Don’t leave your wallet or purse in a car if you want to avoid broken windows — and identity fraud

A persistent group of thieves known as the “felony lane gang” have been going through parking lots in the Treasure Valley — including health clubs, stores, public parks, and even churches — over the last several months. They break car windows to get at wallets, purses, backpacks, or other bags that may have credit cards, bank cards, and check books.

That’s the first way people are victimized. The second round of damage can happen only hours later when those thieves use the stolen checks and credit cards at local banks.

The FBI has described the Felony Lane Gang as “a group of thieves based in Florida, that travels across the United States stealing identities and checkbooks from unattended cars. With the stolen checkbooks and driver’s licenses, the gang cashes checks using the drive through lane of banks. The farthest lane from video cameras and tellers have been dubbed the ‘felony lane’ because of the ease with which false identities can be used to cash checks.”

The scam works like this. Thieves drive around parking lots until they see a purse or backpack. They park the car and someone walks up with a metal window-punching device. They break the glass, snap up the bag from inside the car, and leave in a matter of seconds.

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Once they get the driver’s license of a female victim, they try to match the picture of that ID with a woman they use in the scam, oftentimes using a wig. That woman then drives to a bank, goes in the farthest car lane from the window, and attempts to cash a check.

The thieves have a good idea of how much money they can cash a check for without have to go inside – in some cases as much as $2,000. They also steal local license plates to keep the cars inconspicuous.

It can be difficult to catch the ringleaders of the scam, who generally aren’t in the cars when the actual check fraud occurs.

In mid-August, ACSO deputies arrested two women, Danielle Cook, 28 and Jennifer Gallagher, 31, for attempting to cash fraudulent checks at a bank in Eagle.

Both women were wearing wigs and were in a car later determined to be stolen from Florida. Gallagher told deputies she came to Boise from Fort Lauderdale area just days before.

They were charged with two felony counts each of grand theft and burglary. Those charges were dropped late last month when both women were indicted in federal court on similar charges.

Deputies arrested a 25-year-old man and 37-year-old woman from Georgia in June in connection with the same scam.

Octavious Walker is charged with felony counts of burglary, and conspiracy to commit grand theft. Walker is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $1 million bond. His jury trial is set to begin Nov. 17 in Ada County 4th District Court.

Carolyn Paige Griffith, who was seen wearing a wig and driving the car through the “felony lane” at several area banks while trying to case fraudulent checks, is charged with the same crimes. Her trial is set to begin in December. Griffith was released from jail in July after posting a $150,000 bond.

ACSO deputies and Boise Police arrested Walker and Griffith June 11th – the day after three cars were broken into across the Treasure Valley.

Walker and Griffith tried to use stolen ID’s and checks from those car burglaries to withdraw thousands of dollars from Treasure Valley banks.

Officers were able to catch them at a local hotel, where they found evidence linking them to the car burglaries and the check fraud case, including financial papers and a spring-loaded window punch.

Appliance thieves targeting vacant homes in Ada County

Thieves have broken into a least five Ada County homes — either vacant or in the process of being sold — since mid-September and stolen stoves and/or refrigerators from inside.

In four of the five break-ins, there is no sign of forced entry. In one case, thieves broke through the back door of a garage. It appears the thieves may be getting in through unlocked windows. They then steal the stove or refrigerator and take them out through a door.

The homes are located on Linder Road, Floating Feather Road, Eagle Hills Way, N. Star Road, and W. Ustick Road.

The first theft was discovered on Sept. 16. The latest was Oct 14.

The thieves like to steal stainless steel appliances. It is unclear how the thieves are identifying which homes to break-in to.

People with vacant homes or in the process of selling their homes are urged to keep all doors and windows locked at all times — and check on those properties regularly.

Outdoor motion detector lighting around doors can help. Talk to your neighbors. Ask them to keep an eye on a home you are trying to sell or have to leave vacant — and if they see anything strange going on to call Ada County dispatch at 377-6790.

Eagle police bust teens responsible for dozens of car burglaries

The best way to avoid being a victim of “jockeyboxing”  — which means people walking through neighborhoods at night and stealing whatever they can grab from unlocked cars — is to lock your car. All the time.

That way, if you mistakenly leave your cell phone, purse, wallet, ipod, or change behind when you park in a driveway or street, you won’t be like the dozens of people in Eagle who had items like that taken from their during the last week of August. Or like the hundreds of people every year in the Treasure Valley who fall victim to such car burglaries.

It’s a totally preventable crime. You just have to lock your stuff up.

A 19-year-old Eagle man has admitted breaking into as many as 150 cars between Aug. 25 and Aug. 28. A 17-year-old boy acted as a lookout. That boy also broke into several cars.

Andrew B. McCormick got caught when one of the people who had stuff taken from his car saw McCormick wearing his backpack at a local video arcade on Aug. 29.

Eagle police found McCormick moments later. He eventually confessed to the break-ins. Officers located the 17-year-old later, and he also admitted what he did.

Once caught, the teens cooperated with police, showing them the neighborhoods where they broke into unlocked cars.

Those streets include Eagle Hills Way, Winged Foot Place, Spyglass Way, Pebble Beach Way, Palmetto Drive, Amanita Street, Farrington Drive, Thunderbird Way, Knoll Drive, Spring Hill Drive, Mango Drive, Eagle Hills Way, Longwood Drive, and Stierman Way.

The teens would take whatever they could find in the cars, including change, cash, camera cards, knives, papers, cords, headphones, glasses, CDs and DVDs, laptops, backpacks, cigarettes, and other items.

While that case was still pending, Eagle Police arrested McCormick and the 17-year-old boy Sept. 23 for breaking into cars Hill/Horseshoe Bend roads area.

Unlike the August case, where the information was routed to Ada County prosecutors for an arrest warrant, officers arrested McCormick and the 17-year-old on felony burglary charges that day.

Warrants filed in connection with the August car burglaries went out Wednesday. McCormick is now charged with four counts of felony burglary.

McCormick is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $20,000 bond.

The crime of felony burglary is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The 17-year-old is being held in the Ada County Juvenile Detention Center.

Detective investigate $14,000 tire theft at Kuna area farm

Ada County Sheriff’s detectives are looking for whoever stole $14,000 worth of semi truck tires from a turf farm in the 9800 block of Kuna Road last week.

The 30 tires were reported missing to ACSO deputies on Friday — the day after a farm employee noticed they weren’t on a storage rack.

Around that same time the tires were discovered missing, one of them was found on the side of Overland Road, near the Ten Mile Road intersection.

The owner say the tires were taken sometime between Sept. 23 and Sept. 25.

Anyone with information should call Ada County dispatch at 377-6790.

33-year-old Meridian man charged with aggravated battery, second-degree kidnapping

A 33-year-old Meridian man is charged with aggravated battery after using knives to cut two people he was camping and fishing with by Swan Falls Dam over the weekend.

William Miles Buckman is also charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping for holding the same two people at knifepoint.

Neither of the two people who had knife wounds suffered life-threatening injuries.

Ada County Sheriff’s Deputies and Kuna Police began their investigation just after 5 a.m. Sunday after getting a 911 call that a man was attacking people with a knife near Swan Falls Dam.

When deputies arrived they found a man and woman in a pickup truck with knife wounds, but did not see the attacker. Deputies found Buckman moments later trying to get into a building attached to the dam.

Deputies took Buckman into custody. One  of the  victims went to a local hospital for treatment of what appear to be non life-threatening knife wounds, while the other two were treated at the scene.

Witnesses told deputies that Buckman was fishing on the dam — and drinking alcohol — with a group of people for most of the night while others in the group were sleeping in a tent on the bank of the river.

At some point early Sunday morning, Buckman got angry with the couple in the tent.

While detectives are still trying to determine exactly what the fight was about, at least one witness said it was because the people in the tent would not go into the river to retrieve a flashlight someone else dropped into the water.

Witnesses say Buckman walked over to the tent and started to threaten the couple inside, cutting the tent with a knife. Once the couple were out of the tent, there was a physical struggle between Buckman and the man during which the man was cut on the arm.

Witnesses say Buckman then held the couple at knifepoint and made them walk over to a nearby truck as part of the dispute about the flashlight.

That’s when another fight broke out. Both the man and woman sustained lacerations as they fought with Buckman. The man had knife wounds on the neck, shoulder, and arm. The woman had a knife wound on her arm. Buckman is also accused of grabbing another woman around the neck who was trying to get the knife away from him as he fought with the couple.

After doing interviews and collecting evidence, deputies arrested Buckman on the aggravated battery and kidnapping charges and booked him into the Ada County Jail around noon Sunday.

Buckman will make his initial court appearance Monday afternoon. The crime of aggravated battery is punishable by up to 15 years in prison for each separate charge.

36-year-old Kuna man charged with lewd conduct

Detectives arrested 36-year-old Leo Joseph Bright Wednesday on charges of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 16 and sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16.

Investigators say he had inappropriate sexual contact with two girls who were known to him. The incidents happened between 2010 and 2012 at Bright’s home on Cassandra Avenue in Kuna. The girls were 11- and 9-years old at the time.

Nampa Police began the investigation into Bright but turned the case over to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office in late July. Based on evidence gathered by sheriff’s detectives, a judge issued a warrant for Bright on Wednesday. Deputies arrested Bright the same day and booked him into the Ada County Jail, where he is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Sheriff’s detectives continue to investigate Bright. There is information to suggest there are additional victims.

The incidents would likely have happened between 1999 and 2014 in Payette, Canyon or Ada County. Bright also spent time in Oregon during that time. Anyone with information about Bright or other possible victims is urged to contact Detective Shellie Strolberg at 208-577-3788 or sstrolberg@adaweb.net.

Pair of teenagers busted for car burglaries in Hill Road neighborhood

Deputies arrested a pair of Boise teenagers early Tuesday morning for breaking into cars in the Hill/Horseshoe Bend roads neighborhood.

Deputies booked 19-year-old Andrew B. McCormick into the Ada County Jail Tuesday — just a few hours after getting a call from a citizen who saw two men walking through the Big Springs neighborhood acting suspicious.

When deputies arrived at the neighborhood just before 6 a.m. they found a 17-year-old boy walking in the area.

After a short interview, the 17-year-old admitted he was holding a Nintendo DS, a headlamp, and coins that had been taken from unlocked cars in the area. Deputies found McCormick walking a short distance away and quickly developed evidence he participated in the car burglaries with the other teen.

Detectives have linked the teens to at least five car burglaries between Monday night and Tuesday morning in the Big Springs area and the neighborhood off N. Echohawk Way in Eagle. Ada County Sheriff’s and Eagle Police detectives are investigating if the teens were involved in a similar series of car break-ins in the same general area at the end of August.

The teens were targeting unlocked cars that had any money or small electronic devices.

Deputies took the 17-year-old to the Ada County Juvenile Detention Center. Burglary charges are pending against that teen in Juvenile Court.

McCormick will make his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

The best way to avoid being a victim of car burglary is to lock your vehicle at all times – especially if you are parked in a public area or driveway.

Deputies want to talk to anyone who has info on Meridian Road fatal motor scooter crash

Investigators want to talk to anyone who may have seen or has information about a fatal motor scooter crash at the intersection of Columbia and Meridian roads last week.

The crash happened just after 11 a.m. on Sept. 10.

Brian L. Burger, 46, of Meridian, was killed after the motor scooter he was riding collided with a pickup truck hauling a trailer.

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Deputies are investigating whether the traffic lights at the intersection of Meridian and Columbia roads were working at the time of the fatal scooter crash.

Witnesses who talked to investigators immediately after the crash have offered different accounts of what happened in the moments just before the two vehicles collided.

Some told deputies the traffic light controlling the intersection went dark just before the crash occurred.

Investigators know there were additional people at or near the intersection at the time of the crash — including people who saw the scooter and truck before the collision occurred.

Deputies are asking those people to please contact them so they are able to piece together exactly what happened.

Anyone with information should contact Ada County Sheriff dispatch at 377-6790.

Burned armpit hair prank leads to rollover crash early Sunday morning

Five teenagers had to get medical treatment after a prank with a lighter led to a rollover traffic crash on Columbia Road early Sunday morning.

Two girls, ages 15 and 16, sitting in the back seat were thrown from the Ford Bronco during the crash.

The 18-year-old driver and two other boys, ages 16 and 17, remained inside the SUV during the crash. None of the teens were wearing seatbelts. The driver crashed the SUV after a front seat passenger lit the driver’s armpit hair on fire with a lighter.

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Deputies cited driver Tristian Myers with inattentive driving. The 16-year-old boy in the passenger seat was cited for Interfering with the Driver’s Safe Operation of a Vehicle.

Paramedics took three of the teens to a local hospital after the crash for treatment of what appear to be non life-threatening injuries.

The crash occurred around 5:30 a.m. Sunday on Columbia Road, between Meridian and Linder roads.

The driver told deputies he lost control of the Bronco after swerving to avoid an animal in the street.

It wasn’t until a short time later, after deputies talked to all the teens, when a different story emerged — that the teens in the front of the car were goofing around prior to the crash. Both Myers and the other boy in the front later admitted to what happened.

There was also evidence Myers was going too fast and driving erratically prior to the crash, which led to citation for inattentive driving.

Deputies continue to investigate cattle truck rollover on Kuna-Mora Road

Two men had to go to the hospital and dozens of cattle died after a semi-truck rolled over on Kuna-Mora Road Monday afternoon.

The crash occurred just before 2:30 p.m. Monday, about two miles west of Interstate 84. Deputies say it appears the 60-year-old man who was driving the truck was going too fast as it went around a curve. That caused the trailer to tip over, resulting in the rollover.

The driver was able to climb out of the truck. Emergency crews had to cut through the wreckage to get a 57-year-old man out of the truck. The men were treated for what appear to be non life-threatening injuries.

The truck was carrying 120 cattle. It appears that 33 of those cattle died or had to be euthanized later from injuries they sustained in the crash. An earlier estimate of 101 cattle that died or had to be euthanized was incorrect.

The portion of Kuna-Mora Road near the crash was closed to traffic for several hours. Deputies reopened the road just before 7:30 p.m.

No charges or citations have been issued in connection with the crash as of Tuesday morning.

The cattle were on their way to a feed lot in Texas when the crash occurred.

The surviving cattle were taken back to the Kuna-area ranch where they came from.