PLEASANT GROVE Police officers have cracked a theft and credit-card fraud ring, leading to the recovery of thousands of dollars of stolen items ranging from plasma TVs to underwear.
Earlier this week, a Pleasant Grove officer was investigating a home burglary and the victim told police he suspected his neighbor.
Police talked with the neighbor and ended up finding stolen property on his person, said Pleasant Grove Lt. Michael Smith.
His arrest, subsequent interview and search of his home led to the arrest of four other people, two men and two women.
"It just kind of snowballed," Smith said, explaining that some of the stolen items were from crimes nearly a year old and from a wide area of Utah.
Police have linked the five accused ring members to home and vehicle burglaries, credit-card fraud, check forgeries, identity theft, forged documents and drug crimes from West Valley to Springville, and numerous cities in between.
All five were booked into the Utah County Jail on a variety of allegations, including theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of stolen property and forgery.
While making the arrests, police found drugs and drug paraphernalia in the hotel room where some of the accused ring members had been staying.
The first crimes were usually home and vehicle burglaries, then the ring members would use those stolen credit cards to buy other goods, Smith said. Or they would create fake IDs to more easily sell the stolen loot.
"There's been a lot of stuff moved," Smith said. "We were 30 minutes behind them on a storage shed. We're working on tracking that down."
Most of the recovered merchandise is believed to have been purchased with stolen credit cards, such as clothes still with tags on.
However, items such as tools, camping equipment, a generator and cell phones are obviously stolen, Smith said.
"The hard thing about this big of a case is we'll be able to solve a handful of cases, (but) there is a ton of stuff that we know is stolen and nobody will come to get it," Smith said. "They don't report it."
One man who lived near the first accused ring member approached police and asked, just because they were there, about a weed-eater he'd been without for six months but never reported.
The officer typed in the serial number and found it in the pile of recovered items, Smith said.
"If they report it, maybe we won't find it, but maybe six months later you'll get a call and get your stuff back," Smith said.
Cases like this are just another reminder for people to lock their cars, close their garages and keep valuables out of sight."With this group, nothing was really planned," Smith said. "They would go around and take the easy target. If you make yourself a hard target, you'll likely get passed over."