For months, the thieves roamed parking lots of golf courses and fitness centers in the metro area. Police say the bandits broke into vehicles, stole credit and debit cards, and went on shopping sprees that sometimes topped $1,000.
The final tally: From Feb. 10 until June 9, 22 people were victimized in more than a dozen suburbs — from Edina to Roseville and from St. Michael to Woodbury. They even slipped over the border and swiped items from a vehicle in Hudson, Wis.
After authorities attached a GPS device on a suspect’s car, the crime spree came to an end last week, and two men have been arrested and charged.
Damien A. McVay, 26, was charged with felony theft Monday in Washington County, where the Life Time Fitness parking lot in Woodbury was targeted multiple times. Also charged with the same offense was his alleged accomplice, Marquail Townsend, 23, of St. Paul.
McVay and Townsend would often use a tool known as a “window punch” to swiftly get into vehicles and get away with credit and other financial transaction cards, according to authorities. One victim at the Eagle Lake golf course in Plymouth made it easy by leaving his vehicle unlocked.
The suspects wasted no time in dashing off to Target and other retailers, the complaint noted. They bought electronics, gasoline, large amounts of cigarettes and other items.
Surveillance video revealed a suspect’s vehicle, and police got permission from a court in late May to attach a GPS tracking device on McVay’s BMW. They seized from the car an Xbox console bought with a victim’s credit card and clothing similar to what surveillance video showed the suspects were wearing.
Police caught up with McVay June 9 in his BMW at the Sovereign Estate Vineyard in Waconia. On the same day in Woodbury, Townsend was pulled over in his car and arrested. A victim’s purse and a window punch were in his vehicle, which had been detected at one crime scene on surveillance video, the criminal complaint said.
Both men remain jailed Wednesday. Townsend's attorney, Nathan Sosinski, said he's had little time to review the evidence but noted that the complaint failed to place his client at some of the locations that prosecutors list. McVay's attorney did not return a message seeking comment.
“This is the type of organized criminal activity that too often misses the attention of the public,” said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput. “Identity theft, however, is a pernicious and time-consuming crime for the victim, as well as society as a whole.”