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Police arrest Redmond man tied to 100 mail-theft and 50 vehicle-prowl cases
On Saturday, Redmond patrol officers arrested an 18-year-old man on multiple counts of vehicle prowls and identity theft, according to King County court charging documents.
The Redmond Police Department’s (RPD) Pro-Act Unit — which investigates auto theft and related crimes such as vehicle prowls, possession of stolen property and identity theft — had been monitoring the suspect, Thor Andrews Jr., for several months for vehicle prowls in the area and have tied him to about 50 vehicle-prowl cases and 100 mail-theft cases in Redmond.
Officers first arrested Andrews on Dec. 4 after he stole an iPhone and wallet from a vendor’s truck parked behind the QFC at 15800 Redmond Way in downtown Redmond a day earlier.
Shawn Jones, the victim, was able to locate his phone using the GPS tracking app “Find My iPhone,” which led him to Andrews’ residence in the 15600 block of Northeast 112th Street. Jones, who lives in Bothell, drove to the house and then called RPD.
“It sounds like they knew who (Andrews) was,” Jones said about the police after he told them the house he’d tracked his phone to.
MORE THAN A STOLEN PHONE
Mike Dowd, spokesperson for RPD, said Pro-Act detectives had enough evidence to get a search warrant for the house to recover the stolen phone. While searching Andrews’ bedroom for Jones’ phone, Dowd said detectives discovered stolen mail and other stolen property the suspect had acquired through vehicle prowls. During an interview with detectives at the scene, Andrews confessed to multiple cases of mail theft and vehicle prowls.
Detectives also discovered drugs — heroin and marijuana — and drug paraphernalia in Andrews’ bedroom. According to charging documents, detectives had to search Andrews’ bedroom for Jones’ phone because Andrews could not remember where he had placed it because “he had been using heroin.”
Because detectives had been investigating the suspect for several months, Dowd said they were able to arrest Andrews on probable cause for identity theft for using stolen credit cards from vehicle prowls he’d committed months earlier, in addition to Jones’ stolen phone and wallet case.
Pro-Act detectives then got a second warrant to go back into Andrews’ home to recover the rest of the stolen property they had found.
When Jones learned his case helped police crack an even bigger case and gave them the evidence they needed to move on Andrews, he said he was “really happy.”
“It feels good to be able to get other people back their property,” Jones said.
He said his main goal of tracking down his phone was to find the individual who stole it to let them know they couldn’t do that. He said he was angry and felt victimized, but was not too concerned about recovering his property as he had canceled his credit cards and his iPhone was an older model with a cracked screen.
Andrews was booked on Dec. 4 and released a few days later. When officers arrested him on Saturday, he had been at an acquaintance’s house around the corner from his own residence, Dowd said.
“(Andrews has) been charged for everything now and released,” he said.
Andrews was arraigned Thursday afternoon. Dan Donohoe, press secretary for the King County prosecutor's office said the hearing was continued to Thursday morning when they anticipate filing additional charges and arraigning him on those new charges.
A DESPERATE ADDICTION
According to the charging documents, Andrews admitted to “committing crimes at an alarming rate due to a severe addiction to heroin and opiates.”
Dowd said further evidence of Andrews’ addiction is the fact that he had been stealing mail and breaking into cars in his neighborhood. He said people usually commit crimes in neighborhoods and cities outside of their own.
“All the (stolen) mail that was in his house, it was his neighbors’,” Dowd said. “It’s pretty rare to have local people doing this in their own back yard.”
He said Andrews would sort through the stolen mail for checks and credit cards and some of the things he would use them for were gift cards. Dowd said gift cards are now an accepted form of payment with drug dealers, who may sell them for a profit.
LOCK YOUR DOORS, REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY
In addition to the convenience of victimizing people in his neighborhood, Dowd said things were made even easier for Andrews because most of the cars he broke into were unlocked and only a few mailboxes had been pried.
Jones admitted that he had not locked his door either when Andrews broke into his truck.
“I made the mistake of leaving my door unlocked,” Jones said, adding that he had been inside QFC for about an hour.
He said this was a wake-up call for him. He used to think Redmond was a safe place, but now he locks his door at every stop he makes.
Dowd added that only about a third of the vehicle prowls connected to Andrews’ case had been reported. He said they were able to figure the rest out by going through the stolen items in Andrews’ possession and looking for identifying information and checking store surveillance tapes where the fraud had been committed. Detectives also looked to see if the unreported crimes were committed in close proximity to where reported crimes occurred.
“We need citizens’ help,” Dowd said about the importance of people reporting crimes and the role it plays in the police solving cases.
Dowd said if Jones hadn’t called RPD — which he only did after tracking down his phone — they wouldn’t have been able to get into Andrews’ residence and find the stolen property.
“He started the ball rolling,” Dowd said about Jones.