SEATTLE — Seattle police said they unraveled a “prolific crime ring” responsible for stealing hundreds of break-ins, car prowls, package thefts and identity fraud in north Seattle.
Detectives said the first major break in the case happened on September 11th. SPD and Department of Corrections officers went to a University District townhouse near NE 50th Street and 11th Avenue NE to arrest a woman for a felony warrant.
Police took the 26-year-old into custody and discovered a stolen car outside the home.
"Officers called detectives in SPD’s Major Crimes Task Force—who had been working a complex auto theft case around the city—to come to the townhouse and interview the woman," said Seattle police spokesperson Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. "Detectives found a trove of around 100 stolen packages when they arrived, containing everything from ceiling fans to strollers, all in their original packaging."
“When we left her house,” said Det. Todd Jakobsen “we had four SUVs and two cars stuffed full of packages she’d stolen off people’s porches.”
Detectives said they found:
- Duffel bags filled with stolen mail
- More than 70 IDs, credit cards & passports
- $37,000 in fraudulent checks
- Mail stolen from at least 180 victims
- Books and ledgers tracking thefts and tallying online sales
- Pages and pages of victims' birth dates, social security numbers and credit card numbers
According to police, the woman created "profiles" with all the information needed for her and "other thieves" to open credit card accounts in victims' names.
Later, police discovered that the townhome she was living in was not even hers.
“She never even rented this place,” says Major Crimes Task Force detective Todd Jakobsen. “The people that lived there moved out and she just moved in. She never paid rent.”
The hunt for remaining suspects
Seattle police suspected there were three others involved in the crime ring. They arrested the main suspect's 34-year-old boyfriend for auto and mail theft.
A 31-year-old woman was arrested four days later. She was found at a tent encampment along I-5 near NE 50th Street -- about half a mile from the U-District townhome.
At the encampment, police said they found more stolen mail and about 200 pounds of copper wire. They suspect the copper was stolen from the Museum of History and Industry's Montlake building after the museum moved in 2013.
Alleged ringleader caught
Detectives said they caught the suspected ringleader of the operation on September 22nd after officers pulled over a 25-year-old man in a stolen car in the International District.
“Once I started interviewing him everything started falling into place,” Jakobsen said.
When police searched the car, officers found documents and evidence connected to several cases of bank fraud in Seattle.
"With the evidence found in the 25-year-old man’s car and information they’d received from other suspects about their ringleader, detectives were now certain they had found the man leading the North Seattle crime ring," Spangenthal-Lee said.
The Major Crimes Task Force is now working with King and Pierce county officials to bring charges against the suspect.
He is also being investigated in connection with recent burglaries at the University of Washington's Greek Row.
“These arrests should drastically reduce property crimes” in the North Precinct, says Coordinated Criminal Investigations Captain Eric Sano.
"Detectives are still combing through all of the stolen items recovered during their investigation, and will also look at where the suspects were selling their stolen items, and whether they were trading pieces of stolen mail with other criminals," Spangenthal-Lee said.