There's an advantage to using the hammer of the federal court system. There's a time and place and we think this is the time and the place. —Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder
SALT LAKE CITY — A man and an accomplice who police say brazenly walked into a woman's garage and stole her credit cards from her car while she was outside mowing the lawn now face federal charges.
Jason Oler Kettler, 35, of Magna, and Chaunte Marie Thompson, 31, of Salt Lake City, used the cards to buy more than $1,000 worth of items at Sportsman's Warehouse and a Nike store, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Investigators have also connected the couple to at least one other burglary.
The couple was charged in federal court through the new Utah Identity Theft Task Force, a joint effort between the U.S. Secret Service and local police agencies to crack down on that crime.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said the county has seen an uptick in identity theft and said, "We're not going to take it anymore."
"There's an advantage to using the hammer of the federal court system," he said. "There's a time and place, and we think this is the time and the place."
Mike Mantyla, Secret Service resident agent in charge, said federal court has enhanced penalties and minimum-mandatory prison sentences for identity theft. The Secret Service will also provide resources such as credit card readers and surveillance equipment to help local police combat identity theft, which Mantyla said is often linked to drug crimes.
Jenn Bevan was mowing her lawn on June 24 about 7 p.m. when a man pulled into her driveway, stole golf clubs and several other items out of her garage, smashed a window of her car and stole her credit cards, police said. When she returned to the other side of the house to put the lawnmower away, she noticed broken glass on the driveway and in the garage.
Bevan reported the burglary to Unified police and gave investigators home security video of the garage. The video showed a red car with a sun roof pull into the driveway. A man came and went from the vehicle to the garage several times before driving away.
Investigators released video from the home and from the stores a week later and received numerous tips from the public. A detective identified Kettler and Thompson by matching their driver’s licenses and prior booking photos to the couple in the videos, according to the complaint.
Kettler and Thomspon are charged with unauthorized use of credit cards. They appeared in U.S. District Court Wednesday.
The couple is also being investigated for other burglaries.
North Salt Lake police said Kettler and Thompson are believed to be responsible for stealing several items from an 83-year-old North Salt Lake man, including a prized coin collection valued at $40,000, a gun that is more than 100 years old, and a rare 1930s Gibson guitar that was used by his family during the Depression. among other things.
Contributing: Peter Samore