A police investigation, covering two counties, into a string of local thefts concluded Tuesday with felony charges filed in Gasconade County against a rural Owensville man and two men from Crawford County.
Owensville City Marshal Robert Rickerd called the more than month-long investigation one of the more complex cases he and patrolman Matt Peters have been involved with. A total of 16 class C felony allegations and two class A misdemeanors were cited in warrants issued Jan. 8 by Associate Circuit Judge John B. Berkemeyer.
Charged with multiple felonies each were Terrance F. Flatt, Jr., 24, Route Y Owensville, William Lee. Rutz, 23, Cuba, and Justin Mason, 24, Steelville. Bond was set at $20,000 cash or surety for each.
Felony charges for all three included two counts each alleging theft/stealing of more than $500 but less than $25,000, one count theft/stealing of a credit card, and two counts tampering with a motor vehicle in the first degree. Flatt, son of a former Owensville police officer who successfully sued the city for wrongful termination, was also a misdemeanor count alleging fraudulent use of a credit card, less than $500.
Mason was charged with an additional felony count alleging forgery along with the misdemeanor count alleging fraudulent use of a credit card, less than $500.
Flatt and Rutz were arrested by Cuba police late Tuesday afternoon at Rutz’s resident in Cuba. Rutz was also being sought on a probation and parole warrant issued in conjunction with his alleged involvement in the case, said Rickerd. Flatt posted bond Tuesday evening and was released. Steelville police were looking for Mason at The Republican’s deadline.
Charges stem from reported thefts dating back to early December. Rickerd said officers with his department have taken 12 reports since Nov. 20 involving thefts of automobile stereo equipment, electronic devises such as cellular phones and portable computer units and wallets from unlocked vehicles. “We’ve had thousands of dollars worth of stolen property, electronic devises, car stereo equipment and wallets with credit and debit cards taken from vehicles,” said Rickerd. “In several instances, victims’ credit and debit cards were used in different locations, several times in Owensville and several times via the Internet.”
Police also allege the three men had stolen a car from a woman’s residence on the city’s north side, as well as the stereo equipment, and then abandoned it on a county road near Rosebud. “They trashed the car’s interior,” said Rickerd. “The car was destroyed.”
During the investigation, Owensville police learned that a check stolen from a vehicle on the same street in Steelville where Mason resided was used to purchase a computer game system from the Owensville Walmart.
In December, Owensville police obtained a subpoena, issued by Berkemeyer, to examine the records of two businesses where the suspects attempted to use stolen credit cards to make online purchases.
Police were able to trace online purchases to a computer IP (Internet protocol) address which led them to an address in the 100 block of Birds Nest Road in the city of Steelville. On Dec. 30, a Sunday, Crawford County Associate Circuit Judge Scott Bernstein granted Owensville police a search warrant for that physical address and authorized police to seize computer-related equipment believed to have been used to make fraudulent online purchases with stolen credit and debit cards.
Steelville police and Crawford County Sheriff’s deputies served the search warrant that morning and seized two laptop computers and several cell phones from a woman Rickerd described as in her 40s who was “very cooperative.”
Turns out Mason’s mother was her next-door neighbor lady. Suspects named in the Gasconade County warrant were identified as having been at the residence occupied by Mason’s family.
Police would discover that the woman’s Wi-fi router, which was apparently not password protected, had been accessed from the neighbor lady’s house. And, from the Mason home, police would recover an Xbox game system which had been purchased the night before from the Owensville Walmart.
A laptop at the Mason home was voluntarily surrendered to police.
Rickerd said the Steelville woman whose house they searched understood the need for police to seize her electronics. Rickerd said the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Computer Crimes Division was examining her computers to make sure she was not involved. He said they do not suspect her but had to rule her out. “If there is anything to learn from this it is to keep a secure router with a security password,” said Rickerd.
Additional charges from Steelville’s jurisdiction may also be filed in the case.
|< Prev||Next >|