SEATTLE -- Two men and a woman have been arrested on charges of possession of stolen property and identity theft, it was announced Tuesday. Detectives said they linked them to what will probably be more than 30 car prowl cases.
The three suspects were arrested last Thursday, just one night before a planned airing of a story on "Washington’s Most Wanted" to help deputies identify them.
Investigators say they were targeting people at Marymoor Dog Park. One of those was a woman named ‘Michelle.’
"Somebody was watching me when I got out of my car because I had my purse on my shoulder," she said.
She had tucked her purse in her dog beds in her car when she took her dogs for a walk.
"Just was in shock that something I had put there just an hour ago was not there anymore,” she lamented.
King County sheriff's Sgt. DB Gates says the thieves had the system down. Within minutes, they would break into cars, take valuables to resell, use ATMs to withdraw cash, and also quickly buy gift cards until the victims' bank accounts were emptied.
"They have had a huge ripple effect throughout the community because they have gone on to do the identity theft not just in our jurisdiction but Bellevue police, Redmond police, Mercer Island police have all been hit with this same group,” said Gates.
Deputies arrested them after a citizen called 911 to report suspicious activity. The following day, detectives in Sammamish served a search warrant on the suspect vehicle, recovering evidence linking the three suspects to more car prowls and identity theft.
Monday, detectives served a search warrant on a storage unit belonging to one of the suspects. More evidence linking the suspects to additional victims was located. It is believed these suspects are responsible for a rash of car prowls and identity theft cases going back at least to July.
For ‘Michelle’ it was the start of a financial nightmare.
"Had to go through the whole process, starting over and getting your stuff again," she said.
Some of the car prowls also occurred in Seattle.
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote about having his window smashed and phone stolen.
Seattle patrol officers arrested two car prowlers in the University District Tuesday in the 4500 block of 19th Ave NE. Officers caught them a few blocks away and found a stolen gym bag that they returned to the victim.
Seattle detectives are now working to link the suspects to cases in Sammamish and Marymoor park, including the one Westneat wrote about.