investigators say was armed with a stolen gun last November, prosecutors recently concluded.

 Officer Dan Spring Spring feared for his life when Sean Bergstrasser (pictured) grabbed a stolen gun in a motel room Nov. 12, and his use of deadly force to stop the threat posed by Bergstrasser was legal, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen and Deputy Prosecutor Mathew Enzler concluded.

Andy Hydorn, president of the Colville Chamber of Commerce and owner of Benny’s Colville Inn, was in the motel room and watched Officer Dan Spring fire six shots at Bergstrasser after Bergstrasser picked up a firearm and pointed it toward the officer “as if to fire the weapon,” according to a report released Monday by the Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 14: Man killed by Colville police a California native

Citizen’s tracking busts theft suspects

A citizen who found his stolen property at a Spokane pawn shop in November led police to identify suspects more than three months later.

A detective recently reviewed reports regarding the Nov. 1 burglary in the 2700 block of North Cedar and identified Casey G. Griner, 21, and William C. Calamanco, 25, as suspects.

A patrol officer had responded to Pawn One on Nov. 2 after Dmitri Cole and his wife, Winifred, found their stolen video game consoles there. Pawn shop employees said Griner had pawned the property.

The reports went untouched until Detective Bob Mosman reviewed them on Jan. 17, interviewed victims, then contacted Griner and Calamanco earlier this month. Mosman believes the men burglarized the home, pawned the property and used the money for drugs.

Calamanco already was in jail when police contacted him - he's facing a vehicular assault charge for a crash Feb. 5.

Griner and Calamanco now face charges of residential burglary, second-degree theft and first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the police department, said the case is an example "of how citizens can be proactive in helping police solve property crimes.

The victims in this case had recorded the serial numbers of their stolen items prior to the theft and filed a stolen property report with police following the incident, both of which are critical to an investigation," DeRuwe said.

SWAT team nabs property crime suspect

In this Oct. 27, 2005 photo, Parolee Victor Luna, left, listens to his mentors Tom Murphy and Suellen Pritchard during a weekly meeting to help Luna adjust to life outside of prison. Luna was arrested this morning on stolen property charges. (SRphotoarchives)

A 30-year-old felon who pledged to turn his life around several years ago is back in jail after a long-term investigation into stolen property trafficking.

Victor Alonzo Luna was arrested after a SWAT team secured his home in the 12700 block of East 31st Avenue in Spokane Valley this morning, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Luna has 10 felony convictions that include assault, unlawful possession of a firearm, riot burglary and possession of stolen property, which prompted the use of the SWAT team.

Luna was arrested without incident on a charge of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

The Spokane Valley property crimes unit had been investigating Luna for dealing in stolen property. Detectives observed him purchase several items he believed to be stolen, police say.

Luna told investigators he purchases property from a lot of people and "that he did not want to know if the property was stolen or not," police said. He's prohibited from dealing with pawn shops because of his criminal history, but Luna admitted to enlisting others to pawn property for him, police say.

Luna gave an extensive interview to The Spokesman-Review in 2005 while a member of  Going Home, the Washington State Re-entry Project, a pilot program to keep young felons with a history of serious violent crime from victimizing the neighborhoods in which they are released.

At the time, Luna said every day “on the outside” is a major victory.

“So many times I wanted to go back to (crime). Money’s tight, and it’s so much easier money,” Luna said.

Read the story here.

Repeat con artist headed back to prison

Convicted bank swindler John Earl Petersen is pictured in 1997. (S-R archives)

A convicted bank swindler who boldly walked out of a Spokane courtroom three years ago to avoid arrest is headed to federal prison.

John Earl Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, was sentenced this morning to 27 months for stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Petersen was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion, the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont.

Petersen, 61, admitted to bribing bank officials to allow him to cash phony checks. He served five years in prison after turning in co-conspiring bank officials. He was sent back in 2008 after investigators alleged he was misusing his 95-year-old aunt’s money.

At his parole revocation hearing in 2008, federal prosecutors said Petersen used more than $400,000 of her money for personal use, including a lavish home remodel.

Petersen was arrested on the new federal indictment just as he was to be released from SeaTac federal prison on Dec. 8, 2010.

He also is charged in Spokane County Superior Court with nine counts of felony theft for the alleged scheme against his aunt. Spokane County prosecutors were waiting for Petersen to resolve his federal case, which he did today after pleading guilty last May.

In addition to 27 months in prison, Petersen is to be on probation for three years and pay $167,794.94 restitution.

Petersen shocked federal authorities in December 2007 when he walked out of U.S. District Court in Spokane after reviewing paperwork indicating he would be taken into custody at the hearing.

He sped away in his Cadillac and was arrested five months later in Boulder, Colo., with a blond wig and books about changing identity.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster

Man wanted for stealing from grandfather

A Spokane man accused of stealing from his grandfather by forging his checks is wanted by Crime Stoppers.

Bryan Henry Morales, 32, was to begin trial this week on a leading organized crime charge for allegedly directing men to cash the forged checks, which cost his grandfather, John Camacho, more than $7,000, according to court documents. He also faces separate charges of forgery and delivery of a controlled substance

Morales never showed up for a pre-trial hearing, and a $10,000 warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 31.

Crime Stoppers on Wednesday offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.

Tod Michael Ives, 49, is charged with nine counts of second-degree identity theft for allegedly cashing the checks. Thomas D. Plante, 28, faces 10 counts.

Morales, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, last gave an address in the 1200 block of South Rotchford Drive in the Spokane Valley.

Anyone with information Morales' location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Tips sought on school district tool theft

Spokane Valley police are trying to identify two men who stole tools from the East Valley School District.

Surveillance photos released today show one of the thieves in the maintenance yard in the 18000 block of East Euclid Avenue on Jan. 27.

Police say the thieves entered a fenced area and stole about $300 worth of tools.

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

Police: Fraud suspect bilked 17+ people

Police say a recently arrested fraud suspected swindled people out of money through false car advertisements and Craigslist rental ads.

Eric Pittsley, 35, of Newman Lake, was arrested Feb. 1 in an investigation that detectives say includes at least 17 victims, officials said today.

Some victims said Pittsley introduced himself as an auto repo man who could get various cars at 'unbelievably" low prices, according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. The victims would paid Pittsley a deposit of about $500 and arranged to have a vehicle delivered, but it would never arrive, Chamberlin wrote.

Other victims responded to a Craigslist ad Pittlsey posted regarding home for rent through a Rent-to-Own program, or Pittsley contacted them through ads they posted seeking rental properties, according to the sheriff's office.

Pittsley did not own the home he advertised but would meet with potential renters, tell this them the homes were about to be vacated and collected the first month's rent and security deposit. He sometimes asked for additional months upfront and said they could get one month free if they paid, Chamberlin said. Many victims received a signed lease and key, but the keys turned out not to work for the properties in question.

"The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Spokane Valley Police Department would like to use these unfortunate events to remind everyone that they need to be aware of scams and to be cautious of people who place free ads on the internet," Chamberlin wrote.  "While the internet is a great tool for the community to find excellent opportunities and for businesses to reach out, when it comes to your money changing hands, the proper paperwork should accompany the transaction or agreements entered into.  When paying in cash always ask for receipts.  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Check around if you’re unsure.  Ask for references or ask others who have experience in the type of dealings you’re pursuing."

Repeat Best Buy pest charged w/ felony

A 19-time felon banned from Best Buy allegedly returned to the store 13 times in seven months, leading to a slew of felony burglary charges.

Police arrested William Steven Neis, 49, at his apartment at 1119 W. 11th Street on Jan. 25.

Officers had responded to north Spokane Best Buy Jan. 13 after employees said a shoplifter "has been harassing them and blatantly stealing things from them in full view for months," according to the Spokane Police Department.

Best Buy policy prohibits employees from physically contacting theft suspects. Police believe Neis knew of this policy and continued to shoplift because of it.

Neis is believed to have stolen more than $5,000 in items from the store on 13 occasions between May and December last year., police say.

Neis was permanently banned from he store in July 2010. Spokane County prosecutors charged him with 13 counts second-degree burglary last week unlawfully entering the store.

Officers Dusty Howe and Stephanie Kennedy "spent a full week locating Neis" and went to Best Buy on their day off to continue the investigation, police say.

Neis remains in jail on $19,500, as well as $3,500 bond for misdemeanor assault and theft charges.

Cigar leads to arrest in July burglary

A cigar left at a burglary scene last summer led detectives on Wednesday to arrest a 21-year-old man as a suspect.

DNA on the cigar that was sent to the state crime lab matched DNA that Trevor Codi Frantz provided when he was convicted of a felony first-degree theft in April 2010, according to court documents.

Detectives seized the cigar while investigating a burglary in the 8500 block of East Cataldo Avenue in Spokane Valley July 30. They believe the burglars used the cigar to try to light the home on fire.

A career criminal now serving life in prison, Larry A. Powell, fired shots at a neighbor who tried to stop the burglary. Powell was arrested shortly after the shooting. He already was wanted for not showing up for the end of his trial for a different robbery case.

Frantz was booked into jail Wednesday about 1 p.m. on charges of attempted first-degree arson and first-degree burglary.

Burglary suspect arrested after chase

A north Spokane County man followed a burglary suspect as he sped away from his home this afternoon, leading to a chase with a sheriff's sergeant that ended with the suspect's arrest.

Harold A. Willey, 52, avoided spike strips at Bruce Road and Highway 206 but was arrested after Sgt. Jay McNall used his patrol car to force Willey's car into a spin that brought it to a stop, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

McNall was chasing Willey after a resident in the 12000 block of North Forker Road left his home for about 10 minutes to borrow tools from his father and returned about 1:45 p.m. to find Willey loading items from his garage into Willey's truck.

Willey left the items behind and sped away when he saw the man. The man called 911 as he followed Willey, who was driving west toward Argonne Road. McNall was at Argonne and Bruce roads when he saw Willey and took chase.

Willey was booked into jail on charges of  second-degree burglary, attempting to elude, resisting arrest, second-degree driving while license suspended as well as a felony warrant for possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor warrant for violation of a protection order.

Robbery suspect got rehab instead of jail

A Spokane man accused of robbing a convenience store at gunpoint last weekend was given drug treatment instead of prison for a felony theft case last year.

Anthony D. Fuerte, 19, can't leave jail if he does post the $5,000 bond imposed Monday for the now first-degree robbery charge - he's serving a 30-day jail sentence for violating a drug offender sentence imposed in September for a felony theft and burglary case involving nearly $200,000 in stolen goods.

Fuerte was already considered to be in violation of his sentence requirements in that case when a clerk at Zip Trip, 2020 W. Francis, identified him as the gunman who robbed him about 9:43 p.m. on Friday.

Police found Fuerte hiding in a carport just west of the store. They say he had an Airsoft gun with him, along with money stolen in the robbery. One officer said Zip Trip surveillance video "without a doubt" shows Fuerte rob the store at gunpoint.

Fuerte was arrested in December 2010 on suspicion of theft and harassment after a deputy followed his shoe prints through snowy woods.

Neighbor helps busts burglary suspects

A citizen’s report of suspicious activity in north Spokane County led to the arrest of two suspected burglars this afternoon, the sheriff's office.

A neighbor in the 7000 block of North Stevens Street observed the men looking into windows at a home before one climbed over the fence. Spokane County sheriff’s deputies responded and found a door and basement window open.

Deputy John Cook and his K-9, Ekko, and the other deputies located the suspects hiding in the home after they used a patrol car's loudspeaker to try to get them to surrender.

The suspects, whose names have not yet been released, received medical treatment for minor injuries at the scene. They face felony burglary charges.