Orem police say ‘Felony Lane Gang’ using car burglaries as step toward identity theft, fraud

Posted at 10:08 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-29 00:08:32-04

OREM, Utah -- Orem Police are investigating a rash of car burglaries. They say 90 vehicles have been broken into in the past 40 days, and it's all part of a national crime ring.

"It took them I'm sure seconds to break the window, and it was just shattered, and to grab the things in my front seat and go," said victim Susan Howard.

Howard's license plate says "hapy suz", but she's been anything but happy since her car was broken into and her purse stolen at an Orem Wal-Mart parking lot last month.

"I just noticed there was like glass, and I just picked it up and I was like wow, I looked all around and it just shocked me, it just scared me, it was terrible," Howard said.

Almost all of the crimes have occurred in large public parking lots.

"It can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone," Howard said.

Police say this crime ring, based out of Florida, is going state to state, specifically looking for credit cards, IDs and checks. Then they enlist the help of locals to steal the victim's money, and, in some cases, their identity.

"Recruits transients, drug addicts, you know, near some of the homeless shelters and offers them a little bit of money to cash some stolen checks," said Lt. Craig Martinez with the Orem Police Department.

This criminal enterprise has been given the nickname, "The Felony Lane Gang."

"They say to use the second or third or fourth lane away from the teller window so it's harder to see you," Martinez said of their tactics. "You are a little ways away, so that's basically considered the felony lane."

That's how one of these suspects was caught, attempting to cash stolen checks at an American First Credit Union. The teller saw a fraud alert was issued and called police. Seth Martin was arrested a short time later.

"This is just one of the runners," Martinez said. "He's a local guy, but he was driving a rental car from Florida, so that shows you how dedicated they are, they are driving rental cars across the country."

Police said gyms, like Vasa Fitness, have been hit the hardest because people often leave their valuables in the car.

"I just got off work and I was walking out here and there was two cars right next to each other, both had the passenger side window busted out," said Madison Hunter of Vasa Fitness. "It was like 3 p.m. in the afternoon, I was like, 'oh my gosh! Who does that?'"

Jason Elder says he'll be keeping all of his belongings within an arms reach from now on.

"Bring a back pack, keep my stuff in my bag, my phone, my wallet, my keys, and just keep it with me the whole time I'm in the gym," he said.