Police are investigating five car break-ins in Garner on June 22, and one victim said the thieves tried to take thousands out of his and his wife’s bank account.
The rash of break-ins happened on a Saturday night in three locations, according to Garner Police spokesman Chris Clayton: two in the Regal White Oak Stadium 14 Cinema parking lot, two at the Heather Hills Clubhouse parking lot, and one at Centennial Park.
“We think they are linked. That’s just based on the time frame and method of entry,” Clayton said.
Steve Reed, who lives in Johnston County, said his wife’s purse – including identification, cards, checks and keys – had been taken at the movie theater parking lot.
He was told – and news outlets initially reported – that five cars in the movie theater and one car at Centennial Park had been broken into.
Reed added that his financial institution told him Friday the perpetrators were a “felony lane” gang. The so-called groups are not a connected criminal organization, but linked by the tactic of stealing checks and IDs and using the outside lane of bank drive-thru lanes to cash them.
Reed received a call Tuesday from a Kernersville branch of the State Employee Credit Union – which said it had been called by a Kernersville Wells Fargo.
Someone attempted to deposit one of his and his wife’s checks for $4,600 using someone else’s identification, and withdraw $2,300 of it from the Wells Fargo.
The person wore a wig attempting to look like the person in the identification card, he was told, and fled the scene when the teller became suspicious.
He said SECU indicated five attempts had been made to cash checks totaling $16,800. The credit union has put a stop payment on those checks; Reed said he and his wife have closed the account and opened a new one.
“This has been a very traumatic experience, especially for my wife,” Reed said in an email.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Reed said.
Clayton said the crimes represent a good opportunity to remind residents to not leave valuables and identifying documents in their car, especially when those items are in plain view.
“They appear to be crimes of opportunity,” Clayton said. “Sometimes those are the hardest ones for us to investigate, and the easiest ones to commit.”
Clayton said he could not comment further on Garner’s active investigation, including whether other withdrawals were attempted in Garner or elsewhere.