The curtain has come down on a serial burglar whose bargain online detective work led him to the homes of dozens of Twin Citians as they were enjoying a night at the theater.
David W. Pollard, 47, of Prior Lake, pleaded guilty and was given a sentence spanning more than 11 years for two of the nearly 40 break-ins that prosecutors say he committed over several years in Eden Prairie and other nearby suburbs. They say he stole more than $300,000 worth of items — including more than 20 guns — over a three-year period until his arrest in April 2015.
Hennepin County District Judge Tanya Bransford also ordered Pollard to pay more than $30,000 in restitution to his victims, with the possibility that he’ll be on the hook for more later.
“It took a certain amount of intelligence, a certain amount of intentionality to make sure [residents] were not home,” Bransford said during Friday’s sentencing. “It is hoped that you can use that intelligence and cunning to do something positive, instead of wreaking havoc in the community.”
Eden Prairie police said Pollard went to the Guthrie or Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, recorded the license plate numbers of patrons and then used PublicData.com to learn their home addresses and phone numbers. Pollard would then call the residents to determine whether anyone was home.
The data service, based in suburban Dallas, admits on its website that criminals have used its service “but we work very aggressively with law enforcement to help assure conviction.” Eden Prairie spokeswoman Joyce Lorenz said operators of PublicData.com cooperated with this investigation.
PublicData.com, which says it is dedicated to the idea that all citizens of our free society should have access to records the government collects, charges individuals roughly $15 a month for up to 600 queries, $25 for 1,250 or $35 a year for 700. PublicData.com said it is privately operated and funded and buys all of its data from government entities or other sources.
About eight months after Pollard’s arrest, the Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety wrote to PublicData.com attorney John E. Collins alleging that the company had “violated laws regarding the proper use of data.” The letter called on the site to remove from the internet and any other databases “all information of licensed Minnesota drivers and registered vehicle owners.”
A test search for a Minnesota license plate on Tuesday brought this reply: “The Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles no longer provides updates for this database.”
Along with Pollard’s burglary spree, the state told PublicData.com in the December 2015 letter that identity thieves were using Minnesota driver and vehicle information from PublicData.com to make fake driver’s licenses and cash counterfeit checks.
Collins said Tuesday that PublicData.com has been aggressively weeding out “these scoundrels” who use the website to perpetuate criminal acts, and “we do our best to help [law enforcement] in their jobs.”
Assistant County Attorney Charles Gerlach read numerous victim-impact statements into the record during sentencing, including one referencing the loss of a 100-year-old violin that had been handed down in the family.
Pollard was arrested in April 2015 after Minnetonka police received a call of a burglary in progress. When Pollard drove out of the garage, he dodged police by crossing over lawns, prompting the officers to give chase.
Pollard abandoned his still-moving car and ran, but he was soon caught 2 miles away in Wayzata outside a multimillion-dollar home on the southern shore of Wayzata Bay. In the car were a handgun, silverware and “a suitcase filled with valuables” from the Minnetonka house.
“It is upsetting to come home after being away, only to discover someone has broken into the house and stolen your possessions,” County Attorney Mike Freeman said soon after Pollard’s arrest. “But more than a dozen police departments worked together to eventually apprehend Mr. Pollard.”
With credit for time served in jail since his arrest, Pollard will spend the first 6 ⅓ years in prison and the balance on supervised release. However, Pollard’s state sentence overlaps with his nearly nine-year federal prison term for being a felon in possession of firearms. His federal time began in July 2016, meaning he’ll remain incarcerated until 2025.
Pollard’s criminal history in Minnesota reaches back to the late 1980s and includes convictions in the Twin Cities for burglary, robbery, assault, weapons possession and receiving stolen property.