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4 suspects nabbed in thefts from cars

Anchorage police said Thursday they have busted two sets of thieves that specialized in breaking into vehicles, stealing items inside and occasionally making off with the vehicle itself. Police said they have so far linked the accused individuals to at least 30 people who were victimized.

Police said two of the men arrested were caught at a local credit union, where they showed up at the drive-through in a stolen vehicle and tried to cash a forged check. The credit union summoned police, who found other checks and credit cards in the vehicle.

In the second group, one of the pair of men jailed was described by a third member of the ring as habitually sleeping during the day and then going out every night to break into vehicles and ransack them.

Lt. Dave Parker, APD spokesman, said vehicle break-ins are nothing new but recently there has been a spike in the problem.

"I don't know if it's the economy. People are leaving a lot of stuff in their cars. It's an easy crime to commit," Parker said.

And, he said, car owners are making it easy for the criminals. Often thieves just have to open an unlocked car door. The men arrested this week were stealing primarily from residential areas, Parker said.

According to police, one of those taken into custody Tuesday was Jeffery Fisher, 24. He is accused of rifling cars with his girlfriend, Angela Roman, 19, and another man, John Cloyes III, 21.

Cloyes, who was also arrested, and Fisher are being charged with theft, while Roman was still being sought on a theft charge.

Court documents allege the trio hit vehicles parked at homes across Anchorage and even some as far away as the Russian River Falls. They are suspected of stealing credit cards, cash, cell phones and cameras. They used the stolen cards to pay cab fares and to rack up hundreds of dollars of expenses at local retailers, which caught most of the transactions on video.

According to police, the trio had stolen credit cards from 29 individuals and businesses since May. Police showed up at Fisher's home in June to arrest him on a separate warrant and happened across prescription medications and "a stack of credit cards" that didn't belong to him, according to charging documents.

Roman told police that she and Fisher had been using drugs, a police affidavit says.

The more recent charges against the three were filed July 29.

Another pair of accused thieves was arrested Tuesday after police responded to a report of two men trying to fraudulently cash another person's check at the drive-through at Credit Union 1 in Eagle River. Officers detained Anthony Frye, 45, and John Nutt, 35, in a stolen truck whose interior had been "ransacked" and the ignition punched out, according to charging documents. They are being charged with theft and forgery.

Investigators are still looking at the possibility of more victims.

"Often when we find one, we'll find multiple offenses by the same person," Parker said. "Usually when we solve a burglary, we solve several burglaries."

He said cases like this often occur in summer, when thieves can easily break into vehicles and get away. In winter, he said, the trend switches and cars are stolen when people leave them idling in the driveway.

Regardless of season, it seems the thieves are crafty. Some will take checks from the bottom of the checkbook so the owner doesn't know they're gone. And some take more than checks. "One of the (thieves) recently had a rather large selection of vehicle keys," Parker said. "Meaning he could come back at any time and steal the vehicle. It's a crime that gets everyone."

Find Kaylin Bettinger online at adn.com/contact/kbettinger or call her at 257-4349. Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.

By KAYLIN BETTINGER and JAMES HALPIN

Anchorage Daily News

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