Vehicle prowl case leads to multiple arrests, charges

After an extensive investigation that began in January, Monroe Police officers arrested six people in connection with multiple crimes including two vehicle prowls, illicit use of stolen bank cards, use of a stolen EBT card and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Officers were dispatched to a Monroe home on Sunday, Jan. 17, in response to a reported vehicle prowl in the 200 block of North Lewis Street, near downtown Monroe. According to the vehicle owner, her husband had parked in an alley off Lewis Street for about an hour and a half. When he returned, the passenger-side window had been shattered and her purse was stolen. She immediately contacted her bank to cancel her credit and debit cards, and police advised her to closely monitor their accounts for fraudulent activity.
An attempt was made to purchase an item on an account later that night, which she reported to officers.
A few days later, the victim contacted officers after realizing her EBT card had also been stolen in the car prowl. The card had been used fraudulently several times between Jan. 17-20, with six of eight transactions taking place at the Monroe 7-Eleven.
During the course of the follow-up investigation initiated by the victim after discovery of the missing EBT card, the victim revealed to officers that this was the second time she and her husband had been hit in recent weeks. According to police documents, she said her husband's vehicle had been broken into sometime around Jan. 1, and his wallet with several credit cards had been stolen.
One of the stolen cards had been fraudulently used to make a purchase on the same Amazon account as the transaction from Jan. 17, leading officers to believe both crimes were committed by the same person(s).
It was additionally discovered that there had been two fraudulent transactions at Walmart on Jan. 4, involving two of the victim's stolen credit cards. A total of $676.17 was spent on a cellphone and groceries ' $287.50 at about 9:37 a.m. and $388.67 at 12:40 p.m.
Officers Paul Henderson and James Hand engaged in a comprehensive investigation. Henderson worked with 7-Eleven to obtain surveillance footage taken during the dates and times that coincided with the fraudulent EBT card charges. He then went to Walmart to obtain surveillance video footage of the fraudulent transactions from Jan. 4.
"They have a great video system up there and they're very cooperative,GÇ¥ said Debbie Willis, Monroe Police Department director of communications.
Once Henderson obtained surveillance footage from both locations, he and Hand collaborated with other officers to positively identify seven suspects.
"They were able to identify every single one of them,GÇ¥ Willis said.
According police documents, the 7-Eleven footage clearly showed known car-prowler Jeremy Nelson using the stolen EBT card to make purchases. During the transaction on Jan. 17, Nelson invited three suspects to choose items, which he purchased using the card. According to police documents, all the individuals were recognized by officers as known criminals with knowledge of Nelson's proclivity for vehicle prowls and theft, indicating they were willing participants in the fraud.
"You see the whole thing on video,GÇ¥ Willis said.
Officers Hand, Scott Kornish and Nathan Erdmann positively identified Nelson.
In subsequent trips to 7-Eleven, Nelson purchased items either by himself or with other individuals. According to police documents, Monroe officers identified known criminals Michaela Anderson, Quinn McLeod, Heath Bednarski, Leah Wixson and Zachary Arndt as having participated in the fraudulent EBT card charges.
According to police documents, Arndt is a known associate of Nelson, both with extensive criminal history. "Arndt is fully aware that Nelson does not have a job and does not have access to bank cards in his name,GÇ¥ wrote Officer Henderson in his report.
Walmart footage taken during the first transaction on Jan. 4 shows Arndt arriving at the store on a BMX bicycle, entering and purchasing a white Samsung Galaxy S3 cellphone. Arndt was positively identified by Hand, Kornish and Erdmann.
Footage from the second transaction recorded Wixson, Arndt and Ryan Nesbit as they proceeded to shop in the store and purchase items.
Once all the suspects were identified, Hand went to work rounding them up. As a result of the investigation, a total of five arrests were made between Feb. 23-29, and charges were forwarded on Nelson, who was taken into custody on Feb. 21 on a different matter. All suspects except Anderson were located, Willis said, all tracked down by Hand.
Arndt was arrested on Feb. 23 and booked on two counts of financial fraud, two counts of identity theft and one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft.
On Feb. 27, officers arrested Wixson, booking her on three counts of conspiracy to commit identity theft, and Nesbit, who was booked on two counts of conspiracy to commit identity theft and one count of possession of a controlled substance.
Officers obtained a search warrant for Wixson's apartment, and a vehicle in the parking lot that matched the vehicle shown in Walmart surveillance footage from the second transaction on Jan. 4. During the course of the search officers discovered drug paraphernalia, baggies, a scale and a grocery bag full of cellphones and an iPad suspected of being stolen. An additional warrant was obtained to search Nesbit's backpack, in which officers found several EBT and gift cards, items believed to be used for vehicle prowls and thefts and a baggie of methamphetamine.
According to police documents, Arndt told officers Wixson and Nesbit are in a romantic relationship.
Officers arrested Bednarski On Feb. 28, booking him on one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, driving on a suspended license and trip-permit tampering.
During the fifth arrest, made on Monday, Feb. 29, Hand struggled with McLeod, who had been positively identified in the 7-Eleven footage. According to police documents, McLeod resisted arrest, violently thrusting his arms up and down, ignoring verbal commands and using his body to remain away from the patrol vehicle. A search of his person revealed drug paraphernalia, along with small amounts of methamphetamine and heroin.
He was eventually subdued and taken into custody. He was booked on conspiracy to commit identity theft, possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia.
"We're applauding both Paul Henderson and James Hand for their work in the case,GÇ¥ Willis said.
Additional charges are pending the outcome of a search warrant sent to Amazon, to identify the owner of the account used for the fraudulent purchases. It is anticipated by the department that the individual identified will tie back to those already charged in the case.
The Monroe Police Department is hoping to see a reduction of vehicle prowls as a result of the arrests. As of Wednesday, March 2, Nesbit, Nelson, Arndt and Bednarski remained in custody at Snohomish County Jail on varying amounts of bail, one more than $50,000. Wixson was released on bond Feb. 29, as was McLeod on March 1. Anderson remains at large.
It was definitely a case that demonstrated the advantages of having a city police department in which officers are familiar with prolific criminals in the area, Willis said. Henderson is a nine-year Monroe Police veteran, and Hand has been with the department since 2013.
"It's not always easy to do this kind of work, but we were pleased to see the effort that was put into this,GÇ¥ Willis said. "It was really great work on their part.GÇ¥


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